BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania's government easily defeated a no-confidence motion brought by the centre-right opposition on Monday, removing what was seen as the final hurdle to Prime Minister Victor Ponta running for president in November.
Ponta is widely tipped to win the presidential race, giving him a pivotal role in appointing a new prime minister and cabinet to oversee reforms agreed under a 4 billion euro (£3.1 billion) aid deal secured from the International Monetary Fund last year. Romania is one of the European Union's poorest states.
The motion needed 288 votes to topple the leftist government, but it got support from only 154 deputies and senators in both houses of parliament.
The Christian-Liberal alliance of Klaus Iohannis, Ponta's main challenger in the presidential poll, accused the government of masterminding a plan to commit electoral fraud.
"It didn't pass, the government goes ahead with its mandate," Marian Neacsu, leader of the ruling Social Democrat group in the lower house, told Reuters by telephone.
The latest opinion poll conducted this month by CSCI showed Ponta getting 42 percent of votes in the first round, followed by provincial mayor Iohannis, an ethnic German, with 27 percent. Ponta is seen winning a Nov. 16 runoff ballot with 57 percent.
Parliament's two largest opposition groups, the Liberals and the Democrat Liberals, voted unanimously to merge in July, hoping to boost their chances against Ponta. They proposed Iohannis to run for president.