Romanian President Klaus Iohannis speaks to the media after casting his vote in Bucharest, Romania, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019. Romanians are voting in a presidential runoff election in which incumbent Klaus Iohannis is vying for a second term, facing Social Democratic Party leader Viorica Dancila, a former prime minister, in Sunday's vote. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Romania’s Iohannis hopes for 2nd term in presidential runoff

November 24, 2019 - 10:03 am

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romanians are voting Sunday in a presidential runoff election in which incumbent Klaus Iohannis is vying for a second term while vowing to continue efforts to fight corruption.

Iohannis, a conservative, is facing Social Democratic Party leader Viorica Dancila, a former prime minister. Polls close at 1900 GMT.

In the first round two weeks ago, Iohannis won 37.8% and Dancila 22.2%.

“I voted for a modern Romania, a European Romania, a normal Romania,” Iohannis said after casting his ballot. “I invite you all to come out and vote.”

For her part, Dancila promised “more involvement, work and commitment to the Romanian people.”

Dancila’s government was ousted on Oct. 10 after losing a confidence vote in parliament. It had been embroiled by allegations of corruption and criticized by the European Union for judicial reforms seen as compromising the rule of law and the independence of judges.

Earlier this month, lawmakers backed a minority government led by Prime Minister Ludovic Orban of the National Liberal Party, formerly headed by Iohannis.

Iohannis has clashed often with Dancila and her party over the judiciary reforms and other legislation. Opponents and critics worried about the dilution of anti-corruption laws which in the past years led to the indictment of dozens of Cabinet members, lawmakers and even a Romanian member of the European Parliament.

Public outrage has also resulted in frequent, massive anti-corruption protests in Bucharest and other cities.

With their shared ideological roots and values, Iohannis and Orban would be expected to work together to boost the anti-graft measures.

Though lacking an executive role, Romania's president has significant decision-making powers, including on matters of national security and foreign policy. Elected for a five-year term, the president can also reject party nominees for prime minister and government nominees for judicial appointments.

Romania, a member of the EU since 2007, is plagued by widespread poverty with over 25% of its population living on less than $5.50 a day, according to a World Bank study last year. Recent figures pointed to slowing economic growth, though the annual rate of 3% percent achieved in the third quarter of the year was still among the fastest in Europe.

Iohannis rejected Dancila’s offers to hold debates ahead of the runoff vote, but earlier this week he took questions from analysts and journalists at a Bucharest university.

Romanians living abroad started casting their votes on Friday at hundreds of polling stations, including in Italy, Great Britain, France, Australia and the United States. Romanians abroad also have the option of mailing in their ballots.

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