State of alert extended
What is referred to as the 'new normal', the COVID-19 pandemic, was extended in Romania as a state of alert. It was instituted as early as the month of May, after two months of a state of emergency expired, against the background of a new burst of infections, over four thousand every day. Face masks have to be worn in busy areas, in areas with rates of infection over three per one thousand, and 50 meters away from schools. In three to one thousand incidence areas masks are obligatory in all open spaces. Interior Ministry Undersecretary Raed Arafat specified that it is now forbidden to hold large gatherings at events such as weddings, baptisms, etc., and that the next round of elections will only be holding voting with a maximum of 20 people in the same room indoor, and 50 people gathering outdoors. He also said that testing in certain venues will be compulsory.
The president attends the European Summit
The pandemic and EU-UK relations were the main points on the agenda of the European Council summit in Brussels, where Romania was represented by President Klaus Iohannis. He called for enhanced cooperation between Union member states, considering the growing number of cases of COVID-19 infections on the continent. The Romanian head of state would like borders to remain open in order to safeguard the chain of supplies. He also called for a flexible framework that would allow member states to find the best solutions to ensure a green transition, which he said was a priority for Romania.
Romania between elections
The Central Election Bureau announced the final results of the local elections held on September 27. The voting had been scheduled for June, but was held off until September because of the pandemic. The votes went to electing 41 county council chairmen, over 1,300 county advisers, 40,000 local advisers, and about 3,200 mayors. The highly polarized vote confirmed that the winner was the ruling Liberal Party, with 34%, followed by their main contender, the Social Democratic Party, with four percents less, while their competition, the USR PLUS Alliance gaining less than 7%. The Social Democrats grabbed 20 county councils, compared to the Liberals' 17 and 4 for the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania. In Bucharest, activist Nicusor Dan ran independently, but supported by the Liberals and his own USR party, and won the General Mayor's office from then incumbent Gabriela Firea. The right won three of the six sector mayor offices, with the left getting the other three.
Parliamentary elections are scheduled for December 6, but that is already under heavy debate in the context of the upsurge in the pandemic. An independent MP has already put in a bill for an emergency debate to postpone the elections until March 14 next year. The ruling side said that there is no guarantee that things would improve by that date under any circumstances.
Scandal in the administration
The former head of the Office for the Prevention and Fight Against Money Laundering, Laurentiu Baranga, was placed under house arrest for 30 days. He is accused of having forged education diplomas, which have been annulled by courts. According to investigators, he caused losses worth over half a million lei to institutions where he worked. He was trained as a lathe operator, and he resigned his former position last month, when accusations surfaced that he had forged his high school graduation diploma, which he got at 32 years of age. Liberal PM Ludovic Orban said he did not know about the forged diplomas, and that before he was appointed procedures for evaluation were applied correctly. Interim speaker of the Senate Robert Cazanciuc, a Social Democrat, said that the PM should resign for allowing this level of fraud in the highest echelons of administration.
Gold in rowing, disaster in football
Romania ended up in third place in the European rowing championships in Poland, in Poznan, behind the Netherlands and Italy, with four gold medals, one silver, and one bronze. At the same time, unfortunately, the national football team continued its bad luck streak. On Sunday, Romanians were crushed nil to 4 away from home by Norway, and on Wednesday they lost at home against Austria nil to 1, in the 1B Group of the League of Nations. Last week, Romania failed to qualify for next year's final continental tournament, losing 1-2 against Iceland.