Voters in Romania are heading to the polls to pick their next president after a lacklustre election 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 vote on Sunday for one of 14 candidates vying for the five-year presidency.
Opinion polls showed incumbent centre-right President Klaus Iohannis ahead with around 40 percent, followed by centre-left candidate Viorica Dancila, Romania’s prime minister until last month, at 15-22 percent.
Other leading candidates include independent Mircea Diaconu, a former actor and theatre director, and Dan Barna, who heads Romania’s third-largest party, the centre-right Save Romania Union.
If no contender wins more than 50 percent, there will be a second round of voting on November 24.
Dancila’s Social Democrat government was forced to step down after losing a no-confidence vote in Parliament, amid corruption scandals and allegations it wanted close control of the judiciary.
Iohannis is a former leader of the National Liberal Party, which on Monday formed a minority government led by Prime Minister Ludovic Orban.
Political analyst Andrei Taranu said polarisation over the political crisis has benefitted the two top candidates.
“This situation kept Klaus Iohannis and Viorica Dancila in the spotlight, while other candidates had no chance to rise on the political stage,” he told news agency Associated Press.
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.
The president can also return legislation approved by Parliament, but has to ratify it if legislators back it a second time.
Polling stations across the country opened at 05:00 GMT and will close at 19:00 GMT.
Voting opened at many locations abroad on Friday and by midday on Saturday more than 200,000 diaspora Romanians had already voted, a record for the first round of a presidential election.
Voters in Romania are heading to the polls to pick their next president after a lacklustre election 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 vote on Sunday for one of 14 candidates vying for the five-year presidency.