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Romania President Wins New Term Vowing End to Years of Chaos

Andra Timu and Irina Vilcu

(Bloomberg) -- Romanians handed President Klaus Iohannis a landslide victory in Sunday’s election runoff as he promised to end years of political chaos and bring normality to one of the European Union’s poorest member-states.

The 60-year-old incumbent won a second term with 66% of the vote, according to partial results with almost all of ballots counted. His opponent, former Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, had 34% and conceded as soon as exit polls signaled her defeat.

Iohannis triumphed after siding with the biggest protests since communism in opposing government attempts to decriminalize low-level corruption. The pushback helped put the ruling-party boss behind bars and prevent Romania from joining Hungary and Poland in risking EU punishment over the rule of law.

But he has much still to address, with Romanians angry at poor infrastructure, health care and schools. Many citizens still leave the country for higher-paid work in western Europe. And the national currency is near all-time lows over fiscal concerns.

“We won a very important battle but not the war and for that we need to win the local and the parliamentary elections next year,” Iohannis said. “We have a lot of things to fix and I’ll get involved to create a new parliamentary majority to modernize the country.”

The Black Sea nation is no stranger to political turbulence: it’s had more prime ministers than any other EU member-state in the three decades since it violently shook off communist rule.

Iohannis is planning a more conventional second term, working with his allies in the new Liberal Party government, who he wants to see re-elected when a parliamentary vote is held either in late 2020, as scheduled, or possibly earlier.

Showing the scale of their task, Romania’s quality of life was recently ranked the EU’s worst.

But Iohannis may struggle to achieve his goals.

Prime Minister Ludovic Orban leads a minority government that may find it hard to pass legislation, while the previous administration left behind a budget timebomb that now needs defusing.

“After this victory, Iohannis will have very high legitimacy, which he’s going to try to transfer to the Liberals before next year’s elections,” said Andrei Taranu, deputy dean of the Political Science University in Bucharest. “He’ll probably become more involved and take on responsibility for the unpopular changes that are needed to tame the budget.”

(Updates with partial results in second paragraph.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Andra Timu in Bucharest at atimu@bloomberg.net;Irina Vilcu in Bucharest at isavu@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrea Dudik at adudik@bloomberg.net, Andrew Langley

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