Two hours after polls closed and exit polls announced results in Romania presidential elections on Sunday were too close to call, candidate Victor Ponta - who is also prime minister - admitted defeat against opposition candidate Klaus Iohannis. For his part, shortly after Ponta's statement Iohannis first claimed victory with messages on Facebook addressing the huge numbers of people turning out to vote: "We took our country back!"

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Ponta's decision came despite several exit polls showed him in a slight lead against Christian Liberal Iohannis, while others put Iohannis in the lead. Details on exit polls here

  • Iohannis's victory comes at the end of a sinister campaign in which Ponta took no prisoners in his attempt to secure victory. The most visible abuse was preventing thousands of people from casting their vote abroad in the first round of the presidential poll on November 2 - which prompted massive protests in Bucharest over the past two weeks. The total lack of progress in guaranteeing the constitutional right of Romanians anywhere to vote made the situation even worse in the second round.

Huge problems with voting abroad - where thousands of people could not cast their ballots on Sunday because there were not enough polling stations to cope with the high turnout - prompted protests of many thousands in Bucharest and Cluj on Sunday night. Protesters called for the constitutional right to vote be respected for every Romanian and that PM Victor Ponta's government step down.

  • VIDEO Long queues at polling stations abroad rose major issues - on Sunday evening aspiring voters clashed with gendarmes in Paris

The protests later turned into displays of celebration as Ponta admitted defeat.

  • VIDEO Anti-government protests in Bucharest on Sunday night:

Slightly before Ponta's announcement, Iohannis' opposition coalition ACL announced that with close to 30% of the total votes accounted for in a parallel count, Iohannis had an advantage of about 8% against Ponta. As night progressed, media quoted separate vote counting by ACL and Ponta's Social Democrats showing that the distance between the two stood at 6-10 percentage points.

Shortly after Ponta's statement, a journalist for Ponta-friendly news channel Antena 3 said she had confirmation that Ponta would not resign as head of the government. He later made a statement for Antena 3 saying that he would not resign as the only ones entitled to ask him to step down were his political supporters. Many observers expect, however, that he would face intense pressure to step down as prime minister in wake of his electoral defeat.

Turnout in this elections stood at 62% as polling stations closed at 9 p.m. local time, a record figure for Romania's past 14 years. That is, 9 percentage points more than in the first round of elections on November 2.

The high turnout - apparently prompted by the humiliation of voters abroad in the first round - appeared to surprise everybody in the run-off, while results seemed to compensate claims of major irregularities by Ponta's team during voting today - which according to NGO's observing the poll included "electoral tourism" in large PSD-controlled areas, falsified votes, prevention of voting abroad, breaches of audiovisual legislation.

In the first round of elections, a strong mobilisation in favor of Ponta's rivals in online and social media failed to give results, with Ponta claiming no less than 40% of the votes, followed by Iohannis with 30%.

  • But with some of the most influential TV news channels covering Ponta's campaign in a strongly manipulative way, the online world appeared capable of mobilising people in unexpectedly large numbers in the run-off. So it happens that Klaus Iohannis first announced victory with a "Victory is ours!" statement on Facebook - accompanied by a message of support for voters who spent hours in long queues to have their say at polling stations abroad. Later in the night, he joined the thousands of demonstrators in downtown Bucharest.