Romania’s president who promised to back anti-corruption fight re-elected in landslide victory, near-final results show (update 5)

Sursa: INQUAM/Octav Ganea

Romanians voted overwhelming to re-elect pro-European President Klaus Iohannis on Sunday, in a clear message that want him to strengthen the rule of law and pursue the anti-corruption fight that were compromised by successive Social Democrat governments, near final results showed.

Iohannis was expected to easily win the runoff against challenger Viorica Dancila, a former prime minister, but it was not clear by how much. The scale of the victory gives him an unequivocal mandate to ramp up efforts to fight widespread graft and keep Romania on the European path. With almost all of the votes counted, he was scoring almost 65% to Dancila’s 35%.

„Romania has won, a modern Romania, a European Romania, a new Romania won today,” he said, adding: „the most important thing is that Romanians went in an impressive number to vote.”

„This is an important victory. It is the most categorical victory ever achieved against the Social Democrats,” he said. However, he urged Romanians to continue to vote in parliamentary and local elections next year to cement the victory of parties that support full-fledged democratic reforms.

It is the biggest margin of victory in a presidential election since ex-President Ion Iliescu defeated nationalist writer and politician Corneliu Vadim Tudor in 2000 by 66.83% to 33.17%.

In Romania’s first post-communist presidential election in 1990 Iliescu scored more than 80% winning the presidency outright in the first round.

The result shows a strong level of civic participation in the democratic process. Even though Iohannis was expected to win, turnout was key to his margin of victory.

Turnout was more than 50%, higher than in the first round. A record number of overseas voters_ than 900,000 _ voted in 835 polling stations set up abroad after Parliament changed the law for external voters. More than 9 million voted in Romania.

The outcome is a major blow for the Social Democrats, whose three years in office were marked by scandal and protests. Dancila, whose government was toppled in a no-confidence vote last month, put up a strong fight, but voters were apparently turned off by the party’s populist message and its failure to reform itself into a modern center-left party 30 years after the end of communism.

In comments lasting less than one minute, Dancila insisted that the party had done better than in European elections in May. She vowed to try and win local and parliamentary elections next year. Later, she said she would not stand down as party leader.

viorica dancila
Foto: Inquam Photos / George Calin

Iohannis, 60, a former physics teacher who was leader of the center-right Liberal Party before he was elected president in 2014, won respect from Western leaders and is credited by the European Union with trying to protect the rule of law, in particular by challenging attempts to limit judges’ independence.

Gynecologist Adrian Toma summed up voter anger, even when he himself had benefited from a significant salary hike offered by the Social Democrat government.

“I voted for this country to change its direction, so we can get rid of the vestiges of Soviet communism once and for all.”

Iohannis’ victory coincides with 30 years since the 1989 revolution where Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu was deposed and executed. His pledge to step up the anti-corruption fight is made easier after a Liberal-led government took office this month, after Dancila’s ouster.

In the first round of voting two weeks ago, Iohannis scored 37.8% in the first round of voting on Nov. 10 while Dancila came second with about 22.3%.

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