Romanian Far-Right May Win Presidency

BUCHAREST, Romania - Far-rightists surged to become the main opposition in Romania's parliament in official counts Monday, and at least one major poll said their leader could win the second-round vote for president.

The Central Electoral Bureau (BEC) said after counting returns from more than 96 percent of polling stations in Sunday's elections that former President Ion Iliescu, a onetime communist, had 37 percent of the presidential vote.

Corneliu Vadim Tudor, an outspoken poet and publisher known for anti-Semitic and anti-Hungarian remarks, and who appealed to angry, jobless Romanians, had 28 percent, the bureau said.

BEC figures showed that Iliescu's Party of Social Democracy (PDSR) of ex-communists received 37 percent of the vote for the lower chamber of parliament, while Tudor's Greater Romania Party (PRM) stood at 20 percent.

For the upper chamber, the Senate, PDSR had 38 percent against 21 for PRM, which surged from almost negligible numbers in a local election in June to become the second largest political grouping in parliament, and knock out centrists and liberals who ruled Romania for the last four years.



TUDOR CALLS FOR ALLIANCE WITH PDSR

Buoyed by the returns of Sunday's vote, Tudor called for a governing alliance with Iliescu's PDSR -- an option which both the veteran ex-president and his party leaders firmly oppose.

"I'm not asking to come to government," Tudor told private Antena 1 television. "But PDSR leaders should understand we are at a historic crossroads. Our electorate are calling for an alliance (with the PDSR) to take the country out of the winter."

Iliescu brushed off Tudor's offering, but said his party would start coalition talks with the other parties who win seats in the 467-strong assembly.

"Tudor's promises are hollow words," Iliescu said. "We want talks with all parliamentary forces apt to assume responsibility for government, to restore hope for Romanians."



NEIGHBOURING MOLDOVA CONCERNED

The gains of Tudor and his PRM caused shockwaves in neighbouring ex-Soviet Moldova, where the presidency warned that "the rise to power of extremist parties is detrimental to good understanding and peaceful cohabitation".

Reunion with ethnic kin in Moldova, where two-thirds of the population speak Romanian, figures high on the PRM's agenda.

One of the biggest local polling organisations, IMAS, said Tudor could squeak ahead of Iliescu in the second round for president on December 10.

Tudor is seen appealing primarily to the huge masses of down and out in this impoverished Eastern European country, hit hard by restructuring and selloffs of the state industries built up by communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu but now a huge drain on the state budget.

Alin Teodorescu, head of IMAS, told Reuters that the latest polling for the second round gave Tudor 54 percent of the vote, versus 46 percent for Iliescu.

"I would be very surprised if Tudor did not win," he said.

Another polling organisation, Metro Media Transylvania, said its findings, based on incomplete results, showed Iliescu winning the second round by a slim majority.