Left-wing claims victory in Romania vote

The left-wing Social Democrats claimed victory in Romania's general election on Sunday, TehranTimes reported.

Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu pleaded with stay-away voters in the hours before polling stations closed, but the 39 percent turnout was the lowest since the fall of communism in 1989.

Exit polls by the Insomar and CCSB institutes gave the Social Democrats 36 percent of the votes that were cast, ahead of the right-wing Liberal Democrats with 30.5 percent, and Tariceanu's ruling Liberals with just over 20 percent.

""The Social Democrats won the elections and will lead the next government,"" party leader Mircea Geoana said.

""There is no reason to ignore the voters' will, which was clearly expressed,"" he added, inviting all political parties and President Traian Basescu to an ""open dialogue"" on forming a new government.

The first general elections since Romania joined the EU in 2007, and the sixth since the end of communism, saw the far-right Greater Romania Party, the country's second political force in 2000, unable to get into parliament for the first time.

But the junior partner in the Liberal-led government, the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR), was likely to figure in coalition talks with about seven percent support, according to CCSB.

With the first partial results expected to be released Monday and the final results only later in the week, the Liberal Democrats were not ready to concede.

""No party got more than 50 percent of the votes this evening, but if there's a winner, it's the right,"" party leader Emil Boc argued, insisting that voters had ""rejected leftist policies as a solution to the crisis that awaits us.""

The president, a close ally of the Liberal Democrats, will name the next prime minister.

Basescu has said that ""nobody shall impose a prime minister on me"" and argued that the right-wing parties had the policies to fight the economic crisis.

The global economic crisis, which has left Romania battling off recession, and looming labor disputes will quickly confront the next government.

""President Basescu's responsibility is huge because Romania is going through its most difficult period since 1990,"" political analyst Iosif Boda told AFP.

""The question is whether he will be more concerned with getting a second mandate as president in 2009, or with the need to quickly find a positive government formula for the country,"" added Cristian Tudor Popescu, a columnist with the daily Gandul.

On the eve of a national holiday and with voters increasingly disillusioned with politicians, the election produced the lowest turnout since 1989. The 39 percent participation compared to 59 percent in 2004, when Romanians voted simultaneously for a new parliament and a new president.

The poor showing even prompted Tariceanu, three hours before polling stations closed, to hold a press conference urging Romanians to cast ballots.

Some 18 million Romanians were called to the polls, with all 315 parliamentary seats and 137 senate seats up for grabs.

For the first time, senators and deputies were elected in a single round of voting, using a combination of party and candidate lists. The presidential election was detached from the vote after the president's mandate was extended to five years instead of four in 2004.

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