Romania’s incumbent President Klaus Iohannis won the first round of a presidential election on Sunday, and is likely to face opposition Social Democrat leader and former prime minister Viorica Dancila in a November 24 runoff, exit polls showed.
An exit poll conducted by IRES pollster showed Iohannis garnered 38.7 percent of votes followed by Dancila with 22 percent. Save Romania Union head Dan Barna got 16.1 percent.
Another poll by Curs-Avangarde ranked Iohannis first with 39 percent and Dancila with 22.5 percent.
“The official results will come tomorrow but exit poll data show that millions of Romanians from the country and from abroad voted for our project, for a normal Romania and for us to continue the important process of changing Romania for the better,” Iohannis told supporters.
Data by the electoral bureau, which is expected to unveil partial official results from Monday morning, showed a turnout of 48 percent with a record high diaspora voter presence of 660,000 – which was not taken into account by the exit polls.
If no contender wins more than 50 percent, there will be a second round of voting.
Voters in Romania headed to the polls earlier on Sunday to pick their next president after a lacklustre election campaign overshadowed by a political crisis which saw a minority government installed just a few days ago.
Around 18.2 million voters were eligible to vote for one of 14 candidates vying for the five-year presidency.
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.
Iohannis is a former leader of the National Liberal Party, which on Monday formed a minority government led by Prime Minister Ludovic Orban.
Political analyst Andrei Taranu said polarisation over the political crisis has benefitted the two top candidates.
“This situation kept Klaus Iohannis and Viorica Dancila in the spotlight, while other candidates had no chance to rise on the political stage,” he told news agency Associated Press.
While lacking an executive role, Romania’s president has significant decision-making powers, including on matters of national security and foreign policy, and can reject party nominees for the prime minister and government nominees for judicial appointments.
The president can also return legislation approved by Parliament but has to ratify it if legislators back it a second time.
Polling stations across the country opened at 05:00 GMT and will close at 19:00 GMT.
Voting opened at many locations abroad on Friday and by midday on Saturday more than 200,000 diaspora Romanians had already voted, a record for the first round of a presidential election.