Romanians Vote for President in Run-off

World » SOUTHEAST EUROPE | November 16, 2014, Sunday // 13:16
Bulgaria: Romanians Vote for President in Run-off Romanian citiziens living in Austria wait in front of a polling station to cast their ballots in Vienna, 16 November 2014. Photo EPA/BGNES

Romanians are electing a president in a run-off vote on Sunday in which Social Democrat Prime Minister Victor Ponta is facing the popular mayor of Sibiu city Klaus Iohannis.

The first round of the elections two weeks ago was won by Ponta with 40% of the vote to 30% for Liberal Party Chairman Iohannis. A total of 14 candidates to succeed incumbent President Traian Basescu, who cannot run for a third five-year term, competed for the top state post in the first round.

According to the latest polls, Ponta, who has promised to cut taxes and raise pensions, is set to win the second round with about 54% of the vote. 

Polling stations opened at 7 EET (5 UTC) and will close at 21 EET (19 UTC). First results are expected overnight.

Poor organization of voting in polling stations abroad in the first round sparked protests in Bucharest and other major Romanian cities as well as capitals across the EU and some other countries. It is estimated that up to four million Romanians live abroad, most of them in Europe.

The protest rallies forced Foreign Minister Titus Corlatean to resign on November 10. The government has added voting booths and staff at polling stations abroad in response to protests but it has not increased the number of polling stations, as expat groups had demanded.

With Ponta president, the Social Democrats are expected to tighten their grip on power which is raising questions whether the government Ponta would help form as head of state will honor its pledges to international lenders to cut spending and reduce budget deficit.

As Prime Minister since 2012 Ponta has often clashed with outgoing President Basescu, which stalled policymaking.

While a victory for Ponta could bring stability ,it may also raise concerns about the independence of the judiciary.

According to Ponta's critics, if he wins the election, he could use the new post to influence the appointment of prosecutors, thus giving him power over the judiciary.

During the election campaign Ponta has been faced with accusations that he had exerted pressure on prosecutors investigating his political allies over suspected corruption.

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Tags: Romania, run-off, elections, presidential, vote, results, expats, polling stations, Iohannis, Basescu
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