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Romania chooses new Parliament

Romanians are voting in parliamentary elections, which the party of incumbent Victor Ponta looks set to win. That could mean a torrid new chapter in the rivalry between Ponta and President Basescu.

Voting for a new parliament began in Romania on Sunday, with Prime Minister Victor Ponta's center Social Liberal Union (USL) on course for a majority according to polls.

Surveys indicate that Ponta's party, which has been in power since May, could win between 48 and 61 percent of votes. The outcome could deliver the USL a two-thirds majority, which would enable it to pass constitutional changes through parliament.

Such an outcome could spell a challenging period of cohabitation with President Traian Basescu, who is Ponta's rival and is supported by The Right Romania Alliance (ARD). The ARD is set to come a distant second in the parliamentary elections - polls estimate their share of the votes will be between 16 and 23 percent.

Stormy politics and a sinking economy

Tensions spiked in the run-up to the vote due to Basescu's constant hints that he would refuse to appoint Ponta, whom he has branded a “mythomaniac.”

"This would be a serious abuse of power," journalist Dan Tapalaga wrote on the HotNews.ro website.

Ponta has also drawn the battle lines against his rival. On Friday he vowed that the USL would achieve a "victory against Basescu."

Analysts have warned that political turbulence could choke Romania's already spluttering economy.

"Without political stability, there will be no engine for growth," Romania's foreign investors council recently argued.

Romania is the second-poorest EU member state after Bulgaria and has struggled with Europe's austerity drive. Wages average 350 euros per month and around three million citizens have left the country in search of better jobs and an improved quality of life.

sej/hc (AFP, dpa)