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Romania - Presidential and General Elections

Presidential election general elections and senatorial elections in Romania, 28 november

Presidential election general elections and senatorial elections in Romania, 28 november

28/11/2004 - Analysis - 1st round

This is an important electoral year for the Romanians who, after having voted on 6 and 20 June to elect their local representatives, are now being called to ballot on 28 November to appoint the President of the Republic, their MP's and Senators. In just over five months Romania will have entirely renewed its political staff since the present President of the Republic, Ion Iliescu could not stand for a fourth mandate. This threefold election is of utmost importance given the country's upcoming entry into the EU (for the time being this is planned to take place in January 2007). The next government majority will have the heavy and exalting responsibility of concluding negotiations on the thirty chapters of "acquis communautaire" and to make Romania a Member State of the European Union.

The Romanian Political System

Romanian Parliament has two Chambers, the Senate and the Chamber of Representatives (Camera diputatilor) that are both elected for a four year period by proportional representation. Mandates are distributed in two stages: firstly by constituency and then on a national level. The electoral law of July 1992 established representation to one MP per 70,000 inhabitants and one senator for 160,000. The Chamber of Representatives has three hundred and forty-six members and the Senate has 143. The minimum number of valid votes necessary to be able to take seats in Parliament is 5% (+3% for the second party if there is a coalition and 1% for each of the other parties without rising above the 10% mark however). We should note that national minorities have a number of seats reserved for them in the Chamber of Representatives (nine in 1990, thirteen in 1992, fifteen in 1996 and eighteen in 2000).

The President of the Republic is also elected every four years with his election always coinciding with that of the MP's and the Senators. Eleven people are officially standing as candidates for this position. They are:

- Adrian Nastase, 54 years old, present Prime Minister and Social Democrat Party candidate (PSD). Foreign Affairs Minister between 1990-1992, Adrian Nastase was then president of the Chamber of Representatives before becoming head of government;

- Traian Basescu, 52 years old, mayor of the capital, Bucharest and the Justice and Truth Alliance (DA) candidate bringing together the two main opposition parties, the Democrat Party (PD) and the National Liberal Party (PNL). He was Transport Minister from 1996-2000;

- Corneliu Vadim Tudor, candidate for the Great Romania Party (PRM), an extreme rightwing party;

- Aurel Radulescu, candidate for the Popular Christian Democrat Alliance (ANCD) ;

- Ovidiu Tudorici, 35 years old, candidate for the Union for the Reconstruction of Romania (URR) ;

- Marko Bela, candidate for the Democratic Union of Magyar in Romania (UDMR) ;

- Gheorghe Ciuhandru, candidate for the National Christian Democrat Farmers' Party (PNtcd) and mayor of Timisoara ;

- Gheorghe Becali, candidate for the New Generation Party (PNG) ;

- Petre Roman, candidate for Romanian Democrat Force (FD), a party he has just created;

- Marian Milut, 49 years old, a business man and president of the National Union of Romanian Management (UNPR) and candidate for Popular Action (AP), a party led by former President of the Republic, Emil Constantinescu ;

- Raj Tunaru, candidate for the Democratic Youth Party (PTD) of which he is President at the moment.

The Romanian Political Situation

The two groups that comprise the Justice and Truth Alliance easily won the recent local elections that were held in Romania in June 2004 and in which 50% of Romanians took part.

Traian Basescu (Democrat Party) was elected with flying colours in the first round to lead the town hall of Bucharest taking 54.9% of the vote versus 29.7% for his main rival, who was no other than Mircea Geoana, the extremely popular Foreign Affairs Minister who had resigned from his post in order to take part in this election. The Democrat Party also won the majority in the town council with 51.2% versus 31.1% for the Social Democrat Party and 6.4% for the Great Romania Party.

In Cluj, the country's fourth biggest town, Emil Bloc surprised everyone in the first round by eliminating nationalist Gheorghe Funar (PRM), the town's leading magistrate for the past twelve years. In the second round Emil Bloc came out ahead of the Interior Minister, Ioan Rus (PSD) who had also given up his position within the government in order to stand in the local elections.

The opposition won the towns of Arad, Oreada, Brasov, Suceava and Piatra-Neamt whilst the ruling party won in Constanta (in the first round), Iasi, Focsani, Ploiesti, Pitesti and Galati. The National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Democrat Party (PD) won 43.60% of the vote taking 650 mayors' mandates versus 42.74%; a greater number of mandates (799) due to the great number of rural mandates went to the Social Democrat Party and 2.5% to the Great Romania Party (121 mandates). The opposition won 19 of the regional capitals, ie thirteen less than during the previous local elections in 2000.

These local elections confirmed the territorial establishment of the main political forces. The Social Democrat Party remains well established in the country where 45% of Romanians live, as well as in the East of the country, in Moldava, in Dobrodja and Oltania; the opposition is predominant in the capital of Bucharest as in most of the large towns.

The Presidential Campaign

Adrian Nastase was the first candidate to register with the Central Electoral Bureau, an important step, since according to electoral law the order of the candidates on the voting slips has to agree with the order in which candidatures are delivered. As a candidate the Prime Minister promised to be "a President who will bring everyone together", and to relieve Romania of its poverty. "Our objective will be to consolidate the progress achieved by Romania over the last four years", he declared during his official investiture by his political party.

On 28 November the present President of the Republic, Ion Iliescu will be canvassing for a seat in Senate and should still be the president of the Social Democrat Party at the end of his mandate. The President of the Republic is extremely popular amongst his countrymen and his presence on the lists of the Social Democrat Party should certainly be a considerable advantage to the ruling party. Mircea Geoana, former Foreign Affairs Minister and unfortunate candidate in the last local elections in Bucharest is the favourite to become Adrian Nastase's Prime Minister if the latter wins. He will be seconded by a Deputy Prime Minister, Codrut Seres, according to the agreement made between the Social Democrat Party and the Romanian Humanist Party (PUR), after the two parties created a national union last September.

Adrian Nastase has had to face internal fighting within his own party and finally gave in to the authority of the President of the Republic, Ion Iliescu. Hence the Prime Minister accepted candidates on his lists who were closer to the party's old team and believed to be more experienced, advisors and close collaborators with the President - in the place of the victors of the local elections on 6 and 20 June last, who were younger and represented the party's future. The compromises that Adrian Nastase accepted led a great many political analysts to say that the Prime Minister did not command control over his party. We should add that his presidential campaign will be co-ordinated by another of Ion Iliescu's close colleagues- Octavian Stireanu, the campaign director he chose himself since he was appointed campaign manager.

Traian Basescu, who was appointed immediately after the withdrawal of Theodor Dimitriu Stolojan on 2 October for health reasons, is standing as the only opposition candidate. Theodor Dimitriu Stolojan, former Prime Minister (1991-1992), president of the National Liberal Party and unfortunate candidate in the presidential election on 26 November 2000, made a come back in the Romanian political arena after having worked in the USA for the World Bank between 1992 and 1998. He is a popular personality and also decided to leave the presidency of the National Liberal Party.

Traian Basescu has promised the Romanians a definite improvement in their standard of life announcing that he would raise the average salary from 195 euro to 312 euro in 2008 and that he would increase retirement pensions, the minimum salary and the average salary of civil servants. The Justice and Truth Alliance candidate's programme also plans for a distribution of financial aid to young married couples and to double the amount of the global family allowance. In order to finance these numerous measures Traian Basescu intends to reform the tax system (a drop of 25 to 16% in taxes on profit and the introduction of a single tax quota of 16% with special measures for small incomes). The opposition candidate believes that the fight against corruption is a priority, "it supposes both long and mid term the adoption of a law that allows for no exceptions, the reduction of taxation that enables companies on the black market to come out into the open and the incrimination of tax evasion within the context of economic crime".

The Mayor of Bucharest also wants to work towards improving Romania's relations with its neighbours, notably the Ukraine and the State of Serbia-Montenegro. Calin Popescu Tariceanu, a business man and director general of Citroën, interim president of the National Liberal Party since the departure of Theodor Dimitriu Stolojan, has been officially designated to take the position of Prime Minister if Traian Basescu wins. "The programme I am going to suggest aims particularly at consolidating the market economy and the private sector. I want to give Romanians new hope of well being", he maintained.

On 10 August last Traian Basescu was accused of "abuse of power, forgery and fraud" after the sale of 16 ships during the 1990's according to terms that are believed to have damaged the State. "This accusation is the result of a political order that aims to discredit an adversary before the general elections on 28 November next", he declared.

"If I win I shall liquidate the mafia in forty eight hours and block illegal funds, confiscate the gangsters' credit", declared Cornéliu Vadim Tudor on 27 March last, the day his candidature to the presidential election was announced. "I shall be an adept of integration to the EU and I shall respect all of the diplomatic treaties signed by Romania was well as the agreements with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank", he added. With the support of the central union, Bloc National Syndical (BNS) led by Dumitru Costin, the leader of the Great Romania Party would like to "give power back to the Romanian people, since his election to the Presidency of the Republic is part of "God's plan for the Romanian people".

For the last few years Cornéliu Vadim Tudor has been trying to fight his anti-semitic, xenophobic image and to take his party to the centre of the political scale. He even went as far as erecting a bust of former Israeli leader Itzhak Rabin in the Park of Roses in Brasov. Recently he included a paragraph prohibiting "any anti-semitic or revisionist position" in the statutes of his party. For the very first time he also acknowledged the responsibility of Marshall Ion Antonescu, whom he had previously qualified as a "national hero" for the deaths of 400, 000 Jews who were sent to the camps during the Second World War - until now he had always denied any participation by Romania in the Holocaust. Finally he announced that his electoral campaign would be led by an Israeli public relations company, Arad Communications that had help in Ariel Sharon's victory in the general elections in February 2001 in Israel.

According to all the opinion polls Prime Minister Adrian Nastase should win the first round of the presidential election ahead of Traian Basescu. A survey undertaken by Data Media and published on 4 November reveals that Adrian Nastase would win 40% of the vote versus 31% for Traian Basescu and 15% for Corneliu Vadim Tudor. According to the same survey the Social Democrat Party will take the lead in the general election winning 39% of the intentions to vote, versus 32% for the Justice and Truth Alliance and 14% for the Great Romania Party. But the electoral campaign for this decisive threefold election has only just started and many political analysts believe that a change in opinion is still possible.

Reminder of the general election results on 26- November 2000

Participation rate: 56.5%

Source: Le Courrier des pays de l'Est, Europe centrale et orientale 2003-2004, Retrouvailles européennes, n°1 044, Paris, La Documentation française, 2004

Reminder of the Senatorial elections 26 November 2000

Participation rate: 56.5%

Source: Le Courrier des pays de l'Est, Europe centrale et orientale 2003-2004, Retrouvailles européennes, n°1 044, Paris, La Documentation française, 2004
Publishing Director: Pascale JOANNIN
The authors
Corinne Deloy
Author of the European Elections Monitor (EEM) for the Robert Schuman Foundation and project manager at the Institute for Political Studies (Sciences Po).
Fondation Robert Schuman
Other stages
2nd roundResults