Romania’s pro-EU president expected to win run-off vote

Bucharest: Romanians voted on Sunday in the second round of presidential elections that are expected to return incumbent Klaus Iohannis to office, confirming the pro-European trajectory of the eastern EU member state. Thirty years after the fall of communism, the centre-right former physics professor is running against Social Democrats (PSD) leader and former prime minister Viorica Dancila, whose government collapsed last month in a no-confidence vote. “It’s a choice for the well-being of Romania. We’re waiting for a revolution, for things to get better. But we are waiting for this, and nothing comes our way,” Stan Mihai, a 76-year-old pensioner who voted in the capital Bucharest, said.

In the first round of voting on November 10, Iohannis won 38 per cent of the vote, ahead of 13 other candidates. Dancila came second with 22 per cent. Analysts say voters who backed lower-placed candidates can be expected to largely swing behind Iohannis, amid deep resentment toward the PSD over controversial judicial reforms. “I voted for a Romania that is modern, European and normal,” Iohannis told reporters after casting his ballot on Sunday. A total of 18.2 million Romanians are eligible to vote with a record 650,000 of them abroad. Those abroad tend to favour liberal candidates. In the first round, just three per cent of them voted Dancila.

The PSD government had engaged in a long battle with the European Union — and Iohannis who backed Brussels — over allegations it was trying to push through measures to neuter the judiciary and benefit PSD politicians. The left-wing party, which is seen as the successor of the ruling elite before the overthrow of communism in 1989 and has dominated politics since, has been accused of widespread corruption. And while nationalism has been less present in Romanian politics than elsewhere in the region — such as in Hungary or Poland — the PSD tried to frame its clashes with EU institutions as evidence that it was standing up for Romania. “I voted for a presidential mandate where we see more involvement and respect for the Romanian people and for our national interests,” Dancila told reporters after voting. — AFP