Lithuania President Grybauskaite to run for second term

VILNIUS Mon Feb 3, 2014 6:17am EST

Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite addresses the European Parliament during a debate on the Lithuanian presidency of the EU for the last six months in Strasbourg, January 14, 2014. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite addresses the European Parliament during a debate on the Lithuanian presidency of the EU for the last six months in Strasbourg, January 14, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Vincent Kessler

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VILNIUS (Reuters) - Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite will seek a second five-year term in an election in May, she said on Monday, with opinion polls showing her a clear favorite to keep the job as her country seeks euro zone entry.

The Baltic country wants to join the currency bloc in 2015, following its neighbor Latvia this January.

Grybauskaite, a former European budget commissioner, became Lithuania's first female president in 2009.

"I will run for Lithuania's president as an independent candidate again," Grybauskaite, 57, told a news conference.

The latest Spinter/Delfi poll showed Grybauskaite backed by almost 40 percent of voters, facing no serious competition after Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius declined to run.

"There is no doubt that Grybauskaite will win. She might not even require a run off," Kestutis Girnius, an associate professor at Vilnius Institute of International Relations and Political Science, told Reuters.

The runner up, former finance minister and European Parliament member Zigmantas Balcytis, had only 8.6 percent support, the poll showed.

Though independent, Grybauskaite has the support of the main center-right opposition parties, the Homeland Union and the Liberal Movement.

She backed the previous center-right government on painful measures, including cutting public wages and old age pensions, in order to support the state's finances and keep its national currency, the litas, pegged to euro.

Its budget deficit and inflation levels now give Lithuania a good chance of qualifying for euro entry.

Educated in Leningrad and Moscow in the 1980s, Grybauskaite has been a vocal critic of dependence on Russia's energy supplies, backing government plans to set up a liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal.

Lithuania plans to start importing LNG in 2015, ending monopoly of Russia's gas giant Gazprom.

(Reporting by Andrius Sytas, writing by Nerijus Adomaitis; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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