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Social Democrats Easily Win Romanian Elections

Romanian Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos

A nearly complete count in the Romanian parliamentary elections shows a big win for the Social Democrats just one year after they were forced from power.

Election officials said that with 99 percent of the votes counted, the Social Democratic Party had 46 percent of the vote compared to just 20 percent for the center-right National Liberal Party.

Liviu Dragnea, chairman of the Social Democrats, told supporters he was "overwhelmed" with the results and that "there should be no doubt who won the elections."

A new party, the Save Romania Union, finished third and passed the threshold needed to enter parliament.

The Social Democrat-led government of Prime Minister Victor Ponta resigned last year after a fire at a Bucharest disco killed 64 people and brought tens of thousands of protesters into the streets.

Dacian Ciolos, a former European Union commissioner, has served as caretaker prime minister since then.

"I think the most important thing today is for as many people as possible to cast their votes, no matter what political opinion they have," Ciolos said after casting his ballot. "It is important that the result we receive tonight be as representative as possible."

The Social Democrats have said they would form a coalition with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats and make Dragnea the head of government.

But Dragnea is on probation for voter fraud, setting up a potential clash with President Klaus Iohannis, who has refused to appoint a prime minister with legal problems.

Romania, which has a population of around 19 million, is one of the poorest in the European Union and is plagued by high corruption.

Based on reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters