The September 27 elections are the first ones ever held during a pandemic.
Over 18 million Romanians can cast their vote on Sunday to elect their local representatives for the next four years. Initially scheduled for June, the elections were postponed due to the health crisis. Many still criticize the decision, given the high number of coronavirus infections as compared to July, but who could have predicted this? The upcoming local elections are probably the first ones in the country’s history held during a pandemic, so nobody can predict just how much and in what way this will influence voter turnout. Restrictions such as mask wearing and social distancing, in place during the election campaign, will also be valid during the voting. Authorities have given assurances that if protection measures are respected, the risk of infection will not increase. Nevertheless, voices from the opposition say the elections should have been postponed again.
Over 18 thousand polling stations have been opened at national level, of which more than 12 hundred in the capital city. In Bucharest, voters will elect the local council and the district mayor, the general council and the city mayor. Local and county councils are elected on constituencies, based on party list proportional representation. The vote here is seen as a political one and will be a good indicator for the outcome of the general elections scheduled for December 6th. Mayors and county council presidents are elected on constituencies by uninominal voting. Romanian citizens starting from the age of 18 and EU citizens who have the domicile or residence in Romania are entitled to vote.
The political battle is given between the Social Democratic Party (PSD), the clear winner of the previous local and general elections and the National Liberal Party (PNL), the party of President Klaus Iohannis who is now at its second term. The Liberals, currently in power, have defeated the Social Democrats at the latest European elections. Although in opposition, PSD holds majority in Parliament. An important contender is also the center-right alliance USR-PLUS, which had a very good result in the European elections and enjoys the electorate’s support in the big cities. Also running in the local elections are a number of candidates from parties with an electoral threshold of around 5%. Elections are held in a single round and, according to analysts, as is always the case in Romania, the voter turnout will make the difference. (Translated by Elena Enache)