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Romanians hold run-off presidential vote today

Romanians had a further chance to break with their Communist past in a run-off presidential election today, but incumbent President Ion Iliescu looked likely to retain office.

Iliescu, 62, a former Communist official who rose to power in the wake of Romania's bloody 1989 revolution, won 47 percent of the vote in the first ballot two weeks ago, just short of the absolute majority needed for outright victory.

His opponent, Bucharest University rector Emil Constantinescu, 52, running for the main opposition Democratic Convention alliance, got 31 percent.

More than 16-million people were registered to vote at the 16,411 polling stations opening at 6 a.m. (11 p.m. Saturday EST) and closing at 9 p.m., although they can stay open longer if polling is slow. A simple majority is needed to win the run-off.

The Democratic Convention, and 18-party centrist alliance, complained Friday that the first ballot, when Romanians also elected a Parliament, was marred by fraud and irregularities. It demanded a rerun of the parliamentary election.

Election observers from the Washington-based National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute said they would closely watch for weaknesses identified in the chaotic first ballot.

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