Romania's center-right presidential hopeful quits race

BUCHAREST Sat May 31, 2014 11:51am EDT

Crin Antonescu, leader of Romania's second largest party, the National Liberals, gestures during a news conference in Bucharest May 26, 2014.    REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel

Crin Antonescu, leader of Romania's second largest party, the National Liberals, gestures during a news conference in Bucharest May 26, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Bogdan Cristel

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BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania's center-right candidate on Saturday withdrew his bid to run in a presidential election in November as the opposition struggles to forge an alliance after a clear win of the ruling leftists in European elections.

Crin Antonescu resigned as Liberal party leader on Monday, after the party's poor showing in the European ballot

He had been seen as a politician who could have mounted a credible challenge to leftist Prime Minister Victor Ponta, who may run for the presidency himself, or to Ponta's chosen candidate.

"I'm aware about the urgency of unification efforts of the right which must take concrete steps towards finding a candidate," Antonescu told a news briefing. "I announce my intention not to run for president."

Antonescu said a consensus candidate from the center-right must be designated no later than July 15.

Ponta's Social Democrat government easily defeated a no-confidence vote by the Liberals on Monday, hours after taking about 38 percent of votes in Sunday's European election.

Its former ally, the Liberal Party, which split from the government in February and is now the main opposition, trailed in second place with 15 percent.

Overall, the opposition parties garnered a meager 33 percent in the vote, leaving them struggling to find a joint presidential candidate.

Gaining control of the presidency would cement Ponta's dominance in Romanian politics. The incumbent two-term president, Traian Basescu, has been Ponta's arch rival and the two have clashed repeatedly over policy and frequently trade barbs in public.

(Reporting by Radu Marinas; Editing by Rosalind Russell)

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