The unexpected victory of the opposition candidate Klaus Johannis in Romania’s presidential election yesterday is an important development — not just for Romania, but for the European Union as a whole. Migration within the union, which has led to the rise of anti-EU political groups in some wealthier nations, including the U.K., is paying off: It is helping nations on the periphery such as Romania adopt the best practices of the older, core democracies. In the first round of the vote, Prime Minister Victor Ponta beat Johannis, the center-right mayor of the Transylvanian town of Sibiu. Johannis, an ethnic German, didn’t appear likely to prevail in the run-off. He is Lutheran, and not Orthodox Christian like most Romanians, and he ran a rather boring campaign. The election, however, was marred by complaints from Romanians abroad who had trouble casting their ballots. There were long lines at polling stations in Italy and Spain, where Romanians are the biggest immigrant group, as well as in France and the U.K., which also have large Romanian populations.
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.
The ruling socialists’ approach has paid off for the time being. Their candidate, incumbent Prime Minister Victor Ponta, won the first round of voting. Whether his roughly ten percent head start will be enough for the second round is doubtful, however. Klaus Johannis, the ethnic German candidate for the liberal alliance, has a real chance of moving into the presidential palace, and not just in numbers. What matters now is who gets the votes of the 12 candidates from the first round. It’s just as crucial whether the largest political group – the non-voters – will exercise their democratic right in two weeks’ time. For the first round, about half of Romania’s eligible voters chose to stay at home. Just like five years ago, it might be expatriate Romanians yet again who end up tipping the scales. In 2009, a clear majority voted for outgoing President Traian Basescu – to the great chagrin of the Socialists, who cried election fraud. This time, however, the Socialist government appears to have made sure that situation won’t be repeated. After hours of standing in line, thousands of Romanians hoping to cast their ballot in West Europe had to return home without having voted. Not enough polling stations had been set up for the estimated two to three million Romanians who live and work abroad. Disastrous planning permitted voting at nothing but a snail’s pace. When the polling stations closed right on schedule, many thousands still waiting to vote were turned away. In a European democracy, that’s not what fair elections look like.
Romania’s presidential election is set to enter a run-off after exit polls suggested no candidate had won an overall majority. Initial polling data indicated that current PM Victor Ponta has topped the poll with 38-40% of the vote. His main challenger, Klaus Iohannis, is said to be trailing him on about 32%. Romanians are voting to decide who will replace President Traian Basescu, who is stepping down after serving his two-term limit. The election in the ex-communist nation has occasionally been marred by bitter recriminations. Mr Ponta, a social democrat, often feuded with centre-right President Basescu, who he served under for two years while premier.
Romanians will head to polling stations on November 2 to elect a new president, with incumbent Traian Basescu stepping down after serving the maximum two terms allowed by law. The field to replace Basescu features 14 candidates, but only two are seen as realistic challengers – prime minister Victor Ponta, leader of the Social-Democrat party, and the mayor of Sibiu Klaus Iohannis, leader of the National-Liberal party. Ponta is seen as the favourite, with various opinion polls giving him between 38 per cent and 43 per cent support, while Iohannis ranked second with support between 30 per cent and 33 per cent. All other candidates were polling in the single-digit range. In the likely scenario that no candidate wins the presidency in the first round of voting, a run-off would be held on November 16. A win by Ponta would consolidate the Social-Democrats’ hold on government and bring a degree of stability after a decade marked by repeated conflicts between the presidency and parliament during Basescu’s two terms in office.
Romanians are likely to move Prime Minister Victor Ponta into the presidency in elections that start on Sunday, offering one of Europe’s poorest countries political stability but raising concerns about judicial independence. Backed by a well-oiled party machine, Ponta has led opinion polls in the run-up to the Nov. 2/16 vote, trumpeting a record of easing the painful spending cuts and tax hikes Romanians endured in a 2009-10 recession. A Ponta win would consolidate his leftist Social Democrats’ hold on power. His combative rival, incumbent President Traian Basescu, steps down after two terms, which should end constant feuds over policy.
After the controversial and pressure-filled referendum to oust President Traian Basescu in July 2012, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the OSCE carried out a “Needs Assessment Mission Report” and issued its findings on the upcoming “Romanian Parliamentary Elections 9 December 2012” in Warsaw on 18 October. The OSCE concluded from its research that “While the mission would visit a limited number of polling stations on election day, systematic observation of voting, counting, or tabulation of results on election day is not envisaged.” The 9 December parliamentary elections in Romania, in fact, seemed not to have been as shot through with fraudulent practices as those in July. After the elections took place, there were very few protests about abuses at the polling places.
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.
Returns from Romania’s parliamentary elections on Monday gave an overwhelming victory to the center-left alliance of Prime Minister Victor Ponta, leaving the country poised for Round 2 of a political standoff that has destabilized one of the European Union’s newest and poorest members. The governing alliance won about 59 percent of the vote in in Sunday’s elections, making Mr. Ponta the leading contender to return to the job. With almost all of the votes counted, a center-right group linked to President Traian Basescu had received just 16.5 percent of the vote. The two men cannot stand even to be in the same room with each other, according to aides, and their acrimony has poisoned Romania’s politics since Mr. Ponta pressed to have the president removed from office last summer.
