Romania’s president heads for re-election

Romania’s president heads for re-election

Traian Basescu wins tight presidential election, with some votes still to be counted.

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Traian Basescu has this morning emerged as the victor in Romania’s presidential election, but the result was so tight that it may not end the political deadlock that has gripped the country in recent months.

Basescu, the incumbent president from the centre-right, obtained 50.43% of the vote in the second round of the presidential contest. His social democrat opponent Mircea Geoana has 49.57% of the vote. The votes of the expatriate Romanians in North America have still to be added. In theory, they could change the result, but in practice the expatriate vote has tended to favour Basescu.

The European Commission had been hoping for a clear-cut result that would put Romania back on the path of political, judicial and economic reform. The government of Emil Boc fell in mid-October, toppled by the parliament, and Basescu’s subsequent nominations for replacement prime ministers were rejected. This political paralysis prompted the International Monetary Fund to postpone the payment schedule of a €20 billion emergency loan. The postponed second and third tranches are together worth €13bn.

Basescu’s challenge now will be to find someone who can assemble a workable coalition government that can put together a 2010 budget that will be acceptable to the IMF. After the first round of the presidential contest on 22 November, the liberal candidate Cris Antonescu, who came third with 20% of the vote, gave his endorsement to Geoana, saying: “I rule out any collaboration with Traian Basescu.”

This morning’s result follows an election night of confusion, with exit polls on rival television stations showing conflicting predictions, followed in turn by victory statements from both candidates.

At 9pm, CURS, a poll carried out by news agency MEDIAFAX, showed that Geoana had won with 50.7% against Basescu’s 49.3%. B1 TV said that the last parallel counting of the votes showed that Basescu won with 50.09% against Geoana’s 49.91%.

“This is a beautiful night for democracy, together we have made it,” said Geoana, “It’s a victory we have worked for.” At the same time, Basescu was telling his supporters: “I will summarise the results of this election. We have won.”

“My voters should go to bed tonight without any worry, we have won, the official results will be announced tomorrow and I know the central electoral office will do their job properly,” Basescu said.

The second presidential run-off saw the highest voter turnout since 2000.

Ana-Maria Tolbaru