Breaking News
0
Ad-Free Version. Upgrade your Investing.com experience. Save up to 40% More details

Romania's PM Ponta wins first round of presidential election

WorldNov 03, 2014 04:46AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
 
6/6 © Reuters Romania's Prime Minister Ponta and his wife Sarbu prepare to cast their votes at a polling station in Bucharest 2/6

By Radu-Sorin Marinas and Luiza Ilie

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Prime Minister Victor Ponta led the first round of Romania's presidential election, a step towards a victory that would consolidate his leftist party's hold on power but would also raise questions about judicial independence.

With nearly all ballots counted, Ponta, leader of the Social Democrats and a former prosecutor and amateur rally driver who became prime minister two years ago, had won 40.3 percent of the vote in Sunday's election. That compared with 30.4 percent for his nearest challenger, Klaus Iohannis, an ethnic German mayor backed by two centre-right parties.

The results make Ponta, who has consistently led opinion polls over Iohannis, the firm favorite to win a run-off vote on Nov. 16.

A Ponta presidency could bring more stability to the Black Sea country of 20 million, which endured a painful recession and spending cuts during the global slowdown and has made mixed progress in implementing reforms under an IMF-led aid deal.

As prime minister, Ponta often feuded with his bitter rival, outgoing President Traian Basescu - who served as president for a decade - often slowing policymaking.

However, without the check on power hitherto provided by Basescu, Ponta's rise has raised concerns that he might tighten political control over the judiciary and anti-corruption prosecutors.

Ponta rebuffed EU criticism in 2012 that he did not appear to respect the rule of law and democratic institutions, denying allegations that he had put pressure on judges.

The results were announced with 98.3 percent of polling stations counted, and broadly reflected exit polls released on Sunday evening. They showed a turnout of 53 percent.

Many Romanians living abroad could not vote on Sunday as polling stations ran out of ballot-related paper, sparking protests outside the foreign ministry in Bucharest. Many also complained of long queues as they waited to vote. Tempers flared at the Romanian embassy in Paris, which called in the French police for help, according to an election bureau spokesman.

Ion Tiriac, a former French Open tennis doubles winner and one of Romania's richest businessmen, said he flew to Bucharest to vote after long queues prevented him from doing so in Paris.

IMF DEAL UNCERTAINTY

The leu currency (EURRON=) was stable against the euro on Monday, but 3-year treasury bond yields fell 5 basis points to 2.3 percent, a new record low. The blue chip index (BETI) was 0.2 percent stronger, bucking weaker stocks elsewhere in the region.

"The results are somewhat in line with what we have seen in exit polls, which isn't to say the final outcome is decided," said Vlad Muscalu, chief economist at ING Bank in Bucharest.

It was unclear whom Ponta might choose to succeed him as prime minister if he wins the presidency.

Ponta, and a new government he would help shape, might loosen fiscal policy and end the deal with the International Monetary Fund. The 4 billion euro agreement, which expires next year, has bolstered Romania's credibility with investors and nudged successive governments to reform.

"After the IMF agreement expires there will be two questions. Will it be further extended?" Greg Konieczny, the manager of Romanian investment fund Fondul Proprietatea (BX:FP), said in a recent interview.

"But that will be a decision for the new government. And second, if it is not extended, then will the government keep behaving in a responsible way?"

Iohannis, who is credited with transforming the Transylvanian city of Sibiu, has the support of opposition Liberals and Democrat-Liberals. He has pledged to support anti-corruption prosecutors, boost EU fund absorption and raise the healthcare budget, while supporting the IMF deal and aiming to eventually lower value-added tax.

Romania joined the EU in 2007 but remains its second- poorest and also one of its most corrupt states, driving millions abroad in search of better pay and living standards. It has struggled to absorb EU development funds. Tax evasion is rife and nearly half of all households lack an indoor bathroom.

"I am fed up with politicians and their corruption," said Marin Tudose, a 48-year-old tool maker. "When will we start to live better? Because so far it hasn't happened for me."

The Social Democrats, heirs to the Communists whose single-party rule was toppled in a 1989 revolution, have courted voters by increasing pensions and wages for state workers cut under Ponta's predecessor. Ponta has pledged to hike pensions again next year and has cut an employment tax.

Analysts said his election campaign was also helped by a government ordinance approved in August that allowed local mayors to join a party other than the one from which they were elected in office without losing their seat. That saw many politicians join the ruling leftists.

But his campaign was hit by setbacks as well. Basescu accused Ponta of spying for the foreign intelligence service in the 1990s - a charge Ponta's camp rejected as a political smear. Ponta's father-in-law and other ruling party politicians were also hit by graft allegations in the last weeks of the campaign.

In Romania, the president exerts influence on the executive by appointing the new prime minister, judges and prosecutors, and he can stall government policy proposals.

Ponta's attempt to have Basescu impeached in a 2012 national referendum drew sharp EU criticism and hurt the leu currency.

"Investors are very wary of Romanian politics causing selloffs in the currency," said Demetrios Efstathiou, the head of CEEMEA Strategy, Global Markets, at Standard Bank Plc.

"If investors feel that political risk in Romania is coming down, then it's possibly the elimination of the biggest risk for investors. So Ponta coming to power, his party controlling (parliament), I think it will be seen as positive not negative."

(Writing by Matthias Williams; Reporting by Matthias Williams, Radu-Sorin Marinas and Luiza Ilie; Editing by Susan Fenton)

Romania's PM Ponta wins first round of presidential election
 

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind: 

  • Enrich the conversation
  • Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed.
  • Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically.
  •  Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and links within a comment will be removed
  • Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user.
  • Don’t Monopolize the Conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also believe strongly in giving everyone a chance to air their thoughts. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at Investing.com’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
 
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
 
Post
Post also to:
 
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
 
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
 
Post
 
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's Investing.com's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.
Continue with Google
or
Sign up with Email