Romanians are voting in the first round of a presidential election on Sunday with 14 candidates hoping to replace Traian Basescu who is stepping down after a decade in office.
It is a key moment for one of Europe’s poorest countries with opinion polls making Prime Minister Victor Ponta frontrunner for the largely ceremonial post.
A former prosecutor and amateur rally driver, Ponta has weathered several political storms. His leftist alliance commands a large majority in parliament.
Victory would give him a pivotal role in appointing a new premier and cabinet to oversee an IMF-led aid deal and reforms.
His main challenger is likely to be provincial mayor Klaus Iohannis, an ethnic German, backed by two centre-right parties but criticised by Ponta’s allies for his wealth – he owns six houses.
A close ally of the current president, Elena Udrea is another key player in the race, which is widely expected to go to a second round.