You would have been disappointed if I didn’t report on the election results?
Several exit polls were released when the polls closed at 9:00pm Bucharest time, to give a sense of the results, as it takes a few hours for the actual results to filter in.
However, the consensus is that the next Prime Minister will be leading a government of the PSD (Social Democratic Party), the centre-left party that arguably has inherited the old Communist patronage machine. Support for the PSD appears to be in the 42 to 45 percent range, and one of the little parties appears to be above the 5% threshold and willing to join in a coalition.
Their opposition fell short. The Liberals (PNL) appear to have won only around 20 percent of votes, and the new anti-corruption party (USR) received approximately 10 per cent. The Liberals had greater goals for this election, and their leader Alina Ghorghiu, may soon be forced to announce her resignation. The new anti-corruption party had set a goal of 10 per cent of the vote, and its leader Nicusor Dan reacted that the results were a victory.
Unless the exit polls are shockingly wrong, tomorrow morning the discussion will be about the identity of the new PSD Prime Minister. Given the very high incidence of corruption charges against sitting PSD politicians, and the fact that the President has said that he will not appoint as Prime Minister an individual who has been so charged or convicted, the PSD was coy as to whom was its candidate for Prime Minister. This way, the Anti-Corruption prosecutor would not have an opportunity to prepare a dossier on the new Prime Minister before s/he develops some immunities that come with the office. So as the PSD leader, Liviu Dragnea, has had previous legal issues, he was clear during the campaign that he was unlikely to be Prime Minister.
This legal hide-and-seek is how politics will look in Bucharest for the next few years. For while the PSD appears to have won today’s elections, it will be — to use the term first used by the French to describe Presidents of one party being forced to deal with legislatures controlled by another party — “co-habiting” with President Iohannis, who is aligned with the Liberals. Plus the Anti-Corruption directorate is also a very strong counterweight to the power of the Legislature and government.
While centre-left in fiscal policy, the PSD is pro-NATO, pro-EU, reflecting the Romanian consensus towards western integration. Yet a persistent system of corruption has been widely identified as a barrier to Romania’s development, and running with a “chicken in every pot” type of platform, the PSD is clearly not strongly committed to cleaning it up any time soon.
But a new very Western anti-corruption party will for the first time have a strong group of members, about 10 per cent of both houses of the legislature.
Hence while Romania has come a long way, the road to its fuller potential is not straight. It was an unusual election with none of the major parties putting forward a Prime Minister to lead its campaign, surprisingly low-key by most of the participants. The next few days may see some further twists and turns.