An ethnic German mayor who defeated the prime minister in a runoff to become president of Romania said today his victory signals stronger relations with the West and greater stability for Eastern Europe. Thousands of Romanians celebrated the surprise victory of Klaus Iohannis over Victor Ponta, which the mayor of Sibiu said would lead to "deep change" in Romania. The victory of the slow-talking physics teacher represents a victory for a young, post-communist, well-traveled generation who get their news and views from social media, where Iohannis was widely favored, and not from the mostly pro-government traditional media. Two hours after polls closed, an ashen-faced Ponta conceded defeat. A mass protest transformed into a celebration as Iohannis waded through thousands gathered in a square where many were shot dead during the 1989 anti-communist revolt.
Iohannis tapped into Romanians' desire for a quiet life and an end to bitter conflicts between outgoing President Traian Basescu and Ponta, promising to be a "mediator president." His win was also the failure of the nationalist card played by Ponta, who mocked his rival's minority German ethnicity and the fact that he is a Lutheran and not a member of the powerful Orthodox Church. Challenged to sing the national anthem, Iohannis gave a tenor rendering of the first verse on Friday, to applause. Iohannis said he would "definitely bring more assurances and stability to this region." He promised to crack down on endemic corruption and guarantee an independent justice system and said Parliament must not pass a law that would grant amnesties to people serving prison sentences for corruption. "All this needs to be done as soon as possible," he said.