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Anti-austerity coalition wins Romania polls

PM Victor Ponta's ruling centre-left alliance wins up to 60 per cent of votes in Sunday's parliamentary polls.
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 14:51
The party of Prime Minister Victor Ponta [L] won comfortably over parties associated with President Basescu [R] [AFP]

Romania's centre-left governing coalition has comfortably won a weekend parliamentary poll with nearly 60 per cent of the vote, partial results have showed.

With 80 per cent of the polling stations reporting, the results confirmed exit polls that declared the Social-Liberal Union (USL) headed by Prime Minister Victor Ponta as winner in Sunday's poll.

Despite the fact that it (USL) has only held power since May, many voters saw it as the party of change because it has promised to roll back austerity cuts undertaken by prevous government.

Parties close to President Traian Basescu came in a distant second with nearly 17 per cent of the vote.

Turnout was low at 41.6 per cent as disenchantment with politics remains high in the newest European Union member.

Simmering tension

The win deals a blow to President Basescu who is due to officially appoint the new prime minister.

There has been no reaction yet on the outcome of the poll from Basescu, who will be travelling to Oslo on Monday together with other heads of state to collect the Nobel peace prize awarded to the EU earlier this year.

Ponta was appointed prime minister in May, the third prime minister this year, but he had a bitter battle with Basescu, whose mandate expires in 2014.

Basescu's allies, who were in government from 2008, grew unpopular due to harsh austerity measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund and European Union in exchange for a $26bn (20 billion euro) bailout loan in 2009, and allegations of cronyism.

Ponta restored most pensions and salaries that were slashed as part of the loan agreement, but has largely continued the policies as previous Basescu-allied governments including a 24 percent sales tax, one of the highest in the EU.

Basescu, who is due to officially name the new prime minister after the poll, has already repeatedly hinted that he could refuse to re-appoint Ponta as premier, describing his nemesis as a "mythomaniac".

Call for calm

But Ponta himself appeared to extend an olive branch, saying that after months of bitter feuding, "Romania now needs a period of calm".

"We need to overcome political fights, hatred and revenge," he said, adding "he was ready to lead the next government".

The president has accused USL leaders of driving the country away from the EU, which it joined in 2007.

Analysts and investors have called for political stability as Romania, the 27-member bloc's second-poorest member after Bulgaria, is struggling to recover from one of Europe's most painful austerity drives.

The average monthly wage currently stands at 350 euros ($450) and about three million Romanians have emigrated looking for jobs and better living conditions elsewhere.

The 2012 growth forecast was revised down to 0.7 per cent from 1.7 per cent.

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