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Romanian PM Concedes Defeat in Presidential Election


Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase has conceded defeat in Sunday's presidential run-off election. Official results show that a colorful former ship's captain-turned-politician won Romania's presidency.

Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, a former Communist, told Romanian television that he realized he had lost a tight presidential race.

Mr. Nastase confirmed first official results that showed opposition leader Traian Basescu, the popular mayor of Bucharest, won the election with just over 51 percent of the vote. He said the results show that "Traian Basescu is the new president of Romania."

The results came as a major disappointment for the 54-year-old prime minister, who earlier sounded upbeat when speaking through an interpreter to reporters.

"I am certain that Romanians will vote for a successful future," he said. "For stability and prosperity in our country."

Prime Minister Nastase had hoped his credentials of being a politician who led his country into NATO this year, while concluding talks on Romania's European Union membership, would convince most voters to elect him head of state. He has fought opposition accusations that he and his ruling Social Democrats, the former Communists, allowed corruption to thrive in the Balkan nation.

President-elect Basescu, who is supported by the Justice and Truth Alliance of center and liberal parties, made fighting corruption and poverty his main policy priorities. Those issues have been cited as essential for Romania's hopes to join the EU in 2007.

Mr. Basescu said Romanians looking for a new direction had a clear choice in the election.

"Today we are deciding whether Romania will continue to be governed by corruption and ignorance, or whether I will get the chance to give Romanians their country back," he said.

Analysts say the 53-year-old Mr. Basescu, a former ship's captain, received most of his support from urban areas, while Mr. Nastase was backed mainly by voters in impoverished rural areas. One in three of Romania's estimated 22 million people are believed to live at or below the poverty line.

The close presidential election echoes the Romanian parliamentary election two weeks ago. No party won a majority in parliament, leaving the new president with a pivotal role in determining the leadership and makeup of the new cabinet. Mr. Basescu's supporters form the second-largest bloc in the new parliament, after Mr. Nastase's Social Democrats.

There were no immediate reports of fraud in the presidential run-off. Following the example of their counterparts in Ukraine, opposition supporters dressed in orange colors had demanded free and fair elections.

Romania's new president will take over from veteran Ion Iliescu, an ex-Communist who led the country through most of the often turbulent years since the bloody 1989 revolution ended decades of dictatorship.

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