Polls open in Romania’s presidential election

A woman holds a child to cast her vote in Bucharest Romania Sunday Nov. 10 2019. Voting got underway in Romania's presidential election after a

A woman holds a child to cast her vote in Bucharest Romania Sunday Nov. 10 2019. Voting got underway in Romania's presidential election after a

Opinion polls showed incumbent centre-right President Klaus Iohannis ahead with around 40 percent, followed by centre-left candidate Viorica Dancila, Romania's prime minister until last month, at 15-22 percent.

The exit polls, conducted by IRES and Curs-Avangarde and issued shortly after voting ended at 9 p.m. local time on November 10, show Iohannis of the ruling National Liberal Party (PNL) with 38.7 and 39 percent of the vote, respectively.

The third-placed candidate, Dan Barna from the recently-formed pro-EU Save Romania Union (USR) party, is on around 13%.

Data by the Central Election Bureau showed turnout of almost 48 percent with a record high diaspora voter presence of 660,000, which was not taken into account by the two exit polls.

Iohannis, a member of the country's ethnic German minority, was first elected in 2014 and is widely expected to win a second five-year term in the run-off vote on November 24. His result will most likely be improved after votes in the diaspora are added, but if domestic exit polls and partial results hold, votes coming from overseas would not be enough for him to overturn the result and get into the second round.

Dăncilă served as the last prime minister in that government, which took power after the PSD won parliamentary elections in 2016.

Iohannis had made rule of law a central plank of his campaign, mirroring the message of Slovakian anti-corruption activist Zuzana Caputova, who won the presidential election in that country in March.

Respected 103-year-old philosopher Mihai Sora, who has a large social media following, said of Sunday's vote that "we are not just electing a man, we are electing our future".

While nationalism has been less present in Romanian politics than in Hungary or Poland, the PSD had tried to frame its clashes with European Union institutions as evidence that the party was standing up for Romania.

Dancila's Social Democrat government was forced to step down after losing a no-confidence vote in Parliament, amid corruption scandals and allegations it wanted close control of the judiciary.

Earlier this week MPs gave their backing to a government led by the PNL's Ludovic Orban.

Sora has become the spokesman for tens of thousands of protesters who have regularly taken to the streets against the drift to the left and in favour of an independent judiciary.

The former physics teacher and mayor of the city of Sibiu has warned that a PSD win would pose a threat to democracy.

Sociologist Vasile Dancu said the PSD would be "seeking a new identity" after its tumultuous period in office.

After starting strongly early on Sunday, turnout tailed off towards the evening and was estimated at 48 percent, compared with 52 percent five years ago.

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