BUCHAREST (AFP) – Prime Minister Victor Ponta looked set to win the first round of presidential elections in Romania on Sunday, despite fears he could reverse reforms aimed at tackling the rampant corruption that blights one of Europe’s poorest countries.
Prime Minister Victor Ponta looked set to win the first round of presidential elections in Romania on Sunday despite fears he could reverse advances in the justice system if elected. Exit polls were expected to give a first idea of results around 1900 GMT, when voting stations were due to close after opening at 0500 GMT.
Ponta, a 42-year-old centre-left politician, has enjoyed a comfortable lead over 13 other candidates and looks set to face 55-year-old liberal Klaus Iohannis, from the German-speaking minority, in a second round on November 16 in the former communist country.
The elections are seen as a crucial test for Romania, as well as central Europe, at a time when democracy has suffered setbacks in some neighbouring countries, such as Hungary, and as the Ukraine crisis has shaken relations between the European Union and Russia. Popular centre-right President Traian Basescu, a long-term rival who has accused Ponta of being a former spy, is ineligible to run for a third term.