Romania’s pro-European President Klaus Iohannis easily won the first round of voting in the presidential race where he will face bitter rival ex-Prime Minister Viorica Dancila in a Nov. 24 runoff.
Near-final results show Iohannis polling 37.58% of the vote, to Dancila’s 22.67%. Dan Barna, a newcomer who promised a new vision for politics, scored 14.66%, disappointing his supporters who had hoped for a runoff with Iohannis.
Iohannis said the result was “a clear vote against the Social Democrats… this thing means an enormous step forward,” he said. “Millions of Romanians at home and abroad have voted for a normal Romania and to change things for the better in Romania,” he said.
The presidential election on Sunday came days after a new Liberal minority government took office which boosted Iohannis’ campaign.
After exit polls were released, Iohannis called on Barna’s Save Romania Union and two other parties to support the Liberals in getting rid of the Social Democrats “so Romania is no longer captive, as it has been in the past.”
Barna and Former Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos said the party would support Iohannis in the second round. „A vote for Iohannis is a vote for the modernization of Romania” and is something that we want to happen.
The Social Democrats have governed Romania for much of the time since communism ended. The party is arguably not a Social Democratic party in the European sense of the word, and critics say it retains some of the habits of the former Communist Party.
Dancila, whose campaign focused on poorer and disadvantaged voters, said „We showed Romanians we are with them and we hope that in the next two weeks as many Romanians as possible will join us, even those with alternative views.”
Dancila was Romania’s first-ever woman prime minister and heads Romania’s biggest party, the Social Democrats. Her government collapsed in a no-confidence vote last month.
A record number of Romanians voted abroad, more than 650,000. Most voted for Iohannis and Barna, who are seen as solidly pro-European.
Romania’s president nominates a prime minister, who then needs to be approved by Parliament. The president has some authority to block legislation_ by challenging laws in the constitutional court or by sending them back to be re-considered. The president is also in charge of foreign policy and security.