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Polls put incumbent ahead in Romanian vote; fraud reported
Published in Saudi Press Agency on 22 - 11 - 2009

Incumbent Romanian President Traian Basescu was
leading in his bid for a second term in a poll marred by allegations
of electoral fraud according to election forecasts, but not by enough
to avoid a run-off, according to dpa.
According to voter surveys by polling groups INSOMAR, CURS and
CCSB, Basescu had garnered 32.8 per cent to 34.1 per cent of the
vote. Socialist Mircea Geoana came in second with 30.9 per cent to
31.7 per cent of the vote.
That would mean a run-off vote on December 6. Final results were
not expected until Monday morning.
Hundreds of allegations of voter fraud were filed with Romanian
electoral authorities by midday Sunday.
The allegations came in from leading parties, including the
centre-left Social Democrats (PSD), the National Liberal Party (PNL)
and the centre-right Democrat-Liberals (PD-L), but also from media
outlets and private citizens.
Eyebrows were raised by the fact that, three hours after the start
of voting, 6.17 per cent of eligible votes had already been recorded
- more than twice the rate at that time of day in the 2004
presidential and parliamentary polls.
Police reported levying fines against two voters who were caught
attempting to photograph their marked ballot with a mobile phone. The
practice is common in vote buying, allowing the voter to present the
marked ballot as proof of his vote for the proper candidate.
Internet newspaper hotnews.ro also reported early Sunday about
massive voter-buying operations by all three major parties in which
cars were organized to ferry paid-off voters to the polls. Police had
set up hundreds of checkpoints across the country to block buses
carrying "election tourists."
Such practices are possible because Romanian law does not restrict
people to voting in their home district. Most polling stations have
special booths to allow voting by people who are away from home.
Three hours after polls opened, election officials said 54,000 such
ballots had already been recorded.
Analysts said the outcome of the election could determine the
future economic course of Romania, which has been a member of the
European Union since 2007.
A key issue hanging in the balance is a 20-billion-euro (29.9-
billion-dollar) bail-out led by the International Monetary Fund
(IMF).
The IMF has delayed this latest loan tranche until the Romanian
government, whose premier is picked by the president, enacts economic
reforms.
The country has been politically deadlocked since the collapse
last month of an uneasy "grand coalition" government of the PSD and
the PD-L under Prime Minister Emil Boc, of the PD-L.
Two weeks after the coalition split, Boc lost a vote of no-
confidence in parliament. Since then he has headed a caretaker
administration.
The Social Democrats and National Liberals agreed on a successor to
Boc as prime minister, but the president, a close ally of Boc,
refused to approve the nomination.
If Basescu wins re-election, the stalemate is likely to continue,
leading to early parliamentary elections and a further delay in IMF
support, analysts said.
Alternately, a victory by either Geoana or Antonescu could speed
the formation of a functioning and creditworthy government, and
prompt release of the delayed 20-billion-euro loan tranche from the
IMF, EU and other lenders. Romania needs the money to pay pensions
and state-sector salaries.
For the first time, presidential balloting in Romania will be held
a year after parliamentary elections. The president"s term of office
was extended in 2004 from four to five years in order to decouple the
two votes and free parliamentary polls from heavy influence by
presidential candidates.
As a result, the past two years in Romania have been marked by
permanent electioneering, spurred on by a president who revels in
being a "player."
Basescu added a referendum to Sunday"s ballot on downsizing the
471-member parliament from a bicameral to a unicameral body. The
result of the vote will not be legally binding, but the proposal is
popular. Widely accused of corruption and idleness, the parliament is
one of the most disliked institutions in Romania.


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