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Romanian left ahead in vote, reforms questioned
Published in Saudi Press Agency on 30 - 11 - 2008

Romania's opposition Social
Democrat Party (PSD) appeared to have won Sunday's parliamentary
election, acording to exit polls, reducing chances for a revival
of EU-mandated anti-corruption reforms if it manages to form a
government, according to Reuters.
The PSD tapped into many Romanians' fears about the impact
of the global financial crisis and wealth disparities to make a
last-minute comeback after itself suffering sleaze scandals. It
promised welfare handouts and tax cuts for the poorest.
Two exit polls, one by private Realitatea TV and one by the
public TVR 1, showed the PSD, heirs to Romania's communist
regime overthrown in a bloody 1989 revolt, capturing 36-37
percent of the vote.
Another opposition group, the Democrat Liberal Party (PD-L),
a centrist grouping linked to President Traian Basescu, won
30-31 percent, while Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu's Liberal
Party (PNL) was third on 20 percent.
To form a government, the PSD will have to wrestle with the
PD-L, which benefits from close links with the president, who
nominates the prime minister under Romanian law.
Sunday's win boosts its chances of returning to power after
four years in opposition; but a coalition between the Democrats
and Liberals, who have majority together, is also possible.
"Everybody is going to play hardball so we may see a lot of
instability ahead," said Alina Mungiu Pippidi of the Romanian
Academic Society think tank.
"There is quite an important chance the PSD will get into
the next government. For fighting corruption, the situation is
pretty bad," she said.
The PSD government in 2000-2004 was widely accused of
allowing corruption to fester. Several of its top politicians
have been indicted on graft charges but trials have been blocked
by parliament or mired in court proceedings.
The prospects of tough coalition talks and a PSD government
also bode ill for efforts to insulate its economy from financial
crisis, economists said.
They say both main parties see higher government spending as
a way out, although the centrist PD-L is less likely to allow
the debt burden to balloon.
The European Union has criticised continued corruption and
organised crime in Romania, a country of 22 million which joined
the bloc along with neighbouring Bulgaria in 2007. The European
Commission has called for stronger courts and efficient
administrative systems to combat the problem.
Bucharest has undertaken some reforms but critics argue they
are far from sufficient to tackle the scourge of corruption in
business and political life.

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