Thursday

28th May 2020

Romanian PM ahead in presidential elections

Romanian Socialist prime minister Victor Ponta won the first round of the country's presidential election on Sunday (2 November), with an ethnic German mayor set to challenge him in the run-off on 16 November.

Ponta won 40 percent of the vote, according to partial results made public early on Monday. Klaus Iohannis, the main challenger backed by a centre-right Liberal coalition, scored 30.5 percent, while twelve other candidates scooped the remaining votes, each under six percent.

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Over 53 percent of voters went to polling stations, similar to 2009, when the last presidential elections took place.

But compared to 2009, Romanians abroad had a much harder time casting their vote. Romania does not have early voting by mail, so people in London, Paris, Madrid, Berlin and Brussels queued up for hours in front of the embassies, with thousands being left outside when doors closed, at 21.00 local time.

Police had to intervene in Paris, London and Vienna, where people refused to leave and expressed anger at how poorly the vote was organised.

Several hundred people also staged a protest in front of the foreign ministry in Bucharest, demanding the resignation of foreign minister Titus Corlatean and more polling stations abroad for the second round.

Roughly 3 million people living and working abroad are entitled to vote, but the foreign ministry only sent a total of 600,000 ballots to its embassies.

Monica Macovei, an MEP and former justice minister who ran as independent and gathered 4.5 percent of the vote according to partial results, demanded the resignation of the ones responsible for the "unacceptable" voting conditions for the Romanians abroad.

Ponta said he was sorry "some Romanians" were unable to vote, but said the long waiting hours were due to extra precaution to prevent fraud.

At 42, Ponta would be the youngest president Romania has ever had. He ran on a nationalist platform, vowing to "unite" Romania after the divisive presidency of Traian Basescu.

He indicated he would steer Romania's foreign policy more towards Russia and China, following the trend of his neighbouring country Hungary and its PM Viktor Orban.

Iohannis, on the other hand, who promises a "Romania of normality and things done well" is staunchly pro-European and is said to have good relations with German chancellor Angela Merkel.

He would be the first Romanian president coming from an ethnic minority - German settlers who came to Transylvania 900 years ago.

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