Romania's Social Democratic Party (PSD) has comfortably won the parliamentary elections, according to preliminary results, a year after a major anti-corruption drive forced the left-leaning party from power.
Election authorities said on Monday that with 99 percent of the votes from Sunday's elections counted, the PSD held about 46 percent.
PSD's main rival, the centre-right National Liberal Party, came a distant second with about 20 percent of vote.
The Save Romania Union, a new party that ran on an anti-corruption ticket, finished third with 9 percent, allowing it to enter parliament.
"There should be no doubt who won the elections. Romanians want to feel at home in their own country and I want Romania to be a good home for all Romanians," PSD leader Liviu Dragnea said about the results.
Dragnea resigned as a minister last May after his conviction in a case involving voter fraud. He is serving a two-year suspended sentence and is barred from holding office. He has denied the charges.
The PSD leader said his party will start talks to form a parliamentary majority with longtime ally the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), which took about 6 percent of the vote.
The election follows a year of a technocrat government in Romania, the EU's fastest-growing economy but also one of its poorest, put in place after massive street protests brought down the previous PSD-led government.
Triggered by a deadly fire in the Colectiv nightclub in Bucharest which lacked emergency exits and other safety measures, the protests called for sweeping change in Romania to address chronically inept public administration and corruption.
However, observers say many of the younger voters who took to the streets then failed to vote on Sunday, underscoring a lack of belief that reforms can take root. Turnout was just 39.5 percent in the polls.
The PSD's electorate traditionally stems from older, poorer Romanians, eager to hear the party's message which centres on public-sector wage hikes, tax cuts and higher pensions.
Both PSD and ALDE politicians have accused anti-corruption prosecutors of being politically motivated in their investigations. Romanian prosecutors have been praised by EU officials various times for their efforts against corruption.
During its previous years in government, between 2012 and 2015, the PSD reversed austerity policies put in place after a 2008 property crash by cutting taxes and raising the minimum wage and public-sector pay.
The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, now expects Romania's deficit to quadruple from 0.8 percent of economic output in 2015 to 3.2 percent in 2017 under European accounting terms.
Source: News agencies