Romanians are likely to move Prime Minister Victor Ponta into the presidency in elections that start on Sunday, offering one of Europe’s poorest countries political stability but raising concerns about judicial independence. Backed by a well-oiled party machine, Ponta has led opinion polls in the run-up to the Nov. 2/16 vote, trumpeting a record of easing the painful spending cuts and tax hikes Romanians endured in a 2009-10 recession. A Ponta win would consolidate his leftist Social Democrats’ hold on power. His combative rival, incumbent President Traian Basescu, steps down after two terms, which should end constant feuds over policy.
But Ponta’s record has raised concerns for the independence of the judiciary, prosecutors and the media. Romania joined the European Union in 2007: its judicial system is still under special supervision.
Ponta rebuffed EU criticism in 2012 that he did not appear to respect the rule of law and democratic institutions, denying allegations that he put pressure on judges.
The policy continuity offered if he wins would reassure investors, keen to see the International Monetary Fund maintain a standby deal that has been in place since 2009.