Of the nations on track to join the European Union, Romania remains the most corrupt. It's also one of the poorest, with incomes about a quarter of the EU average and more than a million farmers who still use horse or ox carts.
It's statistics like these that compelled Romanians to use a presidential vote on Sunday to elect a leader who may finally turn this country toward the Western camp.
Romania did enter NATO this year, but the election of reformist Traian Basescu as president should help clean up the judiciary and encourage other steps needed to curb high-level graft.
Just last week, the EU set its toughest standards ever for an applicant country on Romania, which has foundered on reforms since communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was toppled 15 years ago. Its entry is set for 2007, but the former communists who have largely ruled Romania up to now have been reluctant to end state subsidies of uncompetitive factories or fight corruption meaningfully.
Mr. Basescu's victory heralds a potential break from that recent past. The former sea captain will need first to make sure his minority party, the center-right Justice and Truth Alliance, can control parliament, either in a coalition or a new election.
As slow as it may be, democracy is doing wonders for many former communist nations like Romania.