UPDATE. Romania’s Liberals claim to be winners in parliamentary elections, as partial results put Social Democrats ahead

Inquam Photos / Octav Ganea

Romania’s ruling centrist National Liberal Party did worse than expected in Sunday’s parliamentary election which will complicate the formation of a governing coalition.

But Prime Minister Ludovic Orban said he could form a government with three other parties to secure a majority in Parliament.

With about half the votes counted early Monday. the leftist Social Democrats were about 5% ahead of the Liberals in Sunday’s ballot with 30% of the vote to the Liberals’ 25%.

But the prime minister said „The National Liberal Party thinks it is the winner of this election,” immediately after the publication of exit polls which were inconclusive.

He later said he would seek a governing alliance with three other parties to have a solid majority.

The vote is crucial for the country’s future in the European mainstream and the apparently close result will complicate the situation.

The centrist alliance USR-Plus came third with about 13% of votes, partial results showed. The alliance has indicated it would be open to a coalition with the Liberals.

Voter turnout was historically low at less than 35%.

After one exit poll was published, former Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos from the Save Romania Union-Plus group ruled out forming a coalition with the Social Democrats.

The reform-minded Liberals were hoping for a clear victory, even as they lost support over coronavirus restrictions but the low turnout worked against them.

The left-leaning Social Democrats benefited from a disciplined electorate, and outperformed their recent poll figures.

The populist  party has won back some support in recent months due to coronavirus fatigue with and restrictions that have hit farmers and small businesses. Their supporters include rural voters, the elderly and European skeptics.

Hours before polls closed, Prime Minister Orban urged people to cast their ballot. „Dear Romanians, four years ago, low turnout led to a Parliament lacking legitimacy, a parliament which undermined the rule of law and democratic institutions.”

„There are three hours left until polls close, enough time for you to express your fundamental rights.”

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