President Klaus Iohannis set to be re-elected

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President Klaus Iohannis set to be re-elected
President Klaus Iohannis set to be re-elected :File Photo

President Klaus Iohannis is all set to be re-elected in a presidential runoff on November 24 over Ex-Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă.

Western President Klaus Iohannis appears set to be reelected in a presidential runoff on November 24 that pits the former teacher against a leftist candidate who was prime minister until last month, when mounting frustration at corruption and other ills toppled her government.

A second term for Iohannis would help restore Romania’s pro-European trajectory after years of leftist rule marked by rampant corruption and an all-out assault on the judiciary.

Romanians are going to the polls on Sunday for a presidential election runoff expected to re-elect centrist president Klaus Iohannis, who has pledged to restart a judicial reform slowed down by successive Social Democrat (PSD) governments.

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While there have been no recent opinion polls, local bookmakers make Iohannis the short-odds favourite to beat former PSD prime minister Viorica Dancila comfortably in Sunday’s runoff.

Under a succession of PSD governments, Romania rolled back anti-corruption measures and weakened the independence of the courts. Along with ex-communist peers Poland and Hungary, it has been heavily criticised by Brussels for its actions.

However, the 60-year-old Iohannis has been credited by Western allies and the European Union with trying to protect the rule of law, in particular by challenging attempts to limit judges’ independence.

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“I will vote for a president to represent us, one that is respected both at home and abroad. This is the one we need,” said retired army staff Ioan Banu, while heading to a Bucharest college to cast his ballot, after polls opened at 05:00 GMT.

The president’s powers are mostly limited to nominating a prime minister on the basis of who can command a majority, challenging laws in the Constitutional Court, and appointing some chief prosecutors.

If elected again, Iohannis will have a chance to install anti-graft and anti-mafia prosecutors who are serious about tackling endemic corruption with the backing of Prime Minister Ludovic Orban, who became head of a liberal minority government by winning a parliamentary vote of confidence three weeks ago.

Dancila’s PSD had increased the burden of proof in corruption cases, reorganised panels of judges and set up a special unit to investigate magistrates for potential abuses, a move widely seen as an instrument of political coercion.

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Romania’s judicial reforms have been monitored by Brussels since it joined the EU in 2007; in October, Brussels said the reforms were going backwards.

Iohannis, a soft-spoken ethnic German and former mayor of Sibiu, became president in 2014.

President Klaus Iohannis poised for victory in Romanian presidential vote.