Voting ends in Romania’s presidential runoff

Prime minister is expected to win over a city mayor, and replace Traian Basescu who steps down after 10 years in power.

Prime minister Victor Ponta went into the second round of votes on Sunday with 54 percent support [AFP]

Romanians have voted in a presidential runoff between the prime minister, who promises stability, and a city mayor who says he will fight corruption.

Prime minister Victor Ponta, 42, went into the second round of votes on Sunday with 54 percent support, according to the latest opinion polls, clearly ahead of his conservative opponent, Klaus Iohannis.

The winner will replace President Traian Basescu, who is to step down after 10 years.

The polls closed at 9pm (19:00 GMT) and first results are expected overnight on Sunday.

According to the Associated Press news agency, two exit polls said that Ponta was slightly ahead, while two others gave Iohannis a slight lead and one poll put eact at 50 percent.

Church support

Ponta has the support of the influential Romanian Orthodox Church and has received a boost from the strengthening economy.

Iohannis, a fifty-five-year old from Romania’s ethnic German minority has often seemed uncomfortable in front of the cameras and has faced accusations he is a not a “real Romanian”.

In the first round of voting on November 2, Ponta finished first with 40 percent of the vote, while his rival took 30 percent.

“Ponta already has ministries, parliament,” Mircea Dumitru, a delivery man in the capital Bucharest, told the Reuters news agency.

“It is too much if he also becomes president. He may change prosecutors and then we are done.”

Rodica Avram, a 56-year-old teacher, told the AFP news agency that she had voted for change.

“For the past 25 years we have heard nothing but lies and promises that were not kept,” she said.

“I hope we will finally have a president who respects people and does what he promises.”

Low turnout

Experts claim that a low turnout could trigger an unexpected result. 

“The key of the second round is getting out the vote,” said Christian Ghinea of the Romanian Centre for European Politics.

“If the voters in the big cities, who tend to favour the opposition, are mobilised, Iohannis has a chance,” Ghinea told the AFP news agency.

Turnout was 52 percent in the first round.

Another great unknown is the vote of the diaspora, which numbers about three million people. 

Only 160,000 were able to cast their ballots in the first round, however, due to an insufficient number of polling stations in countries including France, Germany and Britain.

Of those who cast their ballots abroad, 46 percent voted for Iohannis and 15.8 percent for Ponta.

Source: News Agencies