Opposition party wins Romanian election
Romania's opposition Social Democrat Party (PSD) won today's parliamentary election, acording to exit polls, reducing chances for a revival of EU-mandated anti-corruption reforms if it manages to form a government.
The PSD tapped into many Romanians' fears about the impact of the global financial crisis and wealth disparities, making promises of welfare handouts and tax cuts for the poorest.
Two exit polls, one by private Realitatea TV and one by the public TVR 1, showed the PSD, heirs to Romania's communist regime overthrown in a bloody 1989 revolt, capturing 36-37 per cent of the vote.
Another opposition group, the Democrat Liberal Party (PD-L), a centrist grouping linked to President Traian Basescu, won 30-31 per cent, while prime minister Calin Tariceanu's Liberal Party (PNL) was third on 20 per cent.
"This result shows we are a powerful party that deserved to win the election," PSD head Mircea Geoana told jubilant supporters at party headquarters.
To form a government, the PSD will have to wrestle with the PD-L, which benefits from close links with the president, who nominates the prime minister under Romanian law.
But today's win boosts the PSD's chances of returning to power after four years in opposition; but a coalition between the Democrats and Liberals, who would have a majority together with smaller parties, is also possible.
The European Union has criticised continued corruption and organised crime in Romania, which joined the EU in 2007. The European Commission has called for stronger courts and efficient administrative systems to combat the problem.
Romania has undertaken some reforms but critics argue they are far from sufficient to tackle the scourge of corruption in business and poltical life.