The left leaning Social Democratic Party has won the most votes in Romania's first parliamentary elections since becoming a member of the European Union last year. The party claimed victory with about 33 percent of Sunday's vote. As Stefan Bos reports from Budapest, Hungary the victory does not mean the former Communists will be in control of the new government.
After a nail biting vote count, Romania's Central Election Bureau announced that the Social Democrats received a little more than one-third of the vote, less than one percent more than their nearest rival, the opposition Democrat-Liberal Party of Romanian President Traian Basescu.
The center-right National Liberal Party of pro-Western Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu came in third with a little more than 18 percent of the vote.
Election observers say the results came amid widespread anger over the government's perceived inability to tackle the impact of the global financial crisis on Romania's economy.
Since October, thousands of workers have lost their jobs at major Romanian factories, and more lay-offs are expected. Social Democrat leader Mircea Geoana expressed his concern about the social tensions.
Speaking in front of flag waving supporters outside his party's headquarters, he said "Romanians voted for an intelligent and capable state for a hard time ahead." He added that Romanian voters support his party's message of "change" as Romania starts down a long hard road.
However, Geoana made clear that he has no illusions that change can be introduced overnight as millions of Romanians, including pensioners, live in poverty.
Yet despite his party's gains, it remains unclear whether the 50-year-old Geoana will be able to become the next prime minister.
Under Romania's constitution President Basescu can name the next government leader, regardless of the election results.
No party won enough votes to govern alone, forcing the main players to seek coalition arrangements in Romania's difficult political landscape.
Smaller parties, including the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania, are also expected to play a key role in discussions over a future coalition.
But there is international concern that a long period of difficult political negotiations could undermine urgent reforms required by the European Union, such fighting corruption, and further destabilize the country of 22 million people.