(adds updated official partial results released at 1200 GMT)
BUCHAREST (Romania), December 7 (SeeNews) – Incumbent Traian Basescu took a slim lead over his challenger Mircea Geoana in Romania’s run-off presidential vote on Sunday, official partial results indicated on Monday, after exit polls had shown Geoana in the lead the previous evening.
Basescu, the informal leader of ruling Democratic-Liberal Party, PD-L, has won 50.33% of the vote, while Social Democrats' leader Geoana got 49.66% support, based on 99.95% of the votes counted, the Central Electoral Bureau, BEC, said on its website. Voter turnout was 58% compared to 54.4% in the first round.
On Sunday evening three local polling agencies gave Geoana a lead of 1.4-2.4 percentage points ahead of Basescu, based on exit polls, and only one showed Basescu having a slim lead of less than one percentage point over his opponent.
Social Democratic Party officials said earlier on Monday the party was considering contesting the results due to alleged numerous irregularities during the vote, local media reported.
Basescu came first in the first round on November 22, winning one third of the votes, slightly ahead of Geoana. After the first round Geoana got the support of the Liberal Party and the Hungarian minority party UDMR, while Basescu announced he would seek no political alliance before the run-off vote. The Liberals, Social Democrats and ethnic Hungarians together control two-thirds of the 471 seats in parliament and oppose the PD-L.
The vote is crucial for EU member Romania, as the winner will name the country's next prime minister who will have to restart key reforms of the economy and the justice system in order to win back the trust of international lenders, a key condition for the release of the next installments of a 20-billion euro bailout package led by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Romania needs to pass a 2010 budget as soon as possible to avoid sharper economic contraction and deepening of the crisis, analysts say. Under the IMF deal the country must cut budget spending and narrow the fiscal gap to 5.9% of GDP in 2010 from 7.3% this year.
Analysts have said Basescu would be more likely to pursue IMF-prescribed reforms and the fight against graft, but Geoana's victory would bring political stability since he enjoys a majority in Parliament.
Romania's president must abandon any political affiliation upon taking the oath of office and has fewer executive functions than the prime minister. The president is Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, appoints the ambassadors and the heads of security agencies.