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Lithuania’s presidential contest heads to runoff vote

Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite speaks to the members of press at a polling station during the advance presidential elections in Vilnius, Lithuania, Tuesday, May 7, 2019. Lithuanians will head to the polls on Sunday, May 12, in a first round of presidential elections.
Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite speaks to the members of press at a polling station during the advance presidential elections in Vilnius, Lithuania, Tuesday, May 7, 2019. Lithuanians will head to the polls on Sunday, May 12, in a first round of presidential elections. AP Photo

A prominent economist and a former finance minister held the top two spots in returns from Lithuania's presidential election Sunday and appeared headed to a runoff ballot later this month to choose a successor to incumbent Dalia Grybauskaite.

With 1,631 of the country's 1,972 voting districts counted early Monday, results provided by Lithuania's Central Electoral Commission showed Gitanas Nauseda, a banker-turned-politician, leading the nine-candidate field with 31.2% of the votes.

Ingrida Simonyte, Lawmaker and former finance minister, was in second with 27.2%.

In third was Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis at 22.2%, who told reporters during the vote count that he would resign in July if he failed to advance to a runoff.

Support for the remaining six candidates was in single-digit numbers.

A candidate needed to get more than 50% to avoid runoff on May 26, the same day that Lithuanians will vote for their European Parliament representatives.

Preliminary voter turnout was 56%

Grybauskaite has served the maximum two 5-year terms as Lithuania's head of state since 2009, a Baltic country bordering Russia that is a member of the European Union and NATO.

Grybauskaite has been a strong critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and campaigned on stopping corruption and improving Lithuania's economy.

Along with picking a president, Lithuanians voted on a constitutional amendment to allow dual citizenship for hundreds of thousands of Lithuanians living abroad. Preliminary results indicated 70% of the voters supported allowing dual citizenship, the Baltic News Service, the region's main news service, reported.

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