Party chairman hails result after Social Democrats win 46% of vote, far ahead of second-placed Liberals on 20%.
Romania’s left-leaning Social Democrats have easily won parliamentary elections a year after a major anti-corruption drive forced the last socialist prime minister from power.
Speaking on Sunday after exit polls showed similar results, the chairman of the Social Democrats, Liviu Dragnea, said: “There should be no doubt who won the elections. Romanians want to feel at home in their own country and I want Romania to be a good home for all Romanians.”
His Social Democratic party won about 46% of the vote, with the centre-right Liberals coming second with over 20%. The Liberal party chairman, Alina Gorghiu, has resigned over the poor result.
Dragnea got a two-year suspended prison sentence in April for election fraud for inflating voter numbers in a July 2012 referendum to impeach the then president, Traian Basescu.
Under a 2001 law, Dragnea is not allowed to be appointed prime minister because of the conviction, and last week he said the party would not try to change the law. However, he told Romania TV on Monday that he had not ruled himself out as a future leader.
President Klaus Iohannis has said he will not nominate a prime minister who has been convicted or who is the subject of a corruption investigation.
Dragnea’s party has pushed a populist agenda, but on Sunday he sought to strike a conciliatory note, saying he wanted to end bitter divisions in the country.
The Save Romania Union, a new party that ran on an anti-corruption ticket, finished third, allowing it to enter parliament. A party needs 5% of the votes to enter the bicameral legislature. Votes for parties that do not make the threshold are redistributed. Nicușor Dan, the party’s leader, said it would act on behalf of ordinary people. “We will be intransigent with any act of corruption and abuse,” he said.
Turnout for the election was 39.5%, more than two percentage points less than the 2012 parliamentary elections.
The former prime minister Victor Ponta, already the subject of a corruption investigation, resigned after mass protests following a nightclub fire in October 2015 that killed 64 people. Romania is currently run by a government of technocrats headed by the prime minister, Dacian Ciolos, a former European Union agriculture commissioner.
The country of about 19 million people is one of the poorest in the 28-member European Union and perceived as one of the most corrupt.