07/10/2014 - Analysis - 1st round
18.3 million Romanians will be appointing their president on 2nd November next. If none of the 14 candidates running wins the absolute majority in the first round, a second will be organised on 16th November. Outgoing head of State Traian Basescu, who is ending his second term, is not allowed to stand for re-election.
The present Prime Minister Victor Ponta (Social Democratic Party PSD) is running favourite in the election. According to the most recent poll by CSCI he is due to win 42% of the vote ahead of Klaus Johannis with 37%. Calin Popescu-Tariceanu is due to come third with 9% of the vote, ahead of Elena Udrea (6%), Dan Diaconescu (5%), Kelemen Humor (4%), Monica Macovei (3%) and Cornelio Vadim Tudor (2%). Two-thirds of the Romanians (68%) said they were going to vote on 2nd November.
294 polling stations will be open abroad so that expat Romanians can vote. During the last presidential election on 22nd November and 6th December 2009 146,000 turned out to vote - a record number.
The candidates running
In Romania the President of the Republic is elected for five years. All candidates to the supreme office have to be aged 35 at least and deliver a list of at least 200,000 voters' signatures in support of his bid. He must also swear that he did not work with the Securitate, the Romanian secret policy under the Communist regime.
The head of the Romanian State enjoys few powers. He appoints the Prime Minister "after consulting the party with the absolute majority in Parliament or, if there is no majority, with the parties represented in Parliament,
" (article 103-1 of the Constitution) and cannot dismiss him.
Romania has a bicameral parliament that is renewed every four years within 41 constituencies using a mix majority system. The Upper Chamber, the Senate, has 143 members and the lower chamber, the Chamber of Deputies (Camera Deputatilor) 346. National minorities (Roma, Germans, Armenians, Italians, Croatians, Albanians, Serbs etc.) have a number of seats reserved for them in the Chamber of Deputies (18).
14 people are officially running for the presidential office:
– Victor Ponta (Social Democratic Party, PSD), Prime Minister since 7th May 2012 and Chairman of the Social Democratic Party since 21st February 2010;
– Klaus Johannis (National Liberal Party, PNL), Mayor of Sibiu, member of the Democratic Forum of Germans of Romania (FDGR) and supported by the Christian Liberal Alliance (ACL);
– Calin Popescu-Tariceanu (Liberal Reformist Party) present leader of the Senate and former Prime Minister (2004-2008);
– Dan Diaconescu (People's Party-Dan Diaconescu, PP-DD), former host of the Dan Diaconescu Direct show on TV channel OTV;
– Elena Udrea (People's Movement), former Regional and Tourism Minister (2009-2012) supported by outgoing President of the Republic Traian Basescu;
– Hunor Kelemen (Democratic Union of Hungarians of Romania, UDMR), present Culture Minister;
– Monica Macovei, member of the Liberal Democratic Party (PD-L) who is standing as an independent candidate, at present she is MEP and former Justice Minister (2004-2007);
– William Brinza (Romanian Ecologist Party, PER);
– Constantin Rotaru (Socialist Alliance Party, PAS);
– Corneliu Vadim Tudor (Grand Romania Party, PRM);
– Zsolt Szilagyi (Hungarians of Transylvania People's Party EMNP);
– Mirel Mircea Amaritei (Prodemo Party);
– Teodor Melescanu, independent;
– Gheorghe Funar, independent.
2014, has the time for the left come?
Prime Minister Victor Ponta is supported by Romania's good growth figures (3.5% in 2013) and a slight decrease in unemployment (7%, July 2014). Economic issues are due to dominate the electoral campaign. The agency Fitch has maintained Bucharest's rating and indicated that it thinks that the country will succeed in reaching its goal of reducing the budgetary deficit to 2.2% of the GDP this year. A poll in June by CATI however has revealed that more than half of the Romanians (54%) think that their country is not going in the right direction.
In terms of foreign policy the Romanian head of government recently distanced himself from Vladimir Putin's Russia and suggested that Bucharest strengthen its ties with the USA.
"We have learnt enough not to lose the presidential election a third time,
" declared the Prime Minister. "My presidential programme includes one priority: Romania needs real change so that things that have been a source of division over the last few years disappear. By this I mean that we should bring Romanians together. This would be my main goal.
" Victor Ponta was officially appointed candidate during the extraordinary congress of his party on 12th September last in Alba Iulia. He launched his electoral campaign eight days later, on his 42nd birthday in the National Arena Stadium of Bucharest to an audience of 70,000. His programme is called "Victor Ponta - President- the Great Union of Romanians
" - his slogan "Proud to be Romanian
" and he says he wants to be president of his country in 2018 the year Romania celebrates the 100 years of the great union of 1918 (that year the Austro-Hungarian and Russian territories inhabited by Romanian speakers ie Bessarabia, Bucovina, Maramures, Crisana, Banat and Transylvania joined the kingdom of Romania).
Finally he insisted on reassuring his fellow countrymen that if he wins there will no longer be any conflict between the country's president and the head of government
. The most recent event was parliament's bid to force the resignation of President of the Republic Traian Basescu whom some MPs deemed to "no longer enjoy the moral integrity required to embody legitimacy of the presidential office.
" This bid failed on 14th June since the text submitted to the MPs' vote did not win a majority vote.
The Prime Minister has the support of the National Union for the Progress of Romania (UNPR) led by Gabriel Oprea and the Conservative Party (PC) led by Daniel Constantin, two parties which are members of the government coalition he leads. He declared that he hoped to face Calin Popescu-Tariceanu in a second round on 16th November saying that facing Elena Udrea, Klaus Johannis or Monica Macovei would be the same as facing outgoing President Traian Basescu.
Seven Romanians out of 10 (70%) expect that Victor Ponta will win.
For the Romanian the right is still linked to an austerity policy undertaken by former Prime Minister (2008-2012) Emil Boc (Liberal Democratic Party, PD-L), supported by the President of the Republic Traian Basescu. The Romanian right also suffers due to its fragmentation. The parties are so divided that they spend more time quarrelling between themselves than with the left in office.
On 5th February 2011 the National Liberal Party (PNL) joined forces with Victor Ponta's Social Democratic Party, the National Union for the Progress of Romania and the Conservative Party within the Social Liberal Union. Three years later on 25th February 2014 the National Liberal party quit this union and joined the right-wing opposition after a fight between its leader Crin Antonescu and Victor Ponta about the government's composition.
After the European elections on 25th May the right was easily beaten by the Social Democrats: the National Liberal Party and the Democratic Liberal Party (PD-L) won 27.23% of the vote together (17 points less in comparison with 2009) against 37.6% for the Prime Minister's party. A few days later the National Liberal Party merged with the Democratic Liberal Party and put forward a joint candidate for the Presidential election on 2nd and 16th November next. The two parties are running under the name "Christian Liberal Alliance" (Alianta Crestin Liberal, ACL
). The party will probably be formed at the end of the year with the two main right-wing parties retaining the name of National Liberal Party.
On 3rd July the leader of the Senate Calin Popescu-Tariceanu opposed to the merger, as he was to the transfer of the National Liberal Party, previously a member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) over to the European People's Party (EPP), announced the creation of the Liberal Reformist Party. He looks back to the Social Liberal Union and wants his party to draw closer to the Social Democratic Party.
The leader of the upper chamber is standing in the presidential election and hopes to win 20% of the vote in the first round so that he can stand against Victor Ponta on 16th November. His programme is called, "Romania, the seventh power of Europe
". He places emphasis on three points: administrative and political reform, education and culture and finally demography. Calin Popescu-Tariceanu wants to encourage 3 million Romanians who have emigrated to other countries of Europe to return home.
Klaus Johannis, the interim leader of the National Liberal Party announced that he would be running for president on 11th August last. He will be representing the Christian Liberal Alliance. The Mayor of Sibiu (Hermannstadt), a town in Transylvania since 2000 (at present he is undertaking his fourth term in office as the town's mayor), Johannis is a symbol of success: indeed he has managed to transform his town completely by renewing infrastructures and by restoring its historic centre. Sibiu has experienced true economic success and has become a privileged tourist destination that was selected as European Capital of Culture in 2007, the year Romania joined the European Union. "Sibiu is the living proof that in Romania it is possible to have a healthy and effective civil service, that it is possible to undertaken honest, scandal free politics, that it is possible to encourage investment which creates prosperity. If we have done it in Sibiu we can do it across Romania as a whole,
" declared Klaus Johannis.
"Who would have thought that I, a teacher with a German name (...) would one day stand before thousands of people to present his vision of Romania? It is the first time since the fall of communism 25 years ago that a major political structure has a candidate who belongs to an ethnic minority appointed for the presidential office. This proves that Romanian society is mature. We cannot ask for the respect of others if we do not respect ourselves. In my vision of things Romania will be a western country,
" he also said.
Since the 12th century Transylvania has been home to a sizeable German minority which came to defend the eastern borders of the Hungarian kingdom against the Tatars and later from the Turks on the request of the King Geza II of Hungary. Romanians of German origin totalled 745,000 in 1930, today there are only 30,000. During his reign Nicolae Ceaucescu "sold" many German Romanians to the Federal Republic of Germany. A student just starting his studies was "sold" for 5,500 Deutsche Mark (2,700 €); a student ending his studies, 7000 Deutsche Mark (3,500€) and a graduate, 11 000 Deutsche Mark (5 500 €). Romania is said to have earned more than one billion Deutsche Mark with these deals. After the collapse of the communist regime in 1989 German Romanians left the country en masse.
"I want less show-time politics and more seriousness. You know me - I am a man who privileges action to the detriment of words, a man who keeps his promises (...) I am offering the Romanians a decade of prosperity and the rule of law,
" indicates Klaus Johannis, who in his programme entitled "The Romania of things done well
" has made youth employment the reform of the education system, rapprochement with the EU and the USA and economic growth his priorities.
According to sociologist Barbu Mateescu "the candidates have every interest in setting themselves apart from the parties. No party has a clean image and each has several members behind bars.