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The BBC's Nick Thorpe in Bucharest
"The main issues at this election are corruption and poverty"
 real 56k

Monday, 27 November, 2000, 15:39 GMT
Election polarises Romania
Gypsy children
Romanians are fed up with poverty in their country
The first results from Romania's elections confirm predictions of gains for the opposition Socialists and, most dramatically, for the far-right Nationalists.

The former ex-communist president, Ion Iliescu, will now face right-winger Corneliu Vadim Tudor in a run-off for the presidency in two weeks' time.

First results
36.5% - president
37% - parliament
Greater Romania
28.8% - president
20% - parliament
Approx 10%
The centre-right coalition, which has ruled for the past four years, was beaten into third place in Sunday's parallel presidential and parliamentary elections.

Correspondents say the ruling coalition's bad showing is an reflection of the poor economy and will be a blow to the country's chances of joining the European Union.

Based on official results from just under 60% of polling stations, Mr Iliescu, a former president, leads in the presidential election with 36.5% of the vote.

We reject any alliance with the Greater Romania party

The PDSR's Adrian Nastase
Mr Tudor, an outspoken poet and publisher known for anti-Semitic and anti-Hungarian remarks, took second place with 28.8% of the votes so far counted.

He attracted strong support from angry out-of-work voters.

In the parliamentary vote the figures show the party of Social Democracy (PDSR) with about 37%, and the Greater Romania party with about 20%.

A final official tally is due by Thursday. Even these incomplete results show a dramatic increase in support for the right-wing.

In the 1996 election, the Greater Romania party won 4.5% of the vote.

No coalition

Mr Iliescu has immediately sought to reassure Romanians and the West that there would be no coalition with the Greater Romania party.

Ex-communist, Ion Illiescu
Ion Iliescu: Frontrunner in presidential race
His deputy, Adrian Nastase, tipped to be named next prime minister, said flatly: "We exclude any alliance with the Greater Romania party."

Correspondents say the size of the vote for Mr Tudor, who has been likened to Austrian far-right leader Joerg Haider and France's Jean Marie Le Pen, is sure to send shock waves through the European Union and cast doubts on Romania's preparedness for joining the EU.

These are the fourth general elections since the overthrow of communism 11 years ago

Little progress

Economic hardship
Inflation: 45%
Nearly half of Romanians live on less than $30 a month
Average monthly salary: about $90
Unemployment: 9.8%

Unlike most of the other former communist countries in central and eastern Europe, Romania has made little progress in the past decade in privatising its economy and attracting foreign investment.

Two-thirds of employees still work in big state-owned companies and the vast majority of these are loss-making.

Huge sums are spent each year in keeping steel and arms companies afloat - companies which employ tens of thousands of workers but have few or no orders on their books.

Privatisation in Romania is now accelerating, but the new government will need to guarantee stability to attract more investment from abroad.

And, while the new administration will benefit from the proceeds, it may face the anger of those made unemployed as factories cut back.

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See also:

28 Nov 00 | Europe
Romania's far-right contender
31 May 00 | Europe
Bank crisis 'threat' to Romania
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