Romania’s left-of-centre Social Democratic Party won Sunday’s parliamentary elections by a wide margin.
Only 40% of Romania’s over 18 million voters went to the polls on Sunday to choose their parliamentarians and half of them voted for left-of-centre Social Democratic Party (PSD). The Social Democrats got around 45 percent of the votes for both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, prompting the party leader Liviu Dragnea to feel entitled to claim the prime minister seat for his party. Romanians have expressed their choice clearly and their wish must be respected by the fundamental institutions of the state, said Dragnea. He added: “I want this stable democracy to be maintained in Romania without useless conflicts which means that the state’s fundamental institutions must understand and respect Romanians’ vote.”
The Social Democrats have outperformed the right-of-centre National Liberal Party (PNL), whose decline in the voters’ preferences, which started at the local elections this summer, has been confirmed in Sunday’s parliamentary elections.
With only 20 percent of the votes, the Liberals, who wanted the current technocratic PM Dacian Cioloş to keep his position, were the big disappointment of these elections. Liberal leader Alina Gorghiu announced her resignation following the party’s failure in the elections. She pointed out that the party would decide on Tuesday on the interim leadership of the Liberal Party.
The smaller parties that Alina Gorghiu hoped would support the project of PM Dacian Cioloş, namely the Save Romania Union (USR) and the People’s Movement Party (PMP), have exceeded the 5-percent electoral threshold and will be part of the new parliament, but they can’t change the maths. After their success in the local elections this summer, the Save Bucharest Union became the Save Romania Union (USR). Having won over 9 percent in Sunday’s elections, USR promises to become the competent and untainted alternative to the mainstream parties. The USR leader, Nicusor Dan, has said: “A party made up of people who have not been involved in politics before makes it to Parliament for the first time after the revolution.”
The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE), built around a number of Liberal dissidents led by former prime minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu, will also be part of the new parliament and with their around 6 percent of the votes will support the Social Democrats to form the majority in parliament, in keeping with an agreement forged ahead of the elections.
Another party that made it to parliament is the People Movement’s Party (PMP) headed by the former president Traian Basescu, which won 5 percent of the votes. A constant presence in Parliament, the Democratic Union of Ethnic Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) got over 6 percent of the votes. Party leader Kelemen Hunor has made no secret out of his party’s wish to contribute to parliament’s decisions. Kelemen Hunor said: “I hope that our parliamentary group will have a say in all decisions taken in parliament.” No independent candidate has made it to parliament.
Technically, Sunday’s elections reintroduced, after two rounds of uninominal voting, the party-list system. The postal voting, a total novelty in the history of elections in Romania, has been introduced for Romanians living abroad. In political terms, PSD and their ally, ALDE, are the clear winners. The elections’ result puts President Klaus Iohannis in an uncomfortable position, with pundits wondering if he will give up the integrity principle he has been holding on to under pressure from the Social Democrats. Ahead of the elections, Iohannis warned that he would not nominate a prime minister who had problems with the law, as Liviu Dragnea, whose name had been mentioned as prospective prime minister, received a suspended prison sentence for his involvement in the