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President Basescu to face Geoana in run-off vote, partial results show

Partial results of the first round of Romania's presidential election suggest the incumbent, Traian Basescu (photo), will face centre-left challenger Mircea Geoana in a run-off vote expected to take place on December 6.

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Romania’s incumbent president, Traian Basescu, and his main centre-left rival, Mircea Geoana, will face off in the second round of a tight presidential election likely to take place on December 6, partial election results showed on Monday.

Centre-right Basescu held a short lead with 32.8 percent of the votes in Sunday’s first round, while Social Democrat Geoana took 29.2 percent, the central election office of the recession-hit country said. Liberal candidate Crin Antonescu came third with 20.8 percent of the vote. The results were based on 48.4 percent of the ballots.

FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Bucharest, Sanda Nicola, says the liberal vote holds the key to next month’s presidential run-off, with both left and right vying for the mainly young, educated electorate of Antonescu.

Voter turnout was higher than expected at 53.52 percent, according to figures released by the national electoral commission late on Sunday.

Resolving the economic and institutional crisis

This is the first election for a head of state since the coalition government of Prime Minister Emil Bloc collapsed in October amid squabbles over how to deal with the country’s deep political and economic crisis. Romania’s economy is expected to shrink by about 8 percent this year and the government is desperately trying to secure a much-needed loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to kick start the economy.

The IMF has delayed payment of part of its bail-out loan, saying the country first needs to solve its political crisis and crack down on corruption.

Fifty-eight-year-old Basescu’s stormy relations with parliament have hindered the government’s effort to lift the country out of a deep recession. Geoana, who heads the Social Democrats, hopes to capitalise on popular resentment of the recent governmental instability to move ahead in the run-off vote.

The balance of power between the president and the parliament was the subject of a referendum called by Basescu and also held on Sunday. The president has little impact on the day-to-day running of the country but he will nominate the next prime minister, who will have to form a coalition cabinet.

Partial results showed a strong majority of Romanians were in favour of a smaller parliament, with 77.1 percent approving the idea of abolishing one of the parliament’s two houses, while 88.9 percent voted to reduce the number of lawmakers from 471 to 300.

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