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Video by Siobhán SILKE


Latest update : 2009-12-08

Shortly after Romanian President Traian Basescu was officially declared the winner of Sunday’s presidential run-off with the narrowest of margins, the opposition Social Democrat candidate Mircea Geoana said he would contest the result in court.

AFP - Centre-right Romanian President Traian Basescu was declared winner of weekend elections Monday but the party of his main rival immediately challenged the result with allegations of fraud.

Despite many observers having described Social-Democrat candidate Mircea Geoana as the favourite and exit polls showing him ahead, official results gave the incumbent Basescu a slim lead in the EU country deeply mired in recession.

With 99.95 percent of the ballots counted, Basescu, a former sea captain, was leading with 50.33 percent of the vote while Geoana had 49.66 percent, the Central Election Office announced.

The Social Democrat party announced a challenge.

"We are obliged to contest the result of the election," Social Democrat party official Liviu Dragnea said, citing ballots cancelled and returns altered by provincial election offices.

All eyes were on the votes cast by Romanians living abroad, 147,000 of whom went to the polls for the second round, according to the foreign ministry.

In the first round, Basescu won 56 percent of the diaspora vote.

Late Sunday, most exit polls put Geoana ahead in the tight election that the candidates labeled the most important since the fall of communism 20 years ago.

Just after polling stations closed on Sunday, the Social-Democrat candidate, a former diplomat who has pledged to "reunite" Romania after years of political squabbling, loudly claimed victory in front of his supporters.

"Our victory is a victory for all Romanians who want a better life," Geoana said, accompanied by his smiling wife and two children.

But Basescu insisted he was the winner, telling his supporters: "I have won. I assure you that the correct exit polls show that I have beaten Mircea Geoana."

In 2004, he won the election in similar conditions after exit polls put him behind his opponent Adrian Nastase.

During the night, small groups of both candidates' supporters took to the streets to celebrate, Geoana's backers dressed in red, Basescu's in orange.

Early Monday morning, they both claimed victory for their contender but the Social-Democrat party found a narrower margin than what exit polls had shown.

One Social-Democrat leader, Viorel Hrebenciuc, claimed "irregularities and fraud".

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which deployed a limited monitoring mission, will publish its report later on Monday.

"We do not have a complete vision as we only had 1,400 observers for 21,000 polling stations, but we do not have any evidence proving massive fraud so far," Cristian Parvulescu, head of non-governmental organisation Pro Democratia, told AFP.

Romanians went to the ballot box hoping for an end to a political standoff that has held up crucial international aid for the recession-wracked country.

The new president will have no time to lose in appointing a prime minister in order to unlock aid from a 20-billion-euro bailout plan from the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the World Bank.

The country has been led by a caretaker government since October.

Basescu, promising tough state reforms, and Geoana, who pledged to maintain jobs, finished almost neck-and-neck in the first round of voting two weeks ago.

But Geoana was described as the favourite of Sunday's race as he won the support of the PNL liberal party, Romania's third largest political force.

Before the vote, Basescu said he favours a right-wing coalition with the Liberals even though they supported his rival.



Date created : 2009-12-07


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