A motley alliance of socialists, liberals and conservatives won the 9 December Romanian parliamentary elections. What they clearly share is profound dislike for the country’s once-powerful president, Traian Basescu, whose five-year mandate continues into 2014. What is less obvious is how they will govern the country. The Socialist-Liberal Union (USL), made up of the Social-Democrats, the Liberals and the Conservatives, won the majority in both chambers of the Romanian parliament, with about 60 percent of votes for each house. The great loser was the Right Romania Alliance (ARD), president Basescu’s political family, which got just 16 percent.
The main party in ARD, the Liberal-Democrats, governed Romania until May this year, implementing one of the toughest austerity packages seen in Europe, following a loan of twenty billion euro contracted by Romania in 2009 from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Union (EU). Among other measures, Romanian state employees saw their salaries slashed by 25 percent, social benefits were cut, and the VAT was increased from 19 to 24 percent.
At the time of contracting the loan, president Basescu called it “preventive” as Romania’s deficit and debt were to be kept from spiraling out of control – even if the budget deficit was just below eight percent and the debt a third of GDP in 2009, not particularly high figures compared to other EU countries. That goal was achieved, and Romania is expected to have a (minute) one percent economic growth next year.
But the measures took a serious social toll. Thousands of doctors left the country over the past years in search of better pay, subsidies for medicines treating serious diseases have been cut to morbid consequences, maternal assistants have abandoned children in their care, and people with disabilities have seen their allowances diminished. Numerous small businesses went bankrupt.