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. . Romania's opposition Social Democrats (PSD) have taken the lead in the country's parliamentary elections, proving a wave of voter dissatisfaction over the mixed results of the ruling liberals in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
. . Exit polls have shown a close race between the ruling Liberal PNL party in Romania and the left Social Democrats. Coronavirus concerns overshadowed the vote, and voter turnout is likely to hit record lows.
. . By Luiza Ilie BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania's opposition Social Democrats (PSD) took the lead in Sunday's national elections, which, according to partial results on Monday, are seen as crucial to the country's future in mainstream Europe, but are unlikely to be the next government. The PSD, which sparked a wave of voter dissatisfaction over the coronavirus pandemic and commitments by the liberal minority government to tax restraint, will struggle to form a working majority against incumbent Prime Minister Ludovic Orban. President Klaus Iohannis, a Liberal ally who is allowed to appoint the Prime Minister, has repeatedly stated that he will task Orban with the formation of a center-right coalition government in order to contain the rising budget deficit and restore the credibility of the European Union state among foreign investors. Under Romanian law, the president is not obliged to choose a prime minister from the victorious party if he has not obtained a direct majority. Orban himself clinched the victory on Sunday night after polls showed the result was too close to call it, and said he was confident of building a center-right coalition government. Partial results showed that the PSD had won just under 30% of the vote for both houses of parliament, while the Liberals received 25-26%. The centrist alliance USR-Plus, a likely coalition partner of the Liberals, won 15-16% of the vote. The reallocation of parliamentary seats will change the final percentages and give preference to the largest parties. However, analysts said the Liberals and USR-Plus would likely have to co-opt at least one other grouping to win a majority, adding to the prospect of difficult key portfolio negotiations and raising guidelines. "It's a poor result for the Liberal Party," said Sergiu Miscoiu, professor of political science at Babes Bolyai University. "The more parties it takes to form a coalition, the more complicated the compromises it has to make. "LESS PARTIES IN PARLIAMENT The next parliament is expected to have only five or six parties, including the ethnic Hungarian UDMR and the Newcomer Alliance for Uniting Romanians (AUR), an ultra-nationalist group formed a year ago that received 9% of the vote. The populist PMP, founded by former President Traian Basescu, was waiting to see if it had passed the 5% threshold for joining parliament. Liberal leaders, USR-Plus and UDMR, said Sunday they are in favor of a center-right coalition government, as does PMP. Negotiations with the Social Democrats are most clearly excluded. The EU would welcome an Orban-led government after years of attempts by a number of Romanian PSD cabinets to suppress the independence of the courts - an indictment they had denied - that reflected the overhaul of the judiciary in Poland and Hungary. Orban also stood up for a promise to bring Romania closer to the EU mainstream after years of financial populism, political instability and neglect of run-down infrastructure and public services. The turnout was the lowest since the fall of communism in 1989, at just one in three Romanians. Disappointment about failed reforms was compounded by fears of coronavirus infection in polling stations. (Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Gareth Jones)
. . Prime Minister Ludovic Orban's ruling party could hold onto power by allying itself with smaller parties.
. . An Orban-led government would be welcomed in Brussels frustrated by years of efforts by a number of left Romanian governments to suppress the independence of the courts, an indictment they had denied.
. . Prime Minister Ludovic Orban must maintain his alliance with a smaller party to stay in power after a surprisingly close race.
. More than 18 million Romanians are registered to vote for a new national parliament. However, voter turnout is expected to be low as voters fear contracting the coronavirus
. . Elections where ruling pro-European liberals are encouraged to win with COVID-19 security measures.