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Romania's presidential duel, twists and turns

Romania's presidential duel, twists and turns
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Romanian presidential candidates Victor Ponta and Klaus Iohannis: the first has been prime minister since 2012, and — in a country challenged by corruption — was accused of plagiarism soon after taking office; the other has been mayor of the city of Sibiu for 14 years. He is from the country’s German minority, with a message of ‘a job well done’.

Ponta, aged 42, is the dominant centre-left Social Democrat Party candidate. He’s offering political stability to the country that is, neck-and-neck with Bulgaria, the EU’s poorest. Critics question his respect for the independence of the judiciary. Frontrunner in the nation of 20 million, he promises higher pensions and a minimum wage.

Ponta supporter Ana Focsa said: “I have a very good impression about him. He is young, strong, capable, very intelligent and ready to do a lot for our country.”

The former Supreme Court anti-corruption prosecutor enjoys more rural support.

Ponta told a receptive audience: “I want to tell those who make a living in agriculture that it hurt me when I saw them treated as slaves, and that we’re going to continue with the last few years’ higher support grants for farmers.”

Klaus Iohannis, aged 55, is the candidate of the Christian Liberal Alliance. He’s a former physics teacher who has brought infrastructural, administrative and tourist industry improvements to the medieval Transylvanian city of Sibiu, elected mayor by a landslide the three times he has run, although the German minority there is tiny.

Farmer Stoica Vasile, attending a rally, said: “We support Klaus Iohannis because we want to develop the middle class, which is the driving engine of a society. Unfortunately, in Romania the middle class doesn’t exist.”

Ionannis speaks out against impunity for any of Romania’s elected figures.

Iohannis said: “I propose to Romanians a president who is a model for public behaviour. I want to be a president who’s an integrator and a mediator but at the same time is very decisive in the face of any excesses.”

The first round of presidential election voting for Romanians outside the country was handicapped for want of polling venues. Some 160,000 were able to, out of some four million living abroad.

Of those who were able to vote, 46 percent chose Iohannis, and fewer than 16 percent voted for Ponta.

A group demonstrating outside the embassy in Madrid demanded guarantees to be able to vote in the runoff.