Witchcraft beat me, says Romanian politician

Was a top contender for the Romanian presidency zapped out of the race by a shadowy parapsychologist enlisted by his rival? The claim might be dismissed as preposterous in most other EU countries. But here, in the homeland of Dracula, Mircea Geoana's assertion that a "negative energy attack" led to his narrow loss to re-elected President Traian Basescu has been the talk of the nation.

"The Evil Witch defeated Geoana," wrote the daily Evenimentul Zilei in an editorial. "Romanian politicians really believe that magic forces can make you president, or can destroy you. May the Force be with us!"

Like most former Soviet bloc countries, Romania is used to rough and tumble politics and the first claims and counter-claims after Mr Basescu's narrow run-off victory on 6 December were nothing out of the ordinary, with the defeated camp complaining of massive fraud.

Then came the startling allegation: Mr Geoana, in media interviews last week, asserted he had been targeted by waves of negative energy during a key debate just before the run-off.

"People who were working for Basescu in this domain were present to the right of the camera," Mr Geoana told local television. His wife, Mihaela, said he "was very badly attacked, he couldn't concentrate".

At first Romanians mocked the former foreign minister, saying he was a bad loser. Mr Basescu himself jokingly dismissed the allegations. But the recent publication of photos showing well-known parapsychologist Aliodor Manolea close to the President during his re-election campaign has caused Romanians to wonder whether he really did put a hex on his rival.

The photos show the clairvoyant, a slightly built, bearded man, walking metres behind the President before the debate. According to the Romanian Association of Transpersonal Psychology, Mr Manolea's specialities include deep mind control, clairvoyance and hypnotic trance.

In comments published yesterday, a presidential spokesman, Sever Voinescu, said he knew Mr Manolea but that the clairvoyant did not take part in campaign staff meetings. "I am not clear what this person was doing next to President Basescu," he told the daily Cotidianul.

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