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Romanian Court Says Basescu Wins Presidential Vote

Romanian President Traian Basescu speaks to journalists while leaving his campaign headquarters in Bucharest on December 7.
BUCHAREST (Reuters) -- Romania's Constitutional Court has validated the results of a closely fought presidential runoff, handing incumbent Traian Basescu a second term and heralding an end to protracted political and economic crises.

The court unanimously rejected a complaint by Social Democrat leader Mircea Geoana, who lost to Basescu by a razor-thin margin and accused him of stealing the vote through massive fraud.

"The Constitutional Court unanimously...notes that Traian Basescu is elected Romania's president, having gotten the highest number of votes," the court said in a statement.

Geoana, who lost 49.7 percent to 50.3 percent in the Dec. 6 runoff, later conceded defeat but did not withdraw his allegation of fraud.

"I accept the Court's decision...and I wish Traian Basescu good luck," he told reporters. "The suspicion of fraud in this election will follow Romania and our democracy."

A recount of 138,000 annulled votes did not change the official outcome of the election.

The dispute prolonged a months-old political crisis that has blocked policymaking, led to the collapse of a Basescu-allied government in October and put a 20 billion-euro aid deal led by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on ice.

Basescu's first priority will be naming a new prime minister to replace Emil Boc, who has stayed on in an interim capacity since opposition parties toppled his cabinet with a no-confidence vote.

The new administration must then quickly negotiate a cost-cutting 2010 budget with the IMF to unlock a 1.5 billion euro aid tranche originally planned for this month.

Parties have already started talks. Basescu wants his Democrat-Liberal allies to lead a centre-right government, and the party has invited Geoana's preelection ally, the opposition Liberals, to form a centrist ruling coalition.

The Liberals said today they would start exploratory talks with all political parties but would not join a government unless the prime minister came from their ranks or was a well-known independent.