When Corneliu Vadim Tudor announced he was running for president, many considered it a joke. They've stopped laughing. The ultranationalist firebrand with a history of vituperative attacks on enemies real and perceived -- Jews, Hungarians, Gypsies, political rivals -- finished second with 28 percent of the vote in the first round of presidential elections Nov. 26. He faces front-runner Ion Iliescu, a former president, in a runoff Sunday. The prospect of Iliescu as president worried many Romanians, who feared that an ex-communist at the helm would hurt the country's chances of joining the European Union. But if an Iliescu presidency is worrisome, the idea of a Tudor victory provokes outright alarm among Romania's elite. His rise is all the more spectacular, considering that he was known as court poet to the late dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. But months after Ceausescu's execution in 1989, Tudor was back with a flourish. Exploiting centuries-old hatreds, his anti-Semitic and anti-Hungarian Greater Romania party found its niche among a people who feel consider themselves hemmed in by hostile Hungarians, Turks and Slavs. Tudor was elected to the Senate in 1992 and has remained there despite hundreds of libel cases pending against him, Associated Press reports.