Romanian Prime Minister Ludovic Orban has resigned after his party’s disappointing performance in parliamentary elections.
Despite losing to the opposition Social Democrats (PSD), Mr Orban said he still hoped that his National Liberal Party (NLP) could put together a majority coalition to settle on his successor.
With 95% of ballots counted, the PSD had 30% of the vote to the NLP’s 25%.
Mr Orban said he wasn’t “clinging to any position”.
“For me the national interest comes before the party and private one,” he said during a televised statement.
Despite winning, it’s unlikely that the opposition PSD will take hold , because the NLP has more potential allies.
Several smaller parties will hold the balance of power, which appears to favour a Liberal-led coalition.
Turnout was a record low of 33%. Romania is one the poorest countries within the EU and many its citizens have moved abroad in recent years in search of higher lives – especially to western EU member states.
The Liberals back closer EU integration, while the Social Democrats are more nationalist and populist.
After an poll predicted a robust showing by the PSD, party leader Marcel Ciolacu said he expected “Orban’s resignation”.
“It is what Romanians have asked for with their votes,” he said.
But Mr Orban initially claimed victory, saying: “We will seek to represent an array of interests.”
Correspondents say the NLP should be ready to form a government during a coalition with the recently formed USR-Plus party, which looks to possess won about 15% of the vote.
Another potential NLP ally is that the UDMR party which represents the country’s Hungarian minority. The party has already said it wants to co-operate with the NLP.
The Social Democrats were in office until last year, once they suffered a series of scandals and there have been street protests. The party’s previous leader, Liviu Dragnea, was jailed for corruption.
A far-right nationalist party, Alliance for Romanian Unity (AUR), will enter parliament for the primary time with almost 9% of the vote.
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