UPDATE 3-Romania government headed for parliament majority
* Exit polls show leftist USL will win most seats
* Could re-open dispute between government and president
* Apathy, bad weather keep turnout low
* President could appoint a different PM
BUCHAREST, Dec 9 (Reuters) - Exit polls showed Romania's prime minister won a clear victory in a Sunday election, w hich may herald another round of a power struggle with the rightist president and complicate talks for a new IMF deal.
Victor Ponta's leftist Social Liberal Union (USL) won 54-58 percent of votes according to three exit polls and is headed for a majority, bu t analysts said President Traian Basescu may ask someone else from the USL to form a government.
Any prolonged period without a new administration in place would unnerve markets and raise questions about how Romania would obtain a new International Monetary Fund deal once the current agreement expires in early 2013.
Ponta tried to impeach Basescu in July, a campaign that brought harsh criticism from the European Union and United States and has left the two men in an uncomfortable power share.
"2012 has been the year of victory against Traian Basescu, and 2013 must be the year of victory against the economic crisis and poverty," USL co-leader Crin Antonescu told reporters after the exit polls.
The former communist country has made progress in some areas since the 1989 revolution that overthrew dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, but although it joined the European Union in 2007, it remains the bloc's second poorest member.
Heavy snow, rain and fog across the Balkan country hampered turnout, which was only 37 percent by early evening, but also reflected deep dissatisfaction with politicians - many of whom voters view as corrupt - among an electorate of just over 18 million. First official results are due early on Monday.
Romania lags regional peers Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic and struggles to supply running water and reliable electricity to some of its 19 million people. Long-term reforms such as privatisation of inefficient state companies and an overhaul of health care have failed to materialise, and the economy is struggling to recover from a deep recession.
The exit polls put opposition Right Romania Alliance (ARD), allies of Basescu, on about 19 percent and populist Dan Diaconescu, who wants deep tax cuts, in third place on 10-13 percent of the vote.