Monday, November 26, 2007

Opposition Wins Romania's First European Elections

Voice Of America

First official results show the centrist opposition party of Romanian President Traian Basescu has won Romania's first European Parliament elections since it joined the European Union this year. As Stefan Bos reports from Budapest, representatives of the country's large Hungarian minority also secured seats in the European Parliament.

Election officials say opposition parties received the most votes in elections for Romania's 35 representatives in the European Parliament.

Results show that nearly one in three voters cast ballots Sunday for the Democratic Party of President Traian Basescu, while its fellow opposition Social Democratic Party came in second with about 20 percent of the vote.

They beat the ruling National Liberal Party of Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu. He has been criticized by Romanians for his perceived failure to implement reforms aimed at improving living standards, that were promised when the country enthusiastically joined the European Union, January .

The E.U. executive branch, the European Commission, has threatened to cut-off more than $260 million in aid to Romania next month, unless the government improves the way it handles agriculture subsidies and tackles corruption.

The leader of the victorious Democrats, Emil Boc, suggests the election results show his party is popular among voters seeking change.

The Democratic Party has received most votes, he tells supporters. In his words the party is now "the most important political force in Romania."

Among others securing seats in the European Parliament are representatives of Romania's one and one half million ethnic-Hungarians. They include an independent candidate, Reformed Bishop Laszlo Tokes, who played a key role in Romania's 1989 revolution against Communist rule.

Bishop Tokes says he wants to cooperate in the European Parliament with the main political party of ethnic Hungarians, known as the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania, or RMDSZ.

"We are focused on the national interests of Hungarians in Romania," Tokes says. And he adds: Next week I will meet the Hungarian RMDSZ party, to work on a wide strategy to make the dreams of ethnic Hungarians a reality."

High on his wish list is improving educational opportunities and a more controversial demand for more autonomy for ethnic Hungarians. They mostly live in Transylvania, an area that belonged to Hungary till the 1920 Treaty of Trianon handed the region to Romania.

Government and opposition officials in neighboring Hungary say they are pleased that ethnic Hungarians will be represented in the European Parliament.

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