Romania’s Constitutional Court on Tuesday struck down a referendum to impeach President Traian Basescu, foiling a drive by the leftist government to oust its chief political opponent months before a parliamentary election. The government said it would accept the decision, but the acting president said Basescu was now an “illegitimate” leader. Several hundred people gathered in two main Bucharest squares in the afternoon, one crowd supporting the president and the other protesting against him. Both remained peaceful.
Romanian President Traian Basescu appears to have survived a referendum on his impeachment. As polls closed, preliminary figures indicated turnout was less than the 50% required to make the result invalid. Basescu, who has been suspended by parliament, had asked his supporters to boycott the vote.The center-left government had accused the center-right president of exceeding his authority and of meddling in government affairs. Polling stations closed at 23:00 local time (20:00GMT). First results are expected on Monday. Three hours before the polls were due to close, the election bureau said turnout so far had been 37.7%, the BBC reported. Initial polls put the turnout at about 44%. As voting ended, Basescu said that Romanians had “rejected a coup” by staying away from polling stations.
Romanians will vote Sunday on whether to oust their country’s president as part of an impeachment process that the European Union says threatens to undermine the former communist-bloc nation’s young democracy. The nationwide recall referendum comes amid a partisan feud between a resurgent left, led by new Prime Minister Victor Ponta, and center-right politicians, including President Traian Basescu, whose popularity has been severely dented by austerity measures and a weak economy. Recent legislative and political maneuvers carried out by Mr. Ponta’s supporters and designed to make it easier to remove Mr. Basescu have drawn fire from critics inside and outside Romania who say the moves endanger the rule of law and judicial independence. Under pressure from the EU, which Romania joined in 2007, Mr. Ponta, a 39-year-old Social Democrat, agreed to roll back measures the regional group found objectionable. However, a parliamentary vote to impeach Mr. Basescu, which triggered Sunday’s ballot, remains in force. EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said Wednesday that Brussels is “still very much worried on the state of democracy in Romania.”
Romania’s opposition Democratic Liberals urged voters who support suspended President Traian Basescu to boycott a referendum on July 29 to help win his reinstatement by invalidating the impeachment vote. The opposition said voters should stay away from the polling stations because the ruling coalition won’t meet the same organizational standards as in the 2009 presidential election, increasing the possibility for electoral fraud, Democrat Liberal leader Vasile Blaga told reporters in Bucharest today. The ruling Social Liberal Union don’t understand that they “should set up the vote under the same conditions as in 2009, when we also had surveillance cameras, so we ask citizens to stay away from this masquerade” Blaga said.
Romania extended the voting hours to boost turnout and increase the chances of reaching a minimum threshold to make a July 29 referendum on removing President Traian Basescu valid. Lawmakers voted in favor of changing a referendum law to keep polling stations open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. instead of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Mircea Dusa, the government minister in charge with the relations with the legislature, told reporters today. Parliament’s two houses also voted to introduce a requirement of a minimum turnout to meet the terms of a Constitutional Court ruling and pledges to European Union leaders.
Romania: New law gives suspended president chance of surviving impeachment vote | The Washington Post
Romania’s interim president on Tuesday signed a new law that requires a majority of registered voters to take part in a referendum for it to be valid, giving suspended President Traian Basescu a fighting chance of remaining in office when his impeachment comes up for a public vote. The former communist country appeared to be signaling to the European Union that it is addressing concern about the state of its democracy, a key issue as it tries to attain greater privileges within the regional bloc, including access to its passport-free zone. Basescu was impeached by Parliament on grounds he overstepped his authority by meddling in government business and the judicial system. Critics accuse Prime Minister Victor Ponta of orchestrating the move as part of a power grab, and the political turmoil has dented Romania’s credibility, with the U.S. and the EU expressing doubts about the left-leaning government’s respect for the independence of the judiciary.
Romania’s Constitutional Court on Tuesday ruled that at least half the electorate must cast ballots in a recall referendum aimed at removing the president for the vote to be valid, a new twist to a bitter partisan feud between a resurgent left and a right no longer favored by an austerity-weary electorate. The government of Prime Minister Victor Ponta, a Social Democrat who took office in May, has drawn criticism from European capitals and local civil liberties groups for a series of rapid-fire maneuvers that set the stage for the impeachment of right-leaning President Traian Basescu. Parliament voted Friday to suspend Mr. Basescu. The national vote on whether he should be ejected from office is to be held July 29. The court upheld a new law lowering the threshold for removal to a majority of the votes cast, but added the turnout proviso, which could make for a close election.
Romania’s government has collapsed following weeks of protests against austerity measures, the latest debt-stricken government in Europe to fall in the face of raising public anger over biting cuts. Emil Boc, who had been prime minister since 2008, said Monday he was resigning “to defuse political and social tension” and to make way for a new government. Thousands of Romanians took to the streets in January to protest salary cuts, higher taxes and the widespread perception that the government was not interested in the public’s hardships in this nation of 22 million. President Traian Basescu quickly appointed Justice Minister Catalin Predoiu, the only Cabinet member unaffiliated with a political party, as interim prime minister to serve until a new government is approved.