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Romanian Social Democrats to Reclaim Power With Vote Triumph

Romanian Social Democrats to Reclaim Power With Vote Triumph

 Ex-Deputy Premier Liviu Dragnea (AP)

Sunday, 11 December 2016 05:55 PM

Romania’s Social Democrats won Sunday’s general election, putting them on course to return to power a year after public outrage forced their prime minister out.

The country’s largest party, led by ex-Deputy Premier Liviu Dragnea, got 45 percent of the vote, while its ally, ALDE, received 6.3 percent, according to an exit poll conducted by the Avangarde polling company. That would give the two parties an outright majority. Official results will start to be released later Sunday night.

"The current outcome shows the Social Democrats could have a majority on their own, but they’ll probably try to boost that via an alliance with ALDE," Andrei Taranu, deputy dean of the Political Science University in Bucharest, said by phone. "I think they'll promote a very populist agenda, following the other countries in the region."

The European Union’s second-poorest nation is replacing Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos’s technocratic government, which has ruled since his predecessor Victor Ponta stepped down last November. While election campaigning coincided with an unprecedented crackdown on state corruption, parties engulfed by scandals lured voters with tax cuts and public-sector wage increases. The populism has stopped short of the extremes seen elsewhere in Europe, while economic growth is the EU’s second-fastest.

‘Island of Stability’

“I want to assure all Romanians that everything we presented in our governing program will be put into practice by a Social Democratic-led government,” Dragnea said Sunday in televised comments. “Romania is an island of stability in the region, and it’s important that it remains this way. We’ll respect all commitments to our international partners.”

The party has promised more tax cuts in 2017, as well as less bureaucracy and increased funding for health care and education.

Once final election results are received this week, President Klaus Iohannis will start talks with parties to decide on a new prime minister. He says he won’t endorse a candidate who’s been convicted or is under investigation.

Ponta is fighting graft charges having quit in the wake of a deadly nightclub fire that Romanians blamed on corrupt officials. Dragnea was handed a two-year suspended sentence this year for rigging a referendum. He said Sunday that the Social Democrats will revealed a nominee for premier after talks with ALDE in the coming days.

‘Clear-Cut Vote’

“Of course a coalition between the Social Democrats and our ALDE party seems likely,” ex-Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu, head of ALDE, said in televised comments. “The Constitution doesn’t impose any restrictions on the nomination of a premier. It would be a mistake if Iohannis doesn’t respect this clear-cut vote.”

Economic concerns have grown of late in Romania, an EU and NATO member of 20 million people that borders Ukraine and Hungary. Looser fiscal policy has prompted warnings from the central bank over the budget deficit, which is at risk of breaching the EU’s limit of 3 percent of gross domestic product in 2017. The sustainability of GDP growth, which reached an annual 6 percent in the second quarter, has also been questioned.

“The election pledges, which have given Romania a consumption-based growth boom this year, are now weighing hugely on the public budget,” Alexandra Bechtel, a Frankfurt-based economist at Commerzbank AG said by e-mail.

For more on the Romanian election’s economic implications, click here

The Liberal Party, of which Iohannis was previously a member, took 21.7 percent in Sunday’s ballot, according to the exit poll. The newly formed Save Romania Union, an anti-graft group that promotes itself as an alternative to the current political class, got 9.1 percent. The two parties had backed Ciolos to stay on as premier.

“They’re all corrupt and I don’t expect major changes,” Ionel Barcan, a 45-year-old hypermarket cashier, said Sunday in Bucharest. “But I voted for the Social Democrats because they cut taxes and increased the minimum wage, so we have more money in our pockets.”

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Romania's Social Democrats won Sunday's general election, putting them on course to return to power a year after public outrage forced their prime minister out.The country's largest party, led by ex-Deputy Premier Liviu Dragnea, got 45 percent of the vote, while its ally,...
Romania, Social Democrats, win, vote
Sunday, 11 December 2016 05:55 PM
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