Romanian prime minister Victor Ponta conceded defeat in the presidential run-off to his rival, Sibiu mayor Klaus Iohannis, late on November 16, about two hours after voting stations closed in Romania. Ponta’s concession, unusual for Romanian politics, came before the electoral authorities announced even partial results.
Leaving the headquarters of his social-democrat party, Ponta said that “the people are always right” and that he had called Iohannis to congratulate him. Ponta had won the first round of the election with 40.4 per cent, with Iohannis on 30.4 per cent.
If Iohannis, an ethnic German, wins the presidency, it would be the biggest comeback between the two rounds of presidential elections in Romania’s post-communist history.
The parallel vote count by the coalition of centre-right parties backing Iohannis showed him firmly in the lead, after exit polls made public as voting stations closed in Romania showed neither candidate had won decisively. The social-democrats had not made the results of their parallel count public.
Romania’s electoral commission is expected to announce the first partial results during the night and the morning of November 17. The final decision to validate the outcome of the election belongs to the constitutional court.
Earlier, two exit polls, carried by RTV and Antena3 stations, which sided with Ponta during the campaign, showed him winning 50.7 per cent and 50.9 per cent, respectively. National broadcaster TVR and private channel Digi24 gave the win to Iohannis, with 51.5 per cent and 50.9 per cent, respectively, while Realitatea TV said the outcome was too close to call, giving both candidates 50 per cent.
The early exit polls used data collected until about 7pm or 7.30pm, while voting closed at 9pm, and did not use data from 294 polling stations abroad, where centre-right candidates traditionally score high.
The preliminary figures at 9pm put the turnout at 62 per cent, making it the highest turnout since the elections in 1996. In the first round on November 2, the turnout was 53.2 per cent, and the turnout in the run-off in 2009 was 58 per cent.
Turnout was also set to reach a new record in voting abroad, with 362 000 votes cast as of 11pm Romanian time, with voting still going on in western Europe and North America.
Queues even longer than on November 2 had formed outside embassies in European capitals, with thousands of people waiting for hours to cast a ballot. During the day, the coalition backing Iohannis and outgoing president Traian Basescu both called on the foreign ministry and electoral commission to extend the voting time abroad, but their calls were not heeded.
Iohannis, in his first remarks after voting closed, praised the voters abroad and called for even more people to go out and vote outside the country. He did not claim victory, but said that the party’s representatives in voting precincts to be very vigilant during the vote count.
(Romanian prime minister Victor Ponta. Photo: gov.ro)