Romania’s Social Democrats Triumph in Year’s First Election Test

  • Party gets 39% in local ballots before general vote in winter
  • Upstart party performs well in Bucharest, vows national run

Romania’s Social Democrats came out on top in Sunday’s local elections, held months before the European Union’s second-poorest member votes for a new parliament.

Ex-Prime Minister Victor Ponta’s Social Democrats won the Bucharest mayor’s office and all of the capital’s six districts, the first such victory for a single party since the fall of communism, preliminary results showed Monday. Countrywide, they garnered 38.7 percent support in regional-council ballots, beating the Liberal Party’s 32.6 percent. Turnout was about 48 percent.

“We seem to be the only party that understands society’s drive to change,” Social Democrat head Liviu Dragnea told a news conference Monday. “The process to modernize our party is tough, but will continue.”

The eastern European nation is set to replace its first-ever government of technocrats at a general election toward year-end. While the economy is among the EU’s fastest-growing, the bloc has expressed concern about a widening budget deficit. Politics are also in transition, with an anti-corruption drive ravaging the ranks of the major parties in the wake of Ponta’s departure last November.

The leu has lost 0.6 percent against the euro in the past month, trailing regional peers such as Poland’s zloty and Hungary’s forint.

Amid turnout of just 33 percent in the capital, the Liberals failed to win any district-mayor offices and were defeated by The Union to Save Bucharest, a party founded six months ago. Party leader Nicusor Dan pledged to take the movement national.

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