Romania’s left-leaning Social Democrats have easily won parliamentary elections a year after a major anti-corruption drive forced the last socialist prime minister from power. Election authorities said on Monday that with 99% of the votes from Sunday’s balloting counted, the Social Democratic party had about 46% and the center-right Liberals were second with over 20%. The chairman of the Social Democrats, Liviu Dragnea, spoke on Sunday after exit polls were published showing similar results, saying: “There should be no doubt who won the elections. Romanians want to feel at home in their own country and I want Romania to be a good home for all Romanians.”
Articles about voting issues in Romania.
Hundreds of customers rush out of high end stores in one of Romania’s biggest shopping centres, clutching Christmas gift bags and pushing trolleys through the busy car park. If any are troubled by the murky history of this once quiet farming community, 7km north of Bucharest city centre, they do not show it. Just across the street from the gleaming Baneasa shopping complex is a Communist-era collective farm now at the centre of a bribery probe linking minor royalty with senior politicians poised for success in Sunday’s general election. The Baneasa farm case is one of thousands that Romania’s powerful anti-corruption agency has opened this year, in what has become the largest ever anti-graft clampdown in eastern Europe. According to prosecutors from the DNA, the national anti-corruption agency, officials were bribed to sign the valuable land over to Prince Paul-Philippe, who claims ancestral ownership, as part of illegal land restitutions she estimates cost the state €145m. The prince has denied any wrongdoing.
Romania’s government said on Wednesday it decided to move forward to December 11 the date for regular parliamentary elections, fearing low turnout. The elections were initially to be held either on November 27 or December 4, a few days before or after the country’s national day, December 1, prompting concerns that many Romanians would be away on vacation. The government has allocated a total of 227.7 million lei ($57 million/51 million euro) to the organisation of the elections, it said in a statement. The pre-election campaign will run from November 11 to December 10.
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.
A senior Romanian minister was convicted on Friday of electoral fraud over a 2012 attempt to impeach a president and political rival, a judgment that dealt a blow to Prime Minister Victor Ponta’s efforts to demonstrate to the EU a hard line on graft. Regional development minister Liviu Dragnea was convicted of masterminding a campaign to use bribes and forged ballot papers to swing an impeachment vote against then president Traian Basescu, arch rival of Ponta’s ruling Social Democrats. The court gave Dragnea, a powerful figure in Romanian politics, a one year suspended jail sentence, which spares him prison. He will, however, be banned from holding public office. The decision can be appealed.
Romania’s foreign minister resigned Tuesday, after barely a week in office, after thousands of citizens overseas were unable to vote in this weekend’s presidential elections. Teodor Melescanu stepped down following the weekend’s runoff vote. His predecessor resigned last week after similar problems with the first-round vote. Images have poured in of Romanians standing in snaking lines to vote all over Europe. Anger at the problems contributed to the surprise victory of Klaus Iohannis over Prime Minister Victor Ponta. Reacting to public anger, Parliament’s lower chamber on Tuesday scrapped a controversial draft amnesty law that would have freed politicians and other officials serving prison sentences for corruption.
A center-right mayor scored an upset victory Sunday in Romania’s presidential runoff after the prime minister’s early lead evaporated in the wake of public anger over a marred first round of voting. Prime Minister Victor Ponta, a Social Democrat, conceded defeat to Klaus Iohannis, a former physics teacher turned politician who campaigned on strengthening the justice system and reducing the role of the state in the economy, which grew dramatically under Mr. Ponta. State debt has risen to about 40% of gross domestic product from 19% in 2009. During that time, economic growth has averaged about 1% annually.
Romania’s presidential runoff sees Prime Minister Victor Ponta facing off against Klaus Iohannis, the ethnic German mayor of the Transylvanian city of Sibiu. Ponta, a former prosecutor, led Iohannis by 10 points in the first-round voting on Nov. 2, and polls indicate Ponta is likely to win, despite corruption probes and convictions of some of Ponta’s senior aides. Here is a brief rundown of the people and issues involved in Sunday’s vote. “Pugnacious” Ponta, 42, became Europe’s youngest prime minister in May 2012 just before he turned 40. An amateur rally driver, Ponta married Daciana Sarbu in 2007. She’s a European Parliament lawmaker and the daughter of a bigwig in the powerful Social Democratic Party. Ponta’s career has mostly been plain sailing since then, even though he’s been accused of plagiarizing his doctoral thesis and of being an undercover spy by outgoing President Traian Basescu — allegations he denies. Since taking office Ponta has overseen economic growth and political stability. He says Romania will remain a U.S. ally and rejects claims he’ll cozy up to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Critics say that as president Ponta could grant an amnesty to political allies imprisoned for corruption, and that his party would have far too much power.
For Luciana Bizgan, Romania’s presidential race could mean she’ll never again turn up for work wearing rubber boots. Across the nation of 20 million, the second-most populous of the European Union’s newer members, Romanians are witnessing Prime Minister Victor Ponta’s bid for president triggering a spending glut on streets, schools and churches. Bizgan, 36, a seamstress, wants her dirt road in the southern town of Turnu Magurele asphalted so rain doesn’t dictate her footwear. “I just hope this time it’s my street’s turn,” she said. The EU’s second-poorest member, whose post-communist transformation has pushed bond yields to record lows, is loosening the purse strings a year after exiting monitoring by the bloc for fiscal slackness. Next year’s budget shortfall may balloon to double the government target, leaving a headache for Ponta’s successor, should the prime minister turn his poll lead into victory in a Nov. 16 runoff.
Romanian Foreign Minister Titus Corlatean resigned on Monday after thousands of people rallied at the weekend in support of compatriots abroad who were turned away as they tried to vote in the first round of a presidential election. Corlatean had been told by leftist Prime Minister Victor Ponta to ensure the Nov. 16 runoff vote ran smoothly or risk losing his job after Romanians living abroad complained of long queues at embassy polling stations and shortages of a form that had to be signed before a ballot could be cast in the Nov. 2 vote. Ponta won the first round of the election by a 10 percentage point margin over Klaus Iohannis, an ethnic German mayor backed by two center-right opposition parties. Ponta is likely to win the runoff vote, opinion polls showed. On Saturday, as thousands of people rallied in cities across Romania, Corlatean said there would be no increase in the number of polling stations abroad. Some protesters called on Ponta to resign, saying he had failed to ensure all citizens could exercise their right to vote.