Romania top court may delay decision on presidential runoff

Romania's Constitutional Court may not decide this week on whether to overturn results of a closely-fought Dec. 6 presidential runoff.

Romania top court may delay decision on presidential runoff

Romania's Constitutional Court may not decide this week on whether to overturn results of a closely-fought Dec. 6 presidential runoff, which would extend a standoff delaying a resolution to economic and political crises.

Results show incumbent Traian Basescu won Sunday's vote by a razor-thin margin, but his leftist Social Democrat challenger Mircea Geoana has demanded a re-run due to what he says was "massive fraud", including multiple voting and bribery. Basescu's Democrat-Liberals denied involvement in ballot fraud.

Judge Ion Predescu told Reuters on Tuesday he and his eight fellow magistrates would rule quickly on the leftists' complaint, within one to three days, but the court said on Thursday complaints would be assessed in a series of sessions.

"The court needs first to examine the files with results from the Electoral Bureau ... which is a labourious process, and then discuss the complaints," a court spokeswoman said.

Political commentators said they did not expect the vote to be over-turned.

The delay in validating the vote has postponed the start of inter-party talks aimed at drawing a coalition cabinet whose task would be to pursue credible anti-crisis reforms to soften an expected 8 percent recession this year.

Wrangling since the end of September has prolonged the replacement of a Basescu-allied cabinet ousted by opposition parties in an October no-confidence vote, which has in turn stalled talks to unfreeze a 20 billion euro IMF-led rescue deal.

The constitutional watchdog has the power to invalidate election results at a constituency or national level. It can also ask for a repeat of the electoral process if it deems polls marred by fraud large enough to have distorted the outcome.

Re-Run unlikely

If the court rules to overturn the election, a re-run of the runoff would take place on the second Sunday to follow the verdict. If it validates the result, Basescu would stay in his position and would have a chance to name a prime minister.

However, commentators say there is little chance of the court overturning the outcome, in which ex-ship's captain Basescu beat Geoana by 50.3 percent to 40.7 percent, a margin of only 70,000 of the 11 million votes cast.

The next government's first task will be to pass a cost- cutting budget demanded by the IMF in exchange for a 1.5 billion euro aid tranche, which economists say is vital to growing out of an economic contraction seen at 7.5 to 8.0 percent this year.

Earlier this week, Basescu's Democrat-Liberals were first to try to start inter-party exploratory talks, inviting Geoana's pre-election ally, the opposition Liberals, to form a centrist ruling coalition.

However, the Liberals said the court ruling was the key requirement to kick off talks, while Geoana said his party would reject any deal with Basescu and would like to continue its coalition with the Liberals in which they control a two-thirds majority in parliament.

Reuters
Last Mod: 11 Aralık 2009, 08:24
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