Romania’s presidential runoff sees Prime Minister Victor Ponta facing off against Klaus Iohannis, the ethnic German mayor of the Transylvanian city of Sibiu. Ponta, a former prosecutor, led Iohannis by 10 points in the first-round voting on Nov. 2, and polls indicate Ponta is likely to win, despite corruption probes and convictions of some of Ponta’s senior aides. Here is a brief rundown of the people and issues involved in Sunday’s vote. “Pugnacious” Ponta, 42, became Europe’s youngest prime minister in May 2012 just before he turned 40. An amateur rally driver, Ponta married Daciana Sarbu in 2007. She’s a European Parliament lawmaker and the daughter of a bigwig in the powerful Social Democratic Party. Ponta’s career has mostly been plain sailing since then, even though he’s been accused of plagiarizing his doctoral thesis and of being an undercover spy by outgoing President Traian Basescu — allegations he denies. Since taking office Ponta has overseen economic growth and political stability. He says Romania will remain a U.S. ally and rejects claims he’ll cozy up to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Critics say that as president Ponta could grant an amnesty to political allies imprisoned for corruption, and that his party would have far too much power.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, the ethnic German mayor proudly displayed a letter that German Chancellor Angela Merkel had sent him wishing him success in the runoff. Iohannis said he would be best suited to continue Romania’s battle against corruption and its goal of improving the independence of its justice system. “Ponta is a candidate of the system, a candidate who is manipulated by local (political) barons,” the mayor told the AP. “People want something else. People want change.” The 55-year-old physics teacher has run Sibiu, a town of 155,000 in Transylvania, since 2000. He’s seen as a gentleman in the rough and tumble of Romanian politics, but some supporters have criticized his hesitation to ruthlessly exploit Ponta’s weaknesses.