(AP) Romanian's center-left government is expected to win a comfortable victory in Sunday parliamentary elections, but the result could lead to more of the political instability that has plagued the impoverished Balkan nation this year.
President Traian Basescu must nominate the prime minister, and he has indicated he may not appoint current Premier Victor Ponta even if his coalition wins a majority. The two have been embroiled in a bitter personal feud since Ponta tried and failed to impeach the center-right Basescu in July.
If Basescu refuses to appoint Ponta, it would cause a political standoff. Basescu could nominate someone else, but his choice would have to be approved by Parliament. If his candidate fails in two rounds of voting, Parliament could be dissolved.
Polls opened at 7 a.m. (0500 GMT) and will close at 9 p.m. (1900 GMT). Election authorities said some 250 polling stations were unable to open on time in some parts of Romania due to heavy snow.
Many Romanians are fed up with the power struggle between Basescu and Ponta, especially as the country remains one of the poorest and most corrupt members of the European Union. The country is enduring deep austerity cuts in return for a 20-million ($26-million) bailout to help its foundering economy.
More than 18 million Romanians are eligible to vote in Sunday's ballot to elect 452 representatives of a two-chamber Parliament for the next four years. Parties need at least 5 percent of the vote to secure a seat in the two-chamber legislature.
Polls put Ponta's Union of Socialist Liberals at about 57 percent, with Basescu allies, the center-right Just Romania Alliance, second with about 20 percent. The populist party of media tycoon Dan Diaconescu has profited from the rancor, coming in third with about 15 percent.
Besides the failed bid to impeach Basescu, the country has seen three prime ministers and Cabinets this year and huge anti-austerity protests. The European Union and the United States criticized the government for failing to respect the rule of law and of abusing constitutional rules over the impeachment attempt.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will monitor Sunday's vote.