Romania election too close to call

Romania's parliamentary election appears too close to call with exit polls showing the centrist and leftist parties less than a percentage point apart with more than 90 per cent of the vote counted.

If the same results continue through to the final vote count, no party would have a majority in parliament, raising the likelihood of protracted coalition talks.

Results so far showed the Social Democrats leading with more than 33.5 per cent, while the centrist Democratic Liberal Party, supported by Traian Basescu, the country's president, had about 33 per cent of the votes.

Marian Muhulet, an election office spokesman, said the centre-right Liberal party was third with about 18 per cent.

Sunday's election, which witnessed a very low turnout of about 35 per cent, has been dominated by anxiety over the global financial crisis.

Two polls late on Sunday, which had been highly reliable in past elections, said that the Social Democrats had come first, but by early morning the outcome looked less clear.

Victory claims

Mircea Geoana, the Social Democrats' leader, continued to insist that his party would win.

He said: "We will form a government with our prime minister. We will win elections. Nothing has changed from last night. We need a strong government to face this crisis."

With 94 per cent of the vote counted, partial results showed the ethnic Hungarian Party with more than 6 per cent of votes.

The ultra-nationalist Greater Romania Party appeared to have failed to reach the five per cent minimum needed for representation in the parliament.

Under Romania's constitution, it will be Basescu's job to name a prime minister, with parliament voting whether to validate his choice.

As the vote count continued, about 10,000 people turned out in Bucharest, Romania's capital, to watch a military parade marking the country's 90 anniversary, with Basescu laying a wreath at the city's Triumphal Arch.

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