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Romanian Coalition Wins Parliament Vote, Exit Polls Show

Romanian Ruling Coalition Wins Parliament Vote, Polls Show
Romanian Prime Minister and Social Liberal Union (USL) co-president Victor Ponta. Photographer: Daniel Mihailescu/AFP/Getty Images

Romania’s ruling coalition won elections, exit polls show, helping Premier Victor Ponta dominate Parliament and giving him a stronger hand as he negotiates a new Cabinet with rival President Traian Basescu.

The Social Liberal Union, or USL, took 57 percent, with voter turnout capped at 41.7 percent by heavy snowfall and rain, according to exit polls by Avangarde and CURS published by national television TVR. The opposition Right Romania Alliance, aligned with Basescu, got 18.12 percent, while the party of media entrepreneur Dan Diaconescu had 13 percent. Official results will be released tomorrow starting at 10 a.m. Bucharest time, the Central Electoral Commission said.

Ponta, who took power in May, persuaded voters to help him secure his first election victory with promises to undo wage cuts and tax increases passed by the opposition in 2010 to counter Europe’s debt crisis. He must now convince Basescu to designate him again for the top government job, after a failed impeachment referendum on July 29 against the president sharpened a feud between the two leaders.

“I take the responsibility of leading a new government and we plan to have a Cabinet in place by the end of this year,” Ponta said in a televised speech from Targu-Jiu, in southwestern Romania. “We will negotiate with the ethnic Hungarians to get their backing for a constitutional majority. We will concentrate on creating jobs and securing the country’s fiscal stability.”

The ethnic Hungarians got about 5 percent of the votes, according to the exit polls.

Power Struggle

Romania was earlier this year engulfed in a power struggle between Ponta and Basescu that culminated in a 52-day suspension for the president, followed by an invalidated nationwide impeachment vote on July 29. Basescu returned to office at the end of August.

Three other polling companies, including Geopol and CCSB showed similar results for USL’s score, while the opposition ARD gained between 15 percent to 18 percent of the votes.

Under the constitution, the party that wins more than 50 percent of parliamentary seats is entitled to negotiate the nomination of prime minister with the president. If no party has a majority, the president chooses a premier after consulting with all the parties.

“The formation of the new government may still prove tricky,” Morgan Stanley economists Pasquale Diana and Jaroslaw Strzalkowski said in a note before the exit polls were released. The relationship between Ponta and Basescu “remains tense after USL tried to impeach Basescu this summer.”

Premier Talks

After the failed impeachment attempt, Basescu said he won’t designate Ponta as prime minister again. He has since declined to repeat that statement in public. Ponta said he is the only candidate for prime minister should his political alliance win.

The premier-designate has 10 days to draw up a governing program and pick his ministers before seeking a confidence vote in Parliament.

Ponta and Basescu agree that Romania needs to reach a deal with the IMF and the EU next year, once the current 5 billion-euro ($6.5 billion) precautionary accord, signed in 2011, ends. The nation has drawn no money from the facility. Romania also got a 20 billion-euro bailout from the IMF and the EU in 2009.

Ponta’s coalition pledged to undo a valued-added tax increase of 5 percentage points and cut an income tax for low earners in four years. The opposition Right Romania Alliance says it will cut income taxes beginning next year and lower some social-security contributions.

Austerity Measures

The Democrat-Liberal Party, now part of the opposition alliance, lowered state wages by 25 percent and raised the sales tax in 2010 to narrow a budget deficit and meet pledges to the International Monetary Fund and the European Union. Former Prime Minister Emil Boc, an ally of Basescu, stepped down on Feb. 6 to ease political and social pressure stemming from nationwide anti-austerity street protests.

“I voted because I am convinced that this alliance will consolidate cooperation between the right and the left in the benefit of the country and things will change for the better,” said Pavel Istode, a 63-year-old retiree. “Basescu has become a dictator and needs to be stopped.”

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