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Romanian prime minister concedes defeat

Prime Minister Adrian Nastase calls opponent Traian Basescu to concede defeat in Romania's presidental election on Monday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said Monday he had conceded defeat in Romania’s presidential runoff in a telephone call to opponent Traian Basescu, whom he called “the future president of Romania.”

Basescu’s victory dealt a major blow to the successors of Romania’s communists, who have governed for most of the period since the 1989 revolution.

“It is the decision of the Romanian people and I respect it,” Nastase said. “I congratulate Basescu” and have congratulated him personally on the phone today. “Basescu is the future president of Romania.”

Basescu held a decisive lead in Romania’s presidential runoff with less than 2 percent of the ballots remaining to be counted, according to official partial results released Monday.

With 98.76 percent of the ballots counted, Basescu had 51.23 percent of the vote, compared with Prime Minister Adrian Nastase’s 48.77.

Final results
Authorities were expected to release final results Wednesday. Neither candidate won the required 50 percent of the vote in the first round on Nov. 28.

Hundreds of Basescu supporters gathered in University Square in downtown Bucharest, dancing and singing his name. Dozens of riot police ringed the demonstrators, who waved orange balloons and the orange flags of his Justice and Truth Alliance.

Basescu arrived shortly after midnight, wearing an orange jacket. He was greeted by hundreds of supporters shouting, “We won!” He called on them to celebrate peacefully and urged them to leave the square and return Monday night.

The crowd responded, “We’re not leaving!”

The party’s color, coincidentally, is the same as that of Ukraine opposition presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko, whose backers blockaded government buildings in Kiev, the capital, and focused worldwide attention on their successful protests against corruption in November’s runoff election. The nation’s Supreme Court ordered a rematch for Dec. 26.

Alliance supporter Marius Popa, a 42-year-old professor from the Transylvanian city of Cluj, saw a parallel to the Ukrainian standoff and to Yushchenko, who was diagnosed Saturday as having been intentionally poisoned with dioxin.

'A second Ukraine'
“In Ukraine the crypto-Communists also tried to impose their point of view. Their opponent, who was poisoned, tried, and is trying, like Basescu to reform society,” Popa said.

In Bucharest, Dan Jijiev, a 34-year-old engineer, said: “If Basescu doesn’t win, we will have a second Ukraine. I will stay here until they get rid of (Nastase).”

Late Sunday, dozens of Nastase supporters rallied at his party headquarters, chanting: “We fight, we fight and we win!” The party later put on a fireworks show for supporters.

After Basescu’s victory declaration, outgoing President Ion Iliescu, who has led Romania for 11 of the past 15 years, urged him and his supporters to wait for the final tally.

“Basescu is wrong to incite people with his statements, and he should have the necessary decency to wait for the count to see what the decision of the people is and then hail it,” Iliescu said.

The first round of voting was marred by accusations of fraud from the opposition and non-governmental organizations. The ruling Social Democrats say there were only minor irregularities, and they accuse Basescu of damaging Romania’s image abroad with the allegations.

“The atmosphere of mistrust (over the results) is because the ruling party has despised the state institutions for the last four years and tried to subordinate them,” Basescu said, referring to the courts and the Central Electoral Bureau.

Opponents see Nastase’s party as linked to the old-guard communists who reinvented themselves as champions of democracy after the 1989 revolt and execution of former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

Both candidates support EU membership. Nastase takes credit for the completion of membership talks and this year’s 8.1 percent economic growth.