The runoff elections will be play a vital role in solving a government crisis in Romania that has delayed a multi-billion dollar aid package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that would help revive bungled political and economic reforms.

Recession woes

Experts fear that without the formation of a new government and a renewed push to modernise, Romania could fail to recover swiftly from recession and could even lag behind other former Soviet bloc states that have joined the European Union.

Rodica Pricop, the chief editor of the Nine O'Clock newspaper, told Al Jazeera that Romania is currently the most corrupt country in the European Union.

"This is why the World Bank and the European Commission need a new government to discuss loan schedules and repayments .... though Romania is probably going to apply of a new loan in March next year", Pricop said.

Once elected, Romania's president will have to nominate a new prime minister who will be keen on replacing the centre-left coalition that collapsed in October.

If Basescu is elected, he will seek to form a government around the Democrat-Liberal Party, which is likely to push more strongly for painful fiscal reforms needed to mend relations with the IMF than Geoana's Social Democrats (PSD).

Meanwhile, commentators say Basescu would have to tone down his confrontational style, which has angered rivals and discouraged voters, to build a successful government coalition.

Cristian Patrasconiu, a political commentator, said: "It is very difficult to predict the winner. There are many votes to split between the two candidates ... But Basescu is the best option for reforms.”

Geoana's election would likely bring back to power old-hand politicians from the PSD, a party with deep roots in Romania's communist regime.