Romanians Vote To Elect A New Parliament
Romanians trickled to the polls Sunday to elect a new parliament, as the leftist Social Democrats and right-wing Liberal Democrats battled it out ahead of Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu's Liberals.
Voter participation at 2:00 pm (1200 GMT) was 19.84 percent, according to preliminary figures, compared to 27.18 percent at that same stage in 2004 and 27.25 percent in 2000.
While the vote comes at a critical time for Romania as it battles the fallout of a global economic downturn, observers predicted participation would remain low, with the 18 million eligible voters in this new EU member growing disillusioned about politics.
The election also comes on the eve of a national holiday and in the middle of a long weekend, which could also hamper turnout.
Opinion polls forecast that voter participation would not surpass 45 percent, with pranksters possibly pushing the turnout even lower.
"It's a pity that a lot of youngsters have left Bucharest and I hope they will be back this evening in time to use their right to vote, which was fought for hard in December 1989," Liberal Democrat vice-president and prime ministerial candidate Theodor Stolojan said after casting his ballot.
The execution of Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu in a popular uprising in December 1989 marked the end of two decades of dictatorial rule and paved the way for a democratic Romania.
Romania's sixth general election since the fall of Communism comes at a time of economic crisis. With labour disputes threatening and the prospect of recession after heady growth, Sunday's winner is likely to enjoy only the briefest of honeymoons
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