BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania's leftist Prime Minister Victor Ponta will win a Nov. 2-16 presidential election, an opinion poll shows, giving him the task of reviving an IMF deal which was put on hold because of disagreements over a tax cut.
The next leader, who will replace two-term President Traian Basescu, will play a pivotal role in appointing a new prime minister to resume efforts to cut the budget deficit started under a series of International Monetary Fund aid deals.
A survey conducted by pollster INSCOP showed Ponta will get 40.6 percent of votes in a Nov. 2 ballot, against 30.1 percent for his main challenger, Klaus Iohannis, the centre-right opposition's candidate and ethnic German mayor of the Transylvanian city of Sibiu.
Ponta has pushed for tax cuts in talks with the IMF, with more defense spending also needed. Last week thousands of workers rallied outside the government's office to demand better living standards and wages in the EU's second poorest country.
The poll showed that in a Nov. 16 runoff vote, Ponta would receive 53.5 percent of votes, against Iohannis' 46.5 percent. The poll, commissioned by newspaper Adevarul, surveyed 1,095 people between Oct. 2-8 and has a margin of error of 3 percent.
However, the data was collected before this week, when Basescu accused Ponta, a bitter rival, of serving as an undercover intelligence officer between 1997 and 2001.
Ponta dismissed the charge as "all lies", but it remains to be seen whether he retains the lead. Previous surveys have shown Romanians tend to have greater confidence in the army and spy agencies than in parliament or politicians in general.
"Campaign developments, the vote of Undecideds in the second round, potential events that could mobilize or demobilise voters can shift Romanians' options," said INSCOP's director Remus Stefureac.
A former prosecutor and amateur rally driver, Ponta has been prime minister since 2012 and his leftist alliance commands a large majority in parliament. He drew a severe rebuke from the European Union over his efforts to impeach Basescu in a 2012 national referendum, raising concerns over rule of law.
Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Ruth Pitchford