Romania's presidential election eclipsed by political crisis

FILE- In this Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019, file picture, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis speaks during the National Council of the Liberal Party in Bucha...

FILE- In this Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019, file picture, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis speaks during the National Council of the Liberal Party in Bucha...

FILE - In this Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019, file picture Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila smiles during a congress of the ruling Social Democratic ...

FILE - In this Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019, file picture Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila smiles during a congress of the ruling Social Democratic ...

FILE- In this file photo dated Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, an elderly woman stands in the corridor of a retirement home during a visit by Romanian presiden...

FILE- In this file photo dated Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, an elderly woman stands in the corridor of a retirement home during a visit by Romanian presiden...

In this Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019, supporters of Dan Barna, the presidential candidate of the USR-Plus Alliance, hold banners before his speech at a rall...

In this Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019, supporters of Dan Barna, the presidential candidate of the USR-Plus Alliance, hold banners before his speech at a rall...

FILE- In this Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019 file picture a woman clutching loafs of bread and some eggs walks along with a child by a cleaning facility during...

FILE- In this Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019 file picture a woman clutching loafs of bread and some eggs walks along with a child by a cleaning facility during...

FILE- In this Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019, file picture, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis waves to supporters during the National Council of the Liberal P...

FILE- In this Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019, file picture, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis waves to supporters during the National Council of the Liberal P...

FILE - In this Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019, file picture delegates attend a congress of the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) where Romanian Prime Mini...

FILE - In this Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019, file picture delegates attend a congress of the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) where Romanian Prime Mini...

In this photo dated Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019, Dan Barna, the presidential candidate of the USR-Plus Alliance, speaks at a rally in Bucharest, Romania. R...

In this photo dated Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019, Dan Barna, the presidential candidate of the USR-Plus Alliance, speaks at a rally in Bucharest, Romania. R...

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romanians are set to choose the country's new president Sunday, in a traditionally highly-contested election overshadowed this year by a political crisis which saw a minority government installed just days ago.

Polls show incumbent center-right President Klaus Iohannis ahead with around 40%, followed by the center-left candidate Viorica Dancila, until last month Romania's prime minister, at 15-22%.

Dancila's Social Democrat government was forced to step down after losing a no-confidence vote in parliament, amid corruption scandals and allegations it wanted close control of the judiciary.

Iohannis is a former leader of the National Liberal Party, which on Monday formed a minority government led by Prime Minister Ludovic Orban.

If no candidate wins more than 50% on Sunday, there will be a second round of voting on Nov. 24.

While lacking an executive role, Romania's president has significant decision-making powers, including on matters of national security and foreign policy, and can reject party nominees for the prime minister and government nominees for judicial appointments.

The president — elected for a 5-year term — can also return legislation approved by parliament, but has to ratify it if lawmakers back it a second time.

Political analyst Andrei Taranu said campaigning has been "extremely bland" this time, due to the government crisis.

"Usually, campaigns are aggressive, emotional and lack any policy content," he said. "This time there wasn't even any emotion. Instead, everything was focused on the no-confidence vote."

Romania, a member of the European Union since 2007, is plagued by widespread poverty with over 25% of its population living on less than $5.50 a day. Its state budget deficit is at 2.8 percent and is projected to reach 4.4% of GDP next year, according to European Commission forecasts, well above the EU limit of 3%.

And with some 4 million Romanians living abroad, the country faces an increased labor shortage.

Other leading candidates in Sunday's vote include independent Mircea Diaconu, a former actor and theater director, and Dan Barna, who heads Romania's third-largest party, the center-right Union Save Romania.

Taranu said polarization over the political crisis has benefited the two top candidates.

"This situation kept Klaus Iohannis and Viorica Dancila in the spotlight, while other candidates had no chance to rise on the political stage," he said.

Around 18.2 million people are eligible to vote, including Romanians living abroad. The election will be the costliest in Romanian history, with a price tag for taxpayers of around $35 million.