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Romania - 2014 Presidential Election

The post of president was created in 1974 under the late communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. The president is in charge of foreign policy and defense, and names key public prosecutors and the chiefs of intelligence.

Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta won the first round of the country's presidential election. Exit polls show that the Socialist party leader was set to take 40 percent of the vote.

Exit polls showed on 02 November 2014 that Victor Ponta, Romania's Socialist prime minister, was on course to win the first round of the country's presidential election. The four polls suggested that Ponta would garner between 38 percent and 40 percent of the vote, followed by Klaus Iohannis, the leader of the center-right National-Liberal Party and mayor of the Transylvanian city of Sibiu, who was estimated to have garnered between 31 percent and 32 percent of the vote. Earlier opinion polls implied that none of the remaining 12 candidates had enough support to provide serious competition in the race to replace out-going Independent President Traian Basescu.

The 42-year-old Ponta pledged to reduce taxes and raise pensions while also stressing the need to maintain good relations with both the EU and China. He also recently announced an increase of 10 percent in wages in the medical sector, further boosting his popularity. Throughout the election campaign, Ponta also focused largely on the issue of corruption, despite facing accusations himself that he had put pressure on prosecutors investigating his political allies on suspicion of corruption.

Ponta's critics have also expressed fears that if he wins the election, he could use the post of president, which is otherwise largely ceremonial, to influence the appointment of prosecutors, thus giving him power over the judiciary.

In light of the country's persistent problems with corruption and organized crime, the EU has been tightly monitoring Romania's judicial system since it joined the EU in 2007.

However, the race proved tighter than expected, with his main rival, Klaus Iohannis, the 55-year-old leader of the right-wing National-Liberal party and the mayor of the Transylvanian city of Sibiu, on 30.5 percent. Iohannis, of Transylvania's German-speaking minority, says he will guarantee an independent justice system and the rule of law. Opinion polls ahead of the election had predicted that, aside from Iohannis, none of the dozen other candidates had enough support to provide Ponta with serious competition in the race to replace the departing independent president, Traian Basescu, termed out after 10 years.

The second round took place on November 16. The overwhelming favorite to win the poll was current Social Democrat Prime Minister Victor Ponta, who finished with a ten percent lead over his rival, Klaus Iohannis, in the first round on November 2.

Only 160,000 of the some three million Romanians living abroad were able to vote in the first round owing to an insufficient number of polling stations in countries including France, Germany and Britain. Of those that did manage to vote, 46 percent favored Iohannis and just 15.8 percent Ponta. A larger expat turnout could thus possibly undermine Ponta's apparently unassailable lead, with the government saying it had now improved voting procedures in other countries to enable all to cast their ballot.

The Romanian electorate surprised the country's political establishment by voting in Klaus Iohannis as President - an unexpected defeat for his rival Prime Minister Victor Ponta. Johannis is an ethnic German and his election is seen as pivotal. Ponta conceded a surprise defeat as presidential candidate for his former communist Social Democratic party.

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