, BUCHAREST, Nov 22 – Polls opened Sunday in Romania\’s presidential election, as the country struggles with a severe recession and the political turmoil following the government\’s fall mid-October.
This is the first election of a head of state since Romania entered the European Union in January 2007.
More than 18 million people out of the population of 21.5 million are listed to vote in more than 21,400 polling stations around the country. Some 300 have also been opened abroad, especially in Italy and Spain, where there are strong communities of Romanian immigrants.
The polls are due to close at 1900 GMT.
Twelve candidates are running for the presidential office but the incumbent centre-right president Traian Basescu and his Social Democrat rival Mircea Geoana are most likely to face each other in the run-off, due December 6, according to polls.
Along with the presidential vote, Romania is also holding a national referendum to decide if it should reduce the number of lawmakers from the current 471 to 300, in a unicameral chamber.
Several NGOs contested the organisation of this referendum called by the incumbent president the same day as the presidential election, saying it was affecting the equality of chances between candidates.
As many Romanians claim disillusionment with their politicians, turnout could be less then 50 percent.