Lithuanian Presidency, 1998–2003
Shortly after leaving the EPA, Valdas Adamkus moved back to Lithuania. Soon after his decision to run for presidency in 1998, he faced a legal battle in the Lithuanian courts, as doubts arose whether Adamkus was eligible to run for presidency due to the length of time he had spent abroad and the possibility that he might not meet minimum residency requirements. However, the court resolved the case in Adamkus' favor and no other obstacles remained other than his U.S. citizenship, which he officially renounced at the American Embassy in Vilnius. He was elected as President of Lithuania in 1998, defeating Artūras Paulauskas in the runoff, serving from then until 2003, when he ran for re-election, but was unexpectedly defeated by Rolandas Paksas. He returned to politics as surprisingly as he had left, after the presidential scandal of 2003/2004, when his former rival Paksas was impeached and removed from office. Adamkus ran for the presidency again and was re-elected.
The first round of the 2004 election was held on June 13, 2004, with Adamkus securing 30% of the vote - more than any other candidate. Paksas could not run for office again, because a ruling from Lithuania's Constitutional Court disallowed him from running for public office and he was, therefore, unable to register as a candidate. A runoff election was held on June 27, 2004, which Adamkus won with about 52% of the votes against Kazimira Prunskienė. By 2009 he had served the two presidential terms permitted by the Constitution of Lithuania and was succeeded as president by Dalia Grybauskaite.
In 2003 Valdas Adamkus was named UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for the Construction of Knowledge Societies. The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, noted that Valdas Adamkus was named as Ambassador "in recognition of his dedication to the Organization's aims and ideals and with a view to benefiting for the construction of knowledge societies from his wisdom and extensive experience in many of UNESCO's areas of concern, in particular promotion of social development, cultural diversity, dialogue and international cooperation."
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