By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
BUCHAREST/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)– Official results show Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta’s center-left alliance has won a clear victory in Sunday’s parliamentary elections with about 57 percent of the vote. The outcome puts him in a strong position in an ongoing power struggle with the rightist president.
Prime Minister Ponta’s leftist Social Liberal Union won over half of the 452 seats in Romania’s parliament. The Right Romania Alliance of his political rival President Traian Basescu was a distant second with roughly 19 percent of the vote, followed by a populist party.
Analysts said Basescu’s allies were punished for supporting tough austerity measures to obtain some 26-billion dollars in financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the World Bank.
Though Ponta has won, his political problems have just begun. President Basescu says he doesn’t want to re-appoint the 40-year-old Ponta, one of Europe’s youngest prime ministers.
Basescu, a former sea-captain, is furious that Ponta tried to oust him as president in this year’s referendum for alleged abuse of power. The referendum failed because less than 50 percent of voters bothered to cast ballots.
In turn, Basescu has called Prime Minister Ponta a “compulsive liar” who “plagiarized” his doctoral thesis.
Despite the tensions, Ponta was upbeat about his political future.
“It is our mission to have a cabinet in place by the end of the year…that will work for all Romanians, including those who didn’t vote for us,” Ponta told supporters.
He said he wants “to cooperate with ethnic Hungarians to reach a constitutional majority for necessary reforms,” such as creating “more jobs and reach fiscal stability” in the troubled nation.
Yet, Ponta faces an uphill battle, even if he manages to return to power. He is under mounting pressure to boost the economy in what is the second poorest EU nation.
Romania is behind regional peers Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic and struggles to supply running water and reliable electricity to some of its 19 million people.
Long-term reforms such as privatization of inefficient state companies and an overhaul of health care have failed to materialize, and the economy is struggling to recover from a deep recession.
The country seeks a new multi-billion dollar loan from international lenders next year.
Ponta will have to convince voters as most stayed home Sunday.
While heavy snow, rain and fog across the Balkan country was blamed for the below 40-percent turnout, it also reflected public dissatisfaction with politicians, who are viewed as corrupt and out of touch with every day’s reality.
(BosNewsLife’s NEWS WATCH is a regular look at key general news developments from especially but not limited to (former) Communist nations and other autocratic states impacting the Church and/or compassionate professionals).