By ALISON MUTLER Associated Press
BUCHAREST, Romania December 10, 2012 (AP)
Romania's center-left government swept a strong majority of seats in parliamentary elections, official results showed Monday, setting the stage for a clash with President Traian Basescu who says he won't reappoint the prime minister.
The center-left alliance led by Prime Minister Victor Ponta won nearly three-fifths of the seats in the legislature, trouncing Basescu's group, with 81 percent of votes counted.
Despite the clear victory, Basescu has indicated he would not appoint Ponta. The two are bitter rivals after the government tried to remove Basescu from office in an impeachment vote in July, a bid that failed as too few people voted to make it valid.
"We won a clear majority, a majority recognized by our adversaries who have to accept the rules of democracy," Ponta said after polls closed Sunday. "I assure them we will treat the opposition with the respect that we did not get when we were in opposition."
Basescu could nominate someone else, but his choice would have to be approved by Parliament. If his candidate was rejected, Parliament could be dissolved. The government has threatened to move to impeach Basescu again if he refuses to nominate Ponta.
Election official Marian Muhulet said Basescu's group won less than 17 percent of the 452 seats in the legislature. A populist party led by a media tycoon scored about 14 percent and an ethnic Hungarian party won just over 5 percent. Other parties did not get the minimum 5 percent.
Ponta was appointed prime minister in May, the third prime minister this year, but he had a bitter battle with Basescu, whose mandate expires in 2014.
Basescu's allies, who were in government from 2008, grew unpopular due to harsh austerity measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund in exchange for a €20 billion ($26-billion) bailout loan in 2009 from the IMF and the EU, and allegations of cronyism.
Ponta restored most pensions and salaries that were slashed as part of the loan agreement, with the IMF's agreement, but has largely continued the policies as previous Basescu-allied governments including a 24 percent sales tax, one of the highest in the European Union.