There were two critical elections held on Sunday, one in Romania and another down in Bolivia. Additionally, over the course of the week results continued to pour in from last weekend's election in Namibia.
Still incomplete returns point to a landslide in this resource-rich but sparsely populated country in south-western Africa. In early returns, Hifikepunye Pohamba, the country's president and leader of the governing South West African People's Organization (SWAPO), had won six of every seven votes. About 1.18 million people had registered to vote in the November 27-28 elections in Namibia. Initial results from the presidential race showed Pohamba securing 67 percent of the 85,361 certified ballots cast while the nascent opposition party that spun off from SWAPO, the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) candidate Hidipo Hamutenya, the former foreign minister, trailed with 12 percent in a 12 person race.
SWAPO has ruled Namibia since independence in 1990 but the party has been rocked by a number of corruption scandals, including one involving Hu Haifeng the son of China's president Hu Jintao.
Fourteen parties were contesting seats in the parliamentary elections. In the outgoing Parliament, SWAPO held 55 of the 72 seats. Results indicate that SWAPO will retain at least two-thirds of the seats but fall short of its previous three-quarter hold. The RDP, meanwhile, seems poised to win at least ten percent of the seats.
Amidst a severe economic downturn, Romanians returned to the polls for a second round run-off between the incumbent Traian Basescu who leads the centrist Democratic Liberal Party and Mircea Geoana of leftist Social Democrats. According to the exit poll results of sociological institute INSOMAR, cited by the Romanian news site Ziare Romensti, Geoana, a former foreign minister has eked out a narrow win with 51 percent of the votes cast Sunday, whereas Basescu got 49 percent. Another exit poll by CCSB gives Geoana 51.2 percent versus 48.8 percent for Basescu. However a poll from CSOP gives Basescu a 50.4 percent to 49.6 percent win.
Both men have claimed victory setting the stage for continued political instability for this troubled country of 21.5 million people. Romania is a parliamentary Republic and this election is for the President who in turn appoints a Prime Minister to head the government and run day-to-day affairs. The President largely sets the country's foreign policy. This past October, the minority three party coalition government fell in a no confidence vote, the first such vote since 1990.
The Romanian economy is set to contract this year by 8.8 percent. After years of record economic growth fueled by easy credit and heavy foreign investment based on a neo-liberal economic model, Romania's economic fortunes collapsed last year in the wake of the global financial crisis. Romania has also been impacted by downturns in Spanish and Italian construction sectors. Some ten percent of Romanians live outside Romania working in construction and working as domestics or day laborers. In 2007, Romanians abroad sent 7 billion back home; this remittances are barely expected to top 5 billion.
Today's elections were a run-off. The first round was held back on November 22. That election was marred by allegations of multiple voting and votes being bought. There were similar reports Sunday. Turnout was high at 57 percent. While the campaign centered on economic issues and concerns of political instability, the final week before the election was dominated by a video posted on Youtube from a 2004 campaign rally in which then President Basescu appeared to strike a 10-year-old boy in the face. The Basescu campaign dismissed the video saying that it had been altered.