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Romanian President-elect Moves to Crack Down on Corruption

Romanian presidential candidate Klaus Iohannis celebrates his victory in the election run-off, with protesters in central Bucharest, November 16, 2014.

The mayor of a city in central Romania who defeated the country's prime minister in a presidential runoff election has promised to crack down on corruption.

Klaus Iohannis, 55, won about 54 percent of Sunday's vote, a surprising change from the first round of balloting in which he trailed Prime Minister Victor Ponta, 42, by 10 percent.

President-elect Iohannis urged parliament on Monday to scrap a corruption bill that allowed for amnesties in certain criminal cases, providing a judicial shield for some politicians.

Iohannis was moving swiftly to make good on a campaign promise and allay European Union fears over graft in the country. He had also campaigned to safeguard the independence of Romania's judicial system.

The former Communist state of 20 million is emerging from painful budget cuts imposed during the global slowdown.

Growth rebounded to more than 3 percent in the third quarter of 2014, but corruption and tax evasion are rife, and progress to implement reforms and overhaul a bloated state sector is mixed, Reuters reported.

PM promises to fulfill duties

Ponta conceded late Sunday, saying "the people are always right" and pledging to fulfill his duties as long as he holds a public position.

Speaking on Monday, he looked to allay fears of political tensions after suffering a surprise defeat in the election, saying he was committed to dialog and stability.

Ponta also agreed to a demand by Iohannis to scrap a corruption amnesty bill pending in parliament.

Analysts had said a victory for Ponta might have bolstered Romania, with the main levers of power held by one bloc. By contrast, although he distances himself from the outgoing president's combative style, Iohannis' win may trigger renewed political tensions in one of Europe's poorest states.

“The relationship between Social Democrat PM Ponta and center-right president-elect Klaus Iohannis will likely be strained,” said Otilia Dhand at Teneo Intelligence, as reported by Reuters.

Prime minister since 2012, Ponta often feuded with his rival, outgoing President Traian Basescu, which stymied policymaking and caused a constitutional crisis.

Iohannis, who will be sworn in to office in December, will replace Basescu, who is stepping down after 10 years in office.

Partial results showed that a record 64 percent of voters cast ballots in the poll in a country where previous elections have been marked by voter apathy.

Official results are expected to be announced later on Monday.

Some material for this report came from Reuters and AFP.