The Liberal Party in Romania cannot avoid inner turmoil after dismal results in the recent local elections, in which it came in third in Bucharest.
If we were to look only at a national level, Sunday's elections were a success for the National Liberal Party, the most prominent right wing party. Winning 32 to 33 percent, the Liberals lagged behind the winner, the Social Democrats, by only five points. However, things change radically when we look at Bucharest alone.
The capital city used to be a sure fire win for the Liberals, but the Social Democrats clinched everything – the general mayor's office, the six sector mayor positions, sector local councils, as well as the general municipal council. Thanks to the alliance with the Liberal dissidence, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, it seems they will issue decisions unopposed by any other political formation. What bothers the Liberals is not only the disastrous results they got, but the fact that they risk no longer being a viable alternative to the Social Democrats. In the capital city, after these local elections, that role has been claimed by the Save Bucharest Union, a former NGO turned into political party.
The Union and its tenacious candidate, Nicusor Dan, with his team of honest professionals, seems able to live up to the expectations of integrity of the segment of the voting pool who stands against politics as usual, corruption, incompetence and cronyism. The message this segment of voters sent the Liberals was clear: it either changes its mentality and approach, or it risks stalling and possibly disappearing. This has already happened to the National Peasant Party, which led the government coalition in the late '90s, but nowadays it cannot even make it to Parliament.
The heads of Liberal Party sector branches and the leader for Bucharest have handed in their resignations. Some members have also called for general secretary Ilie Bolojan to step down, as responsible for the failure as head of the campaign. He was re-confirmed, however, a clear signal that any inner revolt will not be tolerated, especially if it threatens party leaders Alina Gorghiu and Vasile Blaga. On the left side of the isle, which is celebrating after the locals, the priority is forming alliances at the local and county level with the partners that have so far proven loyal, the National Union for the Progress of Romania and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats.
There is another priority, though, eliminating Valeriu Zgonea as speaker of the Chamber of Deputies. The latter was removed as a party member after he called on party chairman Liviu Dragnea to step down because of his involvement in the scandal of the 2012 referendum to impeach the then president, Traian Basescu. Social Democrats changed regulations to allow Zgonea's replacement, but the latter challenged the changes, since they contravene to parliamentary rules.
(Translated by Calin Cotoiu)