Romania's Klaus Iohannis wins second presidential election runoff

Reuters Bucharest, Bucuresti, Romania Nov 25, 2019, 10.29 AM(IST)

FILE PHOTO: Incumbent candidate Klaus Iohannis reacts after receiving the first exit poll results following the second round of a presidential election in Bucharest, Romania.  Photograph:( Reuters )

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Romania's judicial reforms have been monitored by Brussels since it joined the EU in 2007; in October, Brussels said the reforms were going backward.

Romania's centrist President Klaus Iohannis won a presidential election runoff on Sunday as expected, crushing his socialist challenger with a pledge to resume judicial reforms slowed down by successive Social Democrat (PSD) governments.

Two separate exit polls showed Iohannis garnered 64 per cent-67per cent of the vote, with former prime minister Viorica Dancila of the left-leaning PSD taking 33-36 per cent. 

"The winner today is modern Romania, European Romania, normal Romania," Iohannis told reporters in his victory speech.

Under a succession of PSD governments, Romania, a European Union member state, has rolled back anti-corruption measures in recent years. Along with ex-communist peers Poland and Hungary, it has been heavily criticized by Brussels for its actions.

However, 60-year-old Iohannis has been credited by Western allies and the European Union with trying to protect the rule of law, in particular by challenging attempts to limit judges' independence.

The president's powers are mostly limited to nominating a prime minister on the basis of who can command a majority, challenging laws in the Constitutional Court, and appointing some chief prosecutors.

Lohannis is expected to install anti-graft and anti-mafia prosecutors who are serious about tackling endemic corruption with the backing of Prime Minister Ludovic Orban, who became head of a liberal minority government by winning a parliamentary vote of confidence three weeks ago.

Teacher Andreea Mihai, 50, said "things should slowly return to normality. Both Orban and Iohannis will work together in the same direction."

Dancila's PSD had increased the burden of proof in corruption cases, reorganized panels of judges and set up a special unit to investigate magistrates for potential abuses, a move widely seen as an instrument of political coercion.

Romania's judicial reforms have been monitored by Brussels since it joined the EU in 2007; in October, Brussels said the reforms were going backward.

Lohannis, a soft-spoken ethnic German and former mayor of Sibiu, became president in 2014.

He helped to secure popular approval in a referendum last May that called for the government to be banned from altering legislation by emergency decrees and advocated a ban on amnesties and pardons for graft-related crimes.

Data from Romania's election commission, which is expected to announce partial official results on Monday, showed a turnout of about 50 per cent, with a record 920,000 voters from the country's diaspora taking part.