Basescu edges presidential race, sparks political turmoil

Newsroom 14/12/2009 | 10:31

Romanian president Traian Basescu has narrowly won the second round of the presidential elections, with 50.33 percent, defeating Social Democratic Party (PSD) candidate Mircea Geoana. The difference was around 70,000 votes in favor of Basescu, who will serve another five-year term as president. The outcome took Geoana by surprise, as the exit polls on Sunday had predicted him to take more than 51 percent of the ballots. The PSD candidate had even delivered a victory speech before the final results were announced. The party said it would challenge the results in the Constitutional Court. Only after the court validates the results will they become final.

The PSD has alleged fraud, saying it has presented evidence of this to the Central Elections Office. Liviu Dragnea, secretary general of the PSD, said the fraud included bribery and multiple voting, as well as changes to the official ballot papers on their way to county election offices. The party said it was even considering asking for the elections to be annulled and re-run, should its evidence be accepted. Geoana himself said the PSD had won the elections and that the Democratic Liberal Party (PDL) fraud machine was responsible for the final result of the poll.

Meanwhile, the PSD’s main partner in the second round, the National Liberal Party (PNL), has already switched sides, saying it would consider forming a government with Traian Basescu’s party, the PDL, provided that the PNL can name the prime minister of the new government. The PNL’s candidate in the presidential race, Crin Antonescu, came third in the first round of voting. He then threw his support behind Geoana for the second round.

The Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) said it was open to any governmental formation. “A very important element for us has changed. We supported Klaus Johannis for prime minister, but he later declined, which is an essential change of context for us,” said the head of the UDMR, Marko Bela. He added that the party would hold discussions with the head of the PDL, Emil Boc.

Outside the country, the international press has warned of the political instability and financial risks stemming from the Romanian poll. The Financial Times said Romania was in turmoil over the poll result, citing the political uncertainty and the shockwaves reverberating through Bucharest’s financial markets, with a 3 percent drop in equities and slight fall of the Romanian currency against the euro. “The outcome leaves recession-hit Romania with a disputed winner as president and with only a caretaker government in office, just when Bucharest faces pressure from European Union partners and the International Monetary Fund for budget reforms,” wrote the FT. The Wall Street Journal also published a piece on the elections, asking whether the president would have a strong enough parliamentary mandate to push through the tough reforms needed. The WSJ article also noted the financial risk incurred by any delay in forming the government.

Corina Saceanu

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