(Bloomberg) -- Romanian President Klaus Iohannis won the first round of presidential elections and will face a runoff in two weeks against ex-Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, exit polls showed.
Iohannis, who’s been a steadying force in a nation where political chaos has become the norm, won about 39% of votes in Sunday’s election, according to surveys by CURS-Avangarde and IRES. Dancila got about 22%.
Five prime ministers have come and gone since Iohannis was elected in 2014, while Bucharest has seen its biggest protests since communism collapsed three decades ago.
The unrest was sparked by attempts to ease punishments for crooked officials and keep the head of the governing Social Democrats out of prison. The party’s reforms raised similar rule-of-law concerns to those that have turned Hungary and Poland into villains in Brussels.
Iohannis, 60, helped repel and delay legislation long enough that the ruling-party boss was eventually convicted and sentenced to jail time. His replacement, Dancila, halted the plans, avoiding the risk of European Union sanctions before her government was toppled last month.
Polls suggest the incumbent will win the deciding vote on Nov. 24.
“Iohannis’s chances are close to 100% unless something significant and totally unexpected happens,” said Andrei Taranu, deputy dean at the Political Science University in Bucharest.
That’s despite the fact his first term wasn’t a total success. Critics say he was unable to curb government spending that’s pushed the budget deficit toward EU limits. Nor could he stop the Social Democrats from firing anti-graft crusader Laura Codruta Kovesi, who was recently appointed as the bloc’s first top prosecutor.
The EU said in October it would maintain judicial monitoring of the country of 20 million. The scrutiny has been in place since Romania joined in 2007, keeping it out of the passport-free Schengen area.
Iohannis recently helped his ally, Liberal Party head Ludovic Orban, take charge of the new government. He may also lead Romania through its first-ever snap elections early next year.
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