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Romanian foreign minister resigns, again, over expatriate voting chaos

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BUCHAREST, Romania — Romania's foreign minister resigned Tuesday, after barely a week in office, after thousands of citizens overseas were unable to vote in this weekend's presidential elections.

Teodor Melescanu stepped down following the weekend's runoff vote. His predecessor resigned last week after similar problems with the first-round vote.

Images have poured in of Romanians standing in snaking lines to vote all over Europe. Anger at the problems contributed to the surprise victory of Klaus Iohannis over Prime Minister Victor Ponta.

Reacting to public anger, Parliament's lower chamber on Tuesday scrapped a controversial draft amnesty law that would have freed politicians and other officials serving prison sentences for corruption.

The draft, which would have freed anyone serving less than six years for non-violent crimes, had been criticized by the U.S. and other governments.

Suggesting his party could push for early parliamentary elections, Iohannis said the center-right Liberal Party he leads wanted to take office next year, or in 2016 when such elections are scheduled.

PHOTO: Klaus Iohannis, leader of Romania's center-right Liberals and mayor of the Transylvanian city of Sibiu, smiles while posing for a portrait, shortly after giving an interview to the Associated Press, on the first morning after exit polls in the presidential elections runoff in Bucharest, Romania, Monday, Nov. 17, 2014. The ethnic German mayor who defeated Romania's Prime Minister Victor Ponta in a presidential runoff said his victory signaled "a deep change" in Romania. (AP Photo/Octav Ganea, Mediafax) ROMANIA OUT
Klaus Iohannis, leader of Romania's center-right Liberals and mayor of the Transylvanian city of Sibiu, smiles while posing for a portrait, shortly after giving an interview to the Associated Press, on the first morning after exit polls in the presidential elections runoff in Bucharest, Romania, Monday, Nov. 17, 2014. The ethnic German mayor who defeated Romania's Prime Minister Victor Ponta in a presidential runoff said his victory signaled "a deep change" in Romania. (AP Photo/Octav Ganea, Mediafax) ROMANIA OUT

Romanians see voting as a hard-won right following the fall of communism in 1989. An estimated 3 million Romanians live abroad and they sent 3.6 billion euros ($4.6 billion) home last year, much of it supporting poor families.

Ponta said the government is working on legislation to allow postal voting.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday congratulated Iohannis, an ethnic German, saying the end of communism 25 years ago had "brought a new quality to our relationship."

"I am convinced that together we can deepen our relationship even further," she wrote.

Supporters hope Iohannis' win will attract more business, investment and attention from Europe's most powerful economy and boost the country's image abroad.

Ponta later nominated Romania's ambassador to the European Union, Mihnea Motoc, an experienced diplomat, to replace Melescanu.

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David Rising from Berlin contributed to this report.

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