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Failure of liberals and stalemate of democrats: elections in Romania

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis. Photo: rustelegraph.ru

Parliamentary elections were held in Romania, on December 11. Elected once in four years, the Romanian parliament has no exact number of seats unlike the Russian parliament – 450 seats in the lower chamber. The law in Romania determined the number of voters per lawmaker, specifically, per constituency. During the last elections, in the lower chamber there were more deputies than in the State Duma of Russia. Now, they have decided to reduce the number of deputies, but for a relatively not large Romania with a population of 20 million people, it is still a large number. The situation with the upper chamber, the Senate, is similar. Considering the big number of active political parties with their headquarters throughout the country, this comes at a price for the ordinary citizens.

Parliament members are elected by universal suffrage in a party-list proportional representation electoral system. Both the MPs and candidates for parliament work with voters in constituencies. For instance, as before, former prime minister Victor Ponta was elected from Social-Democratic Party (SDP) in Gorj province, not in Bucharest.

Two years ago, during presidential election, the SPD candidate, the then prime minister Victor Ponta, lost the election to Klaus Iohannis, German by origin, a representative of liberals. SDP has received 45% of votes, the best result in its post-revolutionary history. The coup of 1989 against Nicolae Ceausescu is what present-day Romania calls revolution. In his welcoming speech to the present SDP, Ion Iliescu, the party’s honorable chairman and first and trice elected president of the independent Romania, said the people compared the achievements of the current government of Dacian Julien Cioloș (technocrat, henchman of liberals) and the government of Victor Ponta and made a choice in favor of Social Democrats.

National-Liberal Party (NLP) was the second with less than 20%. They consider themselves as successors of the historical NLP set up in the second half of the 19th century and in the first half of the 20th before communists came to power after war.

Then go four relatively small parties with 9%-5% of votes. The last in the list of the parties to overcome the required 5% threshold to the parliament was People’s Movement Party of the former president Traian Basescu, who keeps fighting for unification of Romania and Moldova.

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The party of Hungarian minority, Democratic Union of Hungarians of Romania (UDMR) received by a percentage more like the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE). SDP will have to agree with one of them for establishment of a coalition government in order to ensure more than 50% of seats in the parliament. Otherwise, opponents may unite and do not let SDP to power. It should be noted that the coalition government of SPD and UDMR is an old tradition in the newest history of Romania. This is what makes the radical leaders of the Hungarian minority – UDPR is not their only political representation – to blame UDMR for lacking determination and for whateverism with regard to the Romanian authorities in general. Actually, in the territory of the three Romanian provinces in historical Transylvania, the Hungarian majority (Hungarians are a majority, not minority in the three provinces) represented by the officially elected local authorities has formed the so-called Székely Land Hungarian region (Ținutul Secuiesc in Romanian, the Székely people are the local Hungarians). Bucharest denies that land, while Budapest recognizes it. Romania is a unitary state by the constitution, but Hungarians have been demanding autonomy for a long time. This is the core of all discrepancies. There are similar problems in many countries, including Ukraine.

Budapest is giving Hungarian passports to the Székely people, the Transylvanian Hungarians, like Bucharest was giving passports to citizens of Moldova or in Ukraine’s Bukovina. The laws in Romania and Moldova do not ban dual citizenship, unlike the Ukrainian laws, for instance. To recall, Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoisky has recently said in an interview in a mocking tone that Ukraine’s law bans dual citizens but not the triple one he has.

Back to the Romanian elections, the government program of SDP, in case it manages to form the government, promises to increase salaries at the state-run enterprises, specifically, the salaries of medics and teachers, increase pensions, build a big hospital in the capital city and 9 more in provinces, at least five highways in the country, reduce taxes and even removes some. However, the Party has a problem i.e. its former prime minister Victor Ponta resigned after being accused of plagiarizing its Ph.D. thesis. He left his post of the party chair too. Current leader of SDP Liviu Dragnea has problem with the law – he was found guilty for vote rigging in the referendum of 2012.

This spring, the court passed the final decision: two years of conditional sentence with suspended execution of sentence for 4 years. The law bans him from taking the post of the prime minister. However, he has retained his grip on SDP leadership and it seems that no one else seeks to take that post. What should President Iohannis do: whether to appoint the person having conditional sentence as prime minister? SDP has a weighty argument i.e. the public will, a 45% vote of confidence. Maybe it is time to correct the law. The Bucharest-based analysts are left guessing how the ruling elite will be dealing with such situation.

Valentin Seguru-Zaytsev, an independent political analyst, for EADaily

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