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Leonid Bershidsky

Romania's Election Surprise Came From Abroad

Open borders, open minds.
Romanians everywhere celebrate.

Romanians everywhere celebrate.

Photographer: Daniel Mihailescu/AFP/Getty Images

The unexpected victory of the opposition candidate Klaus Johannis in Romania's presidential election yesterday  is an important development -- not just for Romania, but for the European Union as a whole. Migration within the union, which has led to the rise of anti-EU political groups in some wealthier nations, including the U.K., is paying off: It is helping nations on the periphery such as Romania adopt the best practices of  the older, core democracies.

In the first round of the vote, Prime Minister Victor Ponta beat Johannis, the center-right mayor of the Transylvanian town of Sibiu. Johannis, an ethic German, didn't appear likely to prevail in the run-off. He is Lutheran, and not Orthodox Christian like most Romanians, and he ran a rather boring campaign. The election, however, was marred by complaints from Romanians abroad who had trouble casting their ballots. There were long lines at polling stations in Italy and Spain, where Romanians are the biggest immigrant group, as well as in France and the U.K., which also have large Romanian populations.