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Opposition Candidate Wins Romania Vote

DW staff/ AFP (ziw)
December 13, 2004

Traian Basescu is the projected winner of Romania's presidential election, the central election commission said Monday. He hopes to lead his country into the EU.

Basescu's supporters started celebrating Sunday nightImage: AP

With 51.23 percent the vote on Monday, the Romanian election commission projected opposition candidate Traian Basescu the winner of Romania's cliffhanger presidential election. Voters were kept waiting though the night for the results, as exit polls on Sunday, the day of the election, proved too close to call.

But on Monday morning, the election commission made it official: Basescu trimphed over his opponent, Prime Minister Adrian Nastase of the ruling Social Democratic party (PSD), after 92 percent of ballots were counted. Basescu has thus been charged with the task of pushing through the democratic reforms needed to make Romania's dream of joining the European Union in 2007 a reality.

Traian Basescu, Oberbürgermeister, Bukarest, Rumänien
Basescu: from the Bucharest mayorship to the Romanian presidencyImage: DW

The presidential race ended in a tie Sunday, exit polls showed a few hours after voting ended. The CURS Institute initially gave Nastase a narrow lead over Basescu with 50.7 percent of the votes when polls closed in the former communist state at 8:00 p.m.

It then revised its tally, saying it concurred with another poll, carried out by the INSOMAR institute, which gave each candidate 50 percent of vote. The suspense continued through the night as Romania's Central Electoral Bureau said the first official results from the presidential race would only be published on Monday morning.

Cries of foul-play

Nastase had been the clear favorite to succeed long-serving President Ion Iliescu, but analysts said that a flurry of last-minute voting in Bucharest could hand Basescu, who is the mayor of the capital, an upset victory.

Basescu cried foul after losing the first round on Nov. 28 to Nastase, but on Sunday night he told supporters he was confident that vote counting would proceed in a proper fashion. "I am confident that the state's institutions will do their job properly and that each vote will be counted. I assure Romanians that their vote will be respected," he said at his party's headquarters.

Nastase, who heads the ruling Social Democrat party, had come out ahead in the first round after taking 41 percent of the vote compared to Basescu's 34 percent.

Hopes for EU membership

Wahlen Rumänien Premierminister Adrian Nastase
Outgoing Prime Minister Adrian NastaseImage: AP

The outgoing prime minister, a rather aloof and authoritarian figure, projected himself as Iliescu's natural successor and the man who would assure Romania's smooth accession to the EU in 2007

Basescu, a sailor-turned-politician, also presented himself as pro-European but built his campaign on promises to rid Romania of rampant corruption, which he laid at the door of Nastase's government.

Nastase was given a big boost on Wednesday when Bucharest signed a deal sealing the end of Romania's EU accession talks. But Basescu's Justice and Truth Alliance said the closure of accession talks was "premature," as "Romania could not objectively fulfil the conditions laid down by the EU."

Under the deal, Romania's membership, scheduled for January 2007, could be put off for a year if it does not fulfill its obligations to reduce state aid to the steel sector, clamp down on corruption and bolster controls at what will be the EU's eastern border.

Preventing fraud

Sunday's vote took place with some 3,300 independent observers in place after the opposition and several non-governmental organizations said the first round was marred by "massive fraud."

The electoral commission rapidly shut down 10 additional voting stations that were opened by the Bucharest municipality, saying they were illegal. Romania's main civil rights group, Pro Democratia, lamented the move saying "thousands of people had begun queueing in front of the voting stations opened for people who were far from home."

To avoid people voting more than once, the Central Electoral Bureau decided to limit to 70 the number of voting stations for those who found themselves away from home.

The turnout in Sunday's election stood at around 53 percent.

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