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Romanians reelect President Klaus Iohannis to second term

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis won a new five-year term in an election run-off on Sunday, delivering a major blow in a protracted political war with the corruption-plagued and declining Social Democratic Party (PSD).

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis won a new five-year term in an election run-off on Sunday, delivering a major blow in a protracted political war with the corruption-plagued and declining Social Democratic Party (PSD).

The Liberal Party (PNL) incumbent netted 66.5 per cent of the vote, thereby defeating former prime minister and PSD leader Viorica Dancila.

Five years ago, Iohannis, 60, defeated the then favoured former PSD prime minister and leader Victor Ponta.

He has since repeatedly clashed with the PSD government over a controversial justice reform the party tried to push through under influence of its former leader, Liviu Dragnea.

Critics in Romania and the European Union blasted the reform plan as an effort to effectively disarm the national anti-corruption directorate, the DNA, and shield Dragnea from graft charges.

The trials prevented Dragnea from becoming prime minister, but he never made his intentions to govern by pulling strings through the party since the PSD won parliamentary elections in December 2016.

Dragnea’s efforts to place the DNA under dubious political control stood at the centre of the conflict.

The DNA had previously earned EU praise for prosecuting thousands of officials – more than 1,250 just in 2016 – including a sitting prime minister, Adrian Nastase.

Dragnea’s justice reform overturned the progress, and in October, the EU slammed Romania‘s backsliding on rule-of-law commitments, singling out the justice reform.

In May, Dragnea went to prison and left the PSD in Dancila’s hands. She was unable to control the party as firmly as her predecessor and was voted out by parliament in October.

Iohannis was the loudest critic of corruption in the administration during these events. He withstood pressure from the government and defended the DNA by any tactic available within his authorities, including by stalling laws and refusing to appoint officials.

He won his first election with a “clean hands” campaign and later presented himself as the one who saved the rule of law in Romania.

The second election, according to analyst Mihai Sebe, will boost his Liberals (PNL) in the final year before parliamentary elections and sharpen the downward trend of the PSD.

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