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Octav Ganea, Mediafax) ROMANIA OUT, Associated Press
Romania's President in office, Traian Basescu, exits a voting booth, in Bucharest, Romania, Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014. Romanians vote in the first round of the presidential elections, to elect a new leader as President Traian Basescu steps down after 10 years in office.

BUCHAREST, Romania — Romanians voted Sunday to elect a new leader as President Traian Basescu steps down after 10 years, with the center-left prime minister favored to win.

Prime Minister Victor Ponta faced challengers including a city mayor and a prominent lawyer. If no candidate secures a majority in the vote, there will be a runoff on Nov. 16.

"After 10 years of war and destruction, it is time for reconstruction," Ponta said after voting, referring to his bitter rivalry with Basescu, who steps down in December.

Basescu — known for his outspoken and often critical comments about politicians and Romania's legal system — also acknowledged Romania needed a different style of president.

"We need a president who will consolidate the rule of the law," he said.

Some voters said they wanted a president who would present a good image of this nation of 19 million.

"I want a president who is not corrupt, has a good standing and understands foreign policy," said Alexandru Antoniu, a 36-year-old engineer, saying he would vote for anti-corruption crusader Monica Macovei.

Security guard Ilie Stefan, 26, said he was planning to vote after his shift ended. "I want a president who will make sure that we are not seen as a nation of thieves because we aren't, we work," he said.

Some 35 percent of the electorate had voted by 4 p.m (1400 GMT).

The president is in charge of defense and foreign policy and appoints the chiefs of the country's two main intelligence agencies, as well as top prosecutors and ambassadors.

The 42-year-old Ponta is a former prosecutor whose popularity appears not to have been badly damaged by corruption probes of senior members of his Social Democratic Party. He has pledged lower taxes, higher pensions, and to uphold good relations with both the European Union and China.