World

Romanians electing new president; prime minister favorite to win in the nation of 19 million

  • Two women walk down a flight of stairs in Bucharest, Romania, Friday, Oct. 31, 2014, backdropped by a campaign poster, attached to the facade of an apartment block, depicting Prime Minister Victor Ponta, leader of the ruling Social Democracy Party (PSD) who runs for president in elections set to take place on Nov. 2. Romanians go to the polls on Sunday to elect a new leader as President Traian Basescu steps down after 10 years. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru, Mediafax) ROMANIA OUT

    Two women walk down a flight of stairs in Bucharest, Romania, Friday, Oct. 31, 2014, backdropped by a campaign poster, attached to the facade of an apartment block, depicting Prime Minister Victor Ponta, leader of the ruling Social Democracy Party (PSD) who runs for president in elections set to take place on Nov. 2. Romanians go to the polls on Sunday to elect a new leader as President Traian Basescu steps down after 10 years. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru, Mediafax) ROMANIA OUT  (The Associated Press)

  • A man walks past campaign posters in Bucharest, Romania, Friday, Oct. 31, 2014. Romanians go to the polls on Sunday to elect a new leader as President Traian Basescu steps down after 10 years. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru, Mediafax) ROMANIA OUT

    A man walks past campaign posters in Bucharest, Romania, Friday, Oct. 31, 2014. Romanians go to the polls on Sunday to elect a new leader as President Traian Basescu steps down after 10 years. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru, Mediafax) ROMANIA OUT  (The Associated Press)

  • An elderly man reads a voting ballot paper in front of voting booths in the village of Branisteni some 35 kilometers from Bucharest, Romania, Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014. Romanians vote in the first round of the presidential elections, to elect a new leader as President Traian Basescu steps down after 10-years in office. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru, Mediafax) ROMANIA OUT

    An elderly man reads a voting ballot paper in front of voting booths in the village of Branisteni some 35 kilometers from Bucharest, Romania, Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014. Romanians vote in the first round of the presidential elections, to elect a new leader as President Traian Basescu steps down after 10-years in office. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru, Mediafax) ROMANIA OUT  (The Associated Press)

Romanians have begun voting to elect a new leader as President Traian Basescu steps down after 10 years, with the prime minister favored to win in the nation of 19 million.

Prime Minister Victor Ponta faces challengers including a city mayor and a prominent lawyer. If no candidate secures an absolute majority in Sunday's vote, there will be a runoff on Nov. 16.

The president is in charge of defense and foreign policy, names the chiefs of the country's two main intelligence agencies as well as top prosecutors and ambassadors.

The 42-year-old Ponta is an ex-prosecutor whose popularity appears not to have been badly damaged by corruption probes of senior members of his Social Democratic Party. He has pledged lower taxes, higher pensions, good relations with both the European Union and China.