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Fraud Alleged in Romanian Elections

Romania's opposition on Monday accused the government of busing its supporters around the country to vote several times in weekend parliamentary and presidential elections.

Results released by the Central Electoral Bureau based on two-thirds of the total count gave the ruling Social Democratic Party more than 36 percent in Sunday's election, followed by the centrist Justice and Truth Alliance's 32 percent.

The figures leave both parties without a majority in parliament and in need of a partner for a coalition government. Candidates include the nationalist Greater Romania Party (search), with about 13 percent of the vote, and the ethnic Hungarian Party, which had 8 percent.

The presidential race also was close, requiring a runoff vote Dec. 12 between Prime Minister Adrian Nastase (search), with 40 percent, and his main challenger Traian Basescu (search), with about 34 percent. Twelve candidates ran for president.

Romania's new president will lead the Balkan country at a time of economic and judicial reforms aimed at gaining membership in the European Union. The current president, Ion Iliescu, is stepping down after leading Romania for 11 of the 15 years since the communist dictatorship was overthrown.

Both Nastase and Basescu promise to lead the east European country out of poverty. They also will likely maintain their support for U.S.-led efforts in Iraq, where Romania has sent about 700 troops.

The results in the parliamentary vote revealed a much closer race than indicated by two exit polls, which had predicted the ruling party winning about 40 percent and the alliance 35 percent.

Final election results were expected Tuesday. Turnout was about 57 percent of the 18 million eligible voters, officials said.

The opposition alliance party alleged fraud, with senior party member Cozmin Gusa saying the governing party bused its supporters around the country to vote several times. His party says the alleged fraud affected the results by 5 to 7 percent.

Basescu said the opposition would ask for lists of voters to identify those who cast their ballots multiple times.

"Romania has the right to have fair elections," he said.

His comments came as several newspapers reported that journalists working undercover were able to vote multiple times.

Foreign and Romanian observers, however, expressed guarded approval for the vote.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (search) called the election "professionally and efficiently organized," but cautioned about procedures that made it possible for people to vote multiple times.

Cristian Parvulescu, the chairman of Pro Democracy, an independent Romanian group monitoring the election, said his observers found many irregularities but the group could not determine whether large-scale fraud had occurred.

Pro Democracy said later that the group would refuse to monitor the runoffs to protest "the countless irregularities and the deficiencies of the election law."

The ruling party dismissed suggestions that it was responsible for any organized fraud. Its campaign chief, Dan Nica, accused the opposition of sending people to vote multiple times, but stressed the elections were generally fair.