Klaus Iohannis was elected as Romanian President for a second term in the presidential election on Sunday after he defeated his rival, Social Democrat and former Prime Minister Viorica Dancila.
“It’s an important victory, the most categorical victory ever obtained against the Social Democratic Party (PSD),” said Iohannis from the headquarters of the National Liberal Party (PNL), which he heads, just after the exit polls foreshadowed his triumph with more than 66 per cent of the votes.
“I accept this victory with joy, with modesty and with confidence in Romania,” Efe news quoted Romania’s President as saying.
With 94 per cent of the precincts reporting, Iohannis obtained 62.8 per cent of the vote to Dancila’s 37.1 per cent, according to figures published by the Central Election Office.
The president said that he was not “at war with the PSD voters, but rather with the PSD,” a party that has been tainted by corruption allegations but that has dominated the political scene in recent years and has been harshly criticized both within the country and from abroad.
Iohannis accuses that party of being a scourge on Romania’s development and has called for its disbandment.
Meanwhile, Dancila, having made the poorest showing at the polls of any PSD candidate in a presidential runoff, tried to put the best possible face on the defeat, albeit without recognizing it as such just yet.
Although she said she would await the completion of the vote count to draw any conclusion, she hailed the fact that at least her party had recovered ground vis-a-vis its performance in the Europe-wide elections in May, when the PSD fell to 22.5 per cent of the popular vote, its worst showing in history.
“The PSD today regained the confidence of those who voted for us in 2016,” said Dancila, referring to the December elections in that year, when the party founded by former communist apparatchiks obtained the most votes of any political grouping.
However, although it remains the majority party in a very divided national legislature, which must be renewed in December 2020, the PSD recently suffered a sharp reversal with a censure motion that led to the downfall of Dancila’s administration.
The expected victory of Iohannis, who was the undisputed favourite in the election, once again hands executive power to the country’s center-right.
The clear support of the public for the conservative and pro-European president, along with Dancila’s drubbing, was not surprising, being the result forecast by political observers of all stripes and interpreted as a sign that the public is fed up with a political class that it considers to be corrupt and inefficient.
Iohannis ran under the slogan “For a normal Romania,” focusing his campaign on the damage that he claimed the PSD’s public administration had caused around the country.
He also promised to reverse the legal changes pushed by the Social Democratic government that reduced the penalties for certain crimes of corruption.
Almost 50 per cent of Romania’s 18 million eligible voters went to the polls for the runoff, which set a record for the number of Romanians abroad who cast votes – more than 900,000.
Iohannis won the first round of polling on November 10, with 37.8 per cent of the vote, while Dancila was second with 22.2 per cent.
With 47.66 per cent participation, the first round set a negative record of attendance at the polls in presidential elections in the 30 years of post-communist democracy in Romania.