Local elections show two parties emerging as leaders
Romania's local elections saw a resurgence of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) and confirmation that its biggest challenger is the new Democratic Liberal Party (PD-L).
The final results show that in the 3,179 constituencies nationwide, PSD has won 1,138 city halls and PD-L 908.
Outside of Bucharest, the country began to see a diagonal divide running from the northeast to southwest, with those above the line more inclined to the centre-right parties and those below more supportive of the old left.
The Democratic-Liberals won the most votes in large cities. They took over 15 cities mostly in central and west Romania such as Cluj-Napoca, Targu Mures and Brasov, while PSD won 12 cities such as Iasi, Vaslui, Bistrita and Constanta, located in south and east Romania.
PD-L and PSD won the most county council presidents which, for the first time this year, adopted a “uninominal” vote, otherwise known as a first-past-the-post system. This system favoured larger to smaller parties. The PSD won 17, the PD-L 14 and the PNL only five. County council presidents decide budgets for cities, towns and villages. Romanian experience has shown that, after a four-year mandate, the presidents of county councils become wealthy people, the so-called 'barons', such as Marian Oprisan in Vrancea County. It is suspected that this boost in income does not come from their salaries alone.
The main party of Government, the National Liberal Party (PNL), was pushed into third place. PNL succeeded to win more city halls in Transylvania and Banat than in other areas of the country, such as Baia Mare, Oradea or Zalau.
The election of Romanian mayors is, according to the law, based on the majority system. The rule says that if no candidate wins the majority of the total votes in the first round, the top two candidates which obtain the most votes in the first debate have to run in a second round.
In the second round of votes, the liberal right National Liberal Party (PNL) threw its support behind the old left PSD candidates in a move which aimed to isolate the PD-L.
Small parties marginalised
The difference in popularity between the top three parties and the remainder is immense. The New Generation Party (PNG), the Conservative Party (PC) and the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) scored similar percentages in these elections. If the extreme right-wing Greater Romania Party (PRM) continues to poll as badly as in these elections, the party risks leaving Parliament in the general elections this autumn.
Local issues saw some success for smaller parties. The inhabitants of 2007's European Capital of Culture, Sibiu, backed incumbent Democratic Federation of Germans in Romania Mayor Klaus Johannis with 87.1 per cent of the votes. In Timisoara, the sitting National Peasants' Party candidate, Gheorghe Ciuhandu, won 53.6 per cent of the votes.
The newly created PD-L won more votes than the party of its provenance, the Democratic Party (PD), in the last local elections in 2004.
Because no party scored an outright majority, these results are a starting point for future alliances between parties, which will be sealed before the parliamentary elections due this autumn.
The future Government will have to be formed by two of the three main parties. Considering the bitter rivalry between the PD-L and PSD, it remains to be seen to which party the National Liberal Party will lend its support.
The 49.8 per cent national turnout was higher than expected, but slightly lower than 54.2 per cent in 2004. The turnout in Bucharest was lower than the national average, with only 31.5 per cent of voters going to the polls on 15 June. Rural voters were also more willing to go to the polls than the urban electorate. Women voted in a higher percentage than men in Bucharest, according to an Insomar poll.
Lawbreaking Prime Minister
The Liberal Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu broke the law when voting in the first round of the local elections in Bucharest. He presented himself at the polling station with a voting card instead of his Identity Card, as the Romanian law states. Possibly intimidated by his lofty office, the attendants polling stations let him cast his ballot. His vote could not be annulled.
Local council winners
Social Democratic Party (PSD) – 12,137 [30.1 per cent]
Democratic-Liberal Party (PD-L) – 11,129 [27.6 per cent]
National Liberal Party (PNL) – 8,529 [21.1 per cent]
Union of Democratic Hungarians (UDMR) – 2,195 [5.4 per cent]
Conservative Party (PC) – 1,398 [3.4 per cent]
New Generation Party (PNG) - 1,203 [2.9 per cent]
Greater Romania Party (PRM) – 1,090 [2.7 per cent]
County council presidents:
PSD - 17
PD-L - 14
PNL - seven
UDMR - four
Democratic Federation of Germans in Romania (FDGR) - one
Below is a list of the winners of the mayoral elections for the major cities in Romania, and whether they won in the first round (1 June) or second round (15 June)
Democratic Liberal Party (PD-L): 15
Ploiesti - Liviu Volosevici - 61.47 per cent. (second round)
Turnu Severin - Gheorghe Constantin 64.69 per cent (second round)
Alba Iulia - Mircea Hava 65 per cent (first round)
Arad - Gheorghe Falca 67.6 per cent (first round)
Botosani - Catalin Flutur 60.15 per cent (first round)
Brasov - Gheorghe Scripcaru 69.8 per cent (first round)
Cluj-Napoca - Emil Boc 70.20 per cent (first round)
Craiova - Antonie Solomon 55.07 per cent (first round)
Piatra Neamt - Gheorghe Stefan 79.3 per cent (first round)
Rimnicu Vilcea - Mircia Gutau 57.83 per cent (first round)
Suceava - Ion Lungu 72 per cent (first round)
Slatina - Darius Valcov 82 per cent (first round)
Targoviste - Gabriel Boriga 60.2 per cent (first round)
Targu-Mures - Dorin Florea 52.52 per cent (first round)
Tulcea - Constantin Hogea 73.33 per cent (first round)
Social Democratic Party (PSD): 12
Alexandria – Victor Dragusin 61.24 per cent (second round)
Focsani - Gabriel Bacinschi 52.03 per cent (second round)
Iasi - Gheorghe Nichita 54.2 per cent (second round)
Galati - Dumitru Nicolae 71.19 per cent (second round)
Vaslui - Vasile Paval 56 per cent (second round)
Bistrita - Ovidiu Cretu 54.75 per cent. (second round)
Braila - Aurel Simionescu 59.60 per cent (second round)
Buzau - Constantin Boscodeala 55.97 per cent (first round)
Constanta - Radu Mazare 67.9 per cent (first round)
Pitesti -Tudor Pendiuc 72 per cent (first round)
Targu Jiu - Florin Carciumaru 82.5 per cent (first round)
Slobozia - Gabi Ionascu (first round)
National Liberal Party (PNL): 7
Bacau - Romeo Stavarache 74.33 per cent (second round)
Calarasi - Nicolae Dragu 65.59 per cent (second round)
Baia Mare - Cristian Anghel 51.03 per cent (first round)
Deva - Mircia Muntean 59.78 per cent (first round)
Giurgiu - Lucian Iliescu 54.30 per cent (first round)
Oradea - Ilie Bolojan 50.3 per cent (first round)
Zalau - Radu Capilnasiu 51.8 per cent (first round)
Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR): 3
Satu Mare - Iuliu Ilyes 58.27 per cent (second round)
Sf. Gheorghe - Antal Arpad 55.64 per cent. (second round)
Miercurea Ciuc - Raduly Robert 58 per cent (first round)
Bucharest - Sorin Oprescu 56.3 per cent (second round)
Resita - Mihai Stefanescu 74.47 per cent (second round)
Democratic Federation of Germans in Romania (FDGR): 1
Sibiu - Klaus Johanis 87.1 per cent (first round)
National Peasants' Party (PNTCD): 1
Timisoara - Gheorghe Ciuhandu 53.66 per cent (first round)
Distribution of mayors nationwide
PSD – 1,138 [35.7 per cent]
PDL – 908 [28.5 per cent]
PNL – 706 [22.2 per cent]
UDMR – 184 [5.7 per cent]
Independents – 56 [1.7 per cent]
PC – 47 [1.4 per cent]
PNG – 35 [1.1 per cent]
Independent candidate for Bucharest mayor Sorin Oprescu won 56.5 per cent in the local elections against Vasile Blaga of the newly-formed PD-L in a victory for 1990s Romanian left-style ideals over the centre-right.
Oprescu had been a member of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) since 1995. He chose to run as an independent when the PSD decided to support vice-president of the party Cristian Diaconescu for the top position in the Capital.
Oprescu is a close friend of Ion Iliescu, the founder of the PSD, while Diaconescu was pushed to run for Bucharest mayor by current president of the PSD, Mircea Geoana.
Diaconescu lost in the first round of votes and now, due to his flawed judgement, Geoana's leadership of the party is in doubt. He is likely to be challenged by Adrian Nastase, the Prime Minister between 2000 and 2004.
Blaga's defeat in the second round of this electoral battle may also be due to his party's close association with incumbent mayor Adriean Videanu, who was not seen as an able manager of the Capital.
The Conservative Party (PC) scored a victory in the Bucharest's Sector 4, where its populist candidate Cristian Popescu Piedone won the position of mayor. The PC and PSD have sealed an official deal to run together for the next parliamentary elections and form the future government. Arguably, the small Conservative Party can manage to convince a party the size of PSD to take its support seriously because of the media coverage it can provide. The daughter of the founding president of the PC, Dan Voiculescu, owns Intact Media Group, which runs TV stations such as Antena 1, 2 and 3 and daily newspaper Jurnalul National.
A 57 year-old doctor, Oprescu has already stood and lost for the position of Bucharest mayor for the PSD. Although a self-styled independent, in the second round of elections Oprescu enjoyed support from his old party PSD and the National Liberal Party (PNL), who combined to block Vasile Blaga.
The new mayor has set out a populist plan which includes public works such as a new general hospital and to develop social housing with the sector mayors. He also wants to dedicate exclusive pedestrian areas for recreation and micro-business.
Traffic and rubbish controls are priorities and Oprescu aims to launch an international auction for remaking Bucharest's General Urban Plan, as well as adopting a 'code of urbanism' for the city.
On the issue of stray dogs, he intends to organise a referendum to ask the people of the city what to do with Bucharest’s 10,000s of canine homeless. Oprescu also wants to establish a force of “animal cops” to target the dog problem.
To attract foreign investment, Oprescu wants to focus on the IT&C sector, with the intention to set up public-private partnerships in technological parks in the city. There are also giveaway measures such as free cinema and theater tickets for pensioners. In an interesting plan, he also intends to use the Bucharest underground for the production of geothermal energy.
But Oprescu's objectives as Mayor of Bucharest will depend in the next four years on the local council majority, which is in the hands of an alliance between the PD-L and the New Generation Party (PNG). Therefore any decision the leftist Mayor intends to make could face a veto from the PD-L-PNG alliance.
Mayor Sorin Oprescu (Independent)
Sector 1: Andrei Chiliman (National Liberal Party)
Sector 2: Neculai Ontanu (Social Democatic Party)
Sector 3: Liviu Negoita (Democratic-Liberal Party)
Sector 4: Cristian Popescu Piedone (Conservative Party)
Sector 5: Marian Vanghelie (Social Democratic Party)
Sector 6: Cristian Poteras (Democratic-Liberal Party)