Romanians vote for new parliament, fresh crisis looms
BUCHAREST - Agence France-Presse
Romanian woman casts her ballot at a polling station in Bucharest December 9, 2012 as Romanians head to the polls to elect a new parliament. AFP PhotoRomanians headed to the polls today to elect a new parliament, with the centre-left ruling alliance on course for a comfortable win likely to trigger fresh tensions with rival president Traian Basescu.
Prime minister Victor Ponta's Social-Liberal Union (USL), in power since May, is set to win between 48 and 61 percent of the ballot, according to pre-vote opinion polls.
This could give the USL a two-thirds majority in the 470-member parliament, allowing it to pass through constitutional changes.
The Right Romania Alliance (ARD), close to Basescu's camp, is trailing far behind, on 16-23 percent, according to the polls.
This is Romania's first national vote since a failed attempt by the USL this summer to unseat centre-right Basescu -- a move that drew sharp rebukes from the European Union (EU) and the United States.
Basescu, who narrowly escaped impeachment, hinted he could refuse to appoint Ponta, whom he called a "mythomaniac", as prime minister, even if the USL won the ballot.
"We see another crisis looming", Jean-Michel de Waele, an Eastern Europe specialist at Brussels University, told AFP.
Investors and economic analysts said fresh political turbulence was the last thing Romania needed as the EU's second poorest member struggles to recover from a painful austerity drive.
Voting stations opened at 0700 local time (0500 GMT) and will close at 1900 GMT.
Exit polls will be released immediately afterwards, while the first official results are not expected before Monday morning.