BUCHAREST Romania's leftist Social Democrats (PSD) are likely to win a Dec. 11 parliamentary election, an opinion poll showed on Saturday, bolstering their chances of returning to government after a year-long break.
The 10-year-old European Union member has been governed by technocrats led by Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos since November 2015, when the PSD resigned from power after a deadly nightclub fire in Bucharest triggered mass protests.
The survey of 1,000 respondents conducted on Nov. 20 to 27 by polling institute Avangarde, showed 43 percent of voters would choose the PSD, about five percentage points up from surveys published in early 2016.
The centre-right National Liberal Party (PNL) would win 27 percent of the vote, according to the poll published by private station Realitatea TV. It has an error margin of 3.1 percent.
The new Union Save Romania (USR) should get 8 percent, followed by junior PSD ally ALDE with 6 percent and the PMP party of former President Traian Basescu with 5 percent.
A November poll conducted by Kantar-TNS for USR, put PSD at 40 percent, USR at 19 and PNL at 18 percent. The error margin was 3.1 percent.
The nightclub fire, which killed 64 people, reignited concerns over widespread official corruption, with many blaming Victor Ponta's PSD government for not doing enough to tackle the problem.
But in June local elections the PSD won more than half of the country's mayoral posts in cities and villages.
The leftists had begun reversing years of austerity before quitting government and analysts say voters would rather focus on problems such as wages and pensions and overlook graft as a national issue.
"If surveys are validated on Sunday, the PSD will surely give the next prime minister (in an alliance with ALDE). No doubt about that," said political analyst Cristian Patrasconiu.
"They are an extremely powerful machine, having half of the mayors in Romania, three quarters of the county councils and a robust structure of power across the country."
Municipal and county authorities matter in Romania - one of the EU's poorest members - as officials control a total budget of about 70 billion lei ($16.6 billion), or a third of budget revenues, and have access to EU development funds.
The PSD governed Romania for about 17 years in various coalitions since the 1989 fall of communism. They favour higher social spending and re-introduction of progressive taxation. Romania now levies a flat income tax of 16 percent.
($1 = 4.2269 lei)
(Editing by Susan Thomas)