Voting was underway Sunday in Romania's presidential election after a lackluster campaign overshadowed by a political crisis which saw a minority government installed just a few days ago.
Around 18.2 million voters are eligible to cast their ballots for one of 14 candidates vying for the five-year presidential term.
Recent polls suggest the incumbent, Klaus Iohannis, is set to win the most votes. He is trailed by center-left candidate Viorica Dancila, until last month Romania's prime minister, independent Mircea Diaconu, a former actor and theater director, and Dan Barna, who heads the country's third largest party, the center-right Union Save Romania.
If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, there will be a second round of voting on Nov. 24.
Iohannis is a former leader of the National Liberal Party, which last week formed a minority government led by Prime Minister Ludovic Orban.
Over the past three years, as Romania has had four prime ministers and endured massive anti-corruption protests, Iohannis has cultivated the image of a staunchly pro-European leader and a calming influence.
While lacking an executive role, Romania's president has significant decision-making powers, including on matters of national security and foreign policy, and can reject party nominees for the prime minister and government nominees for judicial appointments.
"I hope to get confirmation today that many Romanians share my wish . for a normal Romania," Iohannis said after casting his ballot in Bucharest.
Dancila's Social Democrat government was ousted last month after losing a no-confidence vote in parliament amid corruption scandals and allegations it wanted close control of the judiciary.
However, she has tried to cast herself as a social reformer who best suits the needs of the country, which is plagued by widespread poverty. According to a World Bank study last year, over 25% of Romania's population lives on less than $5.50 a day.
"I voted against austerity, against the cutting of pensions and salaries . (for) a Romania where citizens do not fear tomorrow," Dancila said after voting.
For his part, Barna hopes to tap into the widespread disillusionment caused by the government corruption scandals.
"I think Romanians understand what is at stake," Barna said. "This is a vote for the future."
A member of the European Union since 2007, Romania has been struggling to contain its state budget deficit, projected to reach 4.4% of GDP next year, well above the EU limit of 3%.
With nearly a quarter of its 20 million people living abroad, it faces an increased labor shortage and a widespread disappointment among its youth with the political class.
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