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Romanian Leftists Claim Victory in Parliamentary Election


Romania's left-wing Social Democrats are claiming victory in Sunday's parliamentary election, with voters angry about the country's financial crisis. Stefan Bos reports for VOA from Budapest.

Polling stations opened early Sunday in Romania for an election that was expected to alter the political landscape.

Opinion polls indicate former Communists, now known as the Romanian Social Democrats, may overtake the ruling center-right National Liberal Party of the pro-Western Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu.

Although Mr. Tariceanu led Romania into the European Union, there has been concern over his perceived inability to tackle social tensions in the country, including massive layoffs linked to the global financial crisis.

The country's main car maker and food and steel factories dismissed some four thousand people last month alone, and many of their suppliers have said they will fire workers as well.

Speaking at an election rally ahead of Sunday's vote, Social Democrats leader Mircea Geoana said his party would be the best choice to revive years of economic growth and more social benefits. His comments were translated by France 24 Television.

"The approaching crisis calls for a Socialist administration with its stability and professionalism. On the 30th of November we will win our greatest victory," Geoana said.

However President Traian Basescu, an ally of the opposition Democrat Liberal Party, has the power to name the next prime minister, no matter who wins.

In the sixth election since Communism was ended by a bloody revolt in 1989, Romanians will for the first time choose among individual candidates for senators and deputies, rather than party lists, to fill the 452-member parliament.

As he cast his ballot, President Basescu said he hoped the new voting system would result in a better functioning Parliament for this nation of 22 million people.

He says the new parliament should be filled with "those with experience who have already been in power." Mr. Basescu adds he also wants to see a new, young generation participating in politics who he says represent "courage and cleanness" in politics.

Some smaller parties are likely to play a role in future coalitions, including the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania, which governed with the current prime minister. The party is backed by many voters of the country's ethnic Hungarian minority of some 1.5 million people. It is expected to receive about five percent of the nationwide ballots cast.