BUCHAREST (AFP) – Romanians voted on Sunday to choose their next president, with current Prime Minister Victor Ponta the overwhelming favourite to win.
The 42-year-old social democrat goes into the second round of voting with 54 per cent support, according to the latest opinion polls, clearly ahead of his conservative opponent, Klaus Iohan-nis.
Everything seems to be in the former lawyer’s favour to ensure victory in one of the European Union’s poorest countries. Ponta has the political experience, the support of the hugely influential Romanian Orthodox Church and a boost from the strengthening economy.
“I voted so that our parents can live in a better country and our children have a future here in Romania,” Ponta said as he voted with his wife and two children in tow.
For his part Iohannis, 55, from Romania’s ethnic German minority, seems uncomfortable in front of the cameras, and has faced accusations he is a not a “real Romanian”.
Casting his ballot, he said he hoped Romania would “enjoy respect and prosperity”.
The polls will close at 9pm (1900 GMT) and first results are expected overnight Sunday.
Rodica Avram, a 56-year-old teacher, said after casting her ballot in Bucharest that she had voted for change.
“For the past 25 years we have heard nothing but lies and promises that weren’t kept,” she said. “I hope we’ll finally have a president who respects people and does what he promises.”
In the first round of voting on November 2, Ponta finished first with 40 per cent of the vote, while his conservative rival took 30 per cent.
But one thing could dash Ponta’s chances of clinching the presidency, experts claim: turnout.
“The key of the second round is getting out the vote,” said Christian Ghinea of the Romanian Centre for European Politics.
“If the voters in the big cities, who tend to favour the opposition, are mobilised, Iohannis has a chance,” Ghinea told AFP.
Turnout was 52 per cent in the first round.