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World Romania's ruling centrists ahead in municipal vote

23:06  27 september  2020
23:06  27 september  2020 Source:   reuters.com

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By Radu-Sorin Marinas

Ludovic Orban wearing a suit and tie: FILE PHOTO: Newly appointed Romanian PM Ludovic Orban attends the validation session of his cabinet © Reuters/INQUAM PHOTOS FILE PHOTO: Newly appointed Romanian PM Ludovic Orban attends the validation session of his cabinet

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania's ruling centrist Liberals emerged as the leading party in a municipal ballot on Sunday, including in the capital, exit polls showed, bolstering their chances of forming the next government after a Dec. 6 parliamentary election.

The ballot is a popularity test ahead of the national vote for the minority cabinet of Prime Minister Ludovic Orban, which has been fighting the spread of the new coronavirus since its first day in office, and imposed a strict lockdown.

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"This is a historical victory for our party, the most spectacular result in our 30 post-communist years. I thank Romanians for defending democracy by showing up to cast their ballots during pandemics," Orban said in a victory speech.

The opposition Social Democrats (PSD), lost power last year and have seen their popular support halve since a 2016 ballot and protests over attempts to politicise the judiciary.

"It's the first time we defeat the Social Democrats, and it's so decisively," Orban said. "This creates premises for a Liberal-led government for the next four years."

Citing incomplete data, Orban said his party won about 1,500 mayors across the country or about 50% of all localities.

Exit polls showed that mathematician Nicusor Dan, backed by the Liberals and an alliance of opposition parties USR-Plus, won Bucharest city hall with 47% followed by incumbent PSD mayor Gabriela Firea with 39%.

Until Sunday's vote the PSD had 55% of Romania's mayors while Orban's Liberals controlled about 33% of localities.

Political pundits have said the ballot has mobilised younger voters fed up with graft in Romania, a nation of 20 million people that joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 2004 and the European Union in 2007.

Local elections matter in Romania, one of EU's poorest members, as municipal officials control a large chunk of budget revenues, and have access to EU development funds.

Spending that cash helps bolster public support for the party associated with mayors who manage it, analysts say.

(Editing by Barbara Lewis)

Romanian mayor Ion Aliman re-elected after death from coronavirus .
Romanian villagers have re-elected their mayor by a landslide even though he died two weeks ago from Covid-19 complications, saying he had done a good job and deserved his posthumous victory. © Inquam Photos/Bogdan Danescu/Reuters An obituary photo of former mayor Ion Aliman taped to the walls of the city hall in Deveselu, southern Romania, on Monday. A video shared on social media showed dozens of villagers visiting the grave of Ion Aliman, a Social Democrat, to light candles after voting had ended in Sunday's local elections.

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