Bucharest, 18 November 1996 (RFE/RL) - Tens of thousands of jubilant Romanians celebrated in the streets overnight to mark the dawn of a new era in the country.
Reformer Emil Constantinescu defeated incumbent President Ion Iliescu and promised major changes in the country, including the opening up of capital markets, lifting restrictions on currency markets and ending foreign investment barriers.
Iliescu, a former communist, has presided over Romania since a bloody revolt ended communism in the country in 1989. Yesterday's election of Constantinescu was the first time Romanians changed their national leaders through the ballot box. All other leaders died in office or were deposed, killed or banished.
With about 80 percent of the vote counted, Constantinescu held a 55 percent to 45 percent lead over Iliescu.
Iliescu had been criticized for not pushing reforms quickly enough. But in his concession speech, he said he fulfilled the fundamental mission of presidency, during a difficult transition period.
Constantinescu's victory was also welcome abroad. German Finance Minister Theo Waigel said Constantinescu's pledges of reforms should significantly ease Romania's way into European and Atlantic structures.