Pro-European Johannes is likely to win a second term in Romania

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Romanian voters cast their ballots on Sunday in the second round of a presidential election in which pro-European Klaus Iohannis is likely to win a second term against leftist former Prime Minister Fiorica Dancela.

Polling stations will close at 1900 GMT, with partial results announced in the evening.

“I voted for a modern, European Romania,” he told reporters on Sunday, calling on Romanians to follow his example.

While his surprise victory in the 2014 presidential election, 60-year-old Johannes, a former physicist from the German minority, led the results of the first round on November 10 with 38% of the vote.

In mid-day elections, the turnout was about 25% of registered voters.

Mobilization was strong among the four million Romanian expatriates. Nearly 560,000 people have cast their ballots since polling stations opened on Friday morning.

“I voted and I think of my sons who emigrated to the United States, I hope they will return to Romania to work here,” said Elena, a 70-year-old retired worker.

“Democracy will prevail so that the Romans can finally live in peace,” said Christina, 42, a health worker.

Thirty years after the fall of communism, the election should confirm the Romanians’ adherence to European values, unlike other former Soviet states, such as Hungary and Poland, where sovereign and nationalist rhetoric is widely echoed, analysts say.

“Johannes is the only European and Euro-Atlantic option,” the former foreign minister, Christian Diaconescu, told AFP.

The 55-year-old moved to the political front in January 2018 when she took over as prime minister at the request of former Social Democrat party leader Livio Drania, who is currently in prison on corruption charges.

Her campaign focused on “defending the Romanians”.

“I voted for a presidential term in which we see more participation and respect for the Romanian people and our national interests,” she said on Sunday.

After 21 months of anarchy, the parliament overthrew Dancilla’s government in October and replaced it with a center-right government under the banner of Johannes’s National Liberal Party.

This abrupt exit from the political scene has weakened the former prime minister at a time when the Social Democratic Party, which has dominated Romanian politics since 1990, suffered setbacks after winning the 2016 legislative elections.

– Country is changing –

During the three years that Johannis ruled with the left, the outgoing president fought a war of attrition to obstruct judicial reform that the SPD wanted to pass quickly.

According to sociologist Allen Theodorescu, this reform, which the EU considered violating the rule of law and protested by tens of thousands of demonstrators over months, cost the SPD more than a million votes.

The party’s popularity, the heir to the former Communist Party, has plummeted even in its campaign strongholds. The anthropologist Ventilla Mihailescu explained that migration and the Internet allowed Romanians to discover Western Europe, which helped to change their electoral tendencies.

Two weeks ago, Danchella received less than 3% of the votes of migrants seeking better living conditions.

“Political parties have to offer something tangible to those Romanians in the Diaspora who can no longer be silenced with electoral gifts.

Romania, the seventh most populous country in the European Union with 19.4 million people, shows a sharp disparity between city centers where the standard of living is close to European standards, and the rural poorest continent. One in two Romanians live in the countryside.

In recent years, Romania has recorded high economic growth rates (7% in 2017 and 4.1% in 2018), supported by increased pensions and public sector salaries granted by the Social Democratic Party. But this generosity has alarmed the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, which have warned of a deficit buildup.

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