Dozens of candidates standing for office in Romania’s local elections on Sunday are either already subject to graft investigations or have not been sufficiently screened for any past abuses of power, anti-corruption groups say. Data compiled by Reuters showed around a third of the some 350 local officials under investigation or sent to trial since 2012 are running — with many confident of securing office. Sunday’s voting stakes are high, with local administrations having an overall budget of 67 billion lei (11.5 billion pounds) this year — roughly a third of the country’s consolidated budget revenue — and access to European Union development funds.
Ex-communist Romania, which joined the EU in 2007, has long been dogged by a reputation for high levels of corruption despite efforts by prosecutors to crack down on graft. Anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International rated it third most corrupt EU country after Bulgaria in Italy in 2015.
The International Monetary Fund last month cited “a high perception that public funds are being diverted and frequent experiences of irregular payments and bribes”. An EU report this week mentioned it as one of three hotspots for fraudulent claims on EU funds.
In a country with a population of around 20 million, no fewer than a quarter of a million candidates are vying for some form of public office, ranging from that of big city mayors to small town or county councillors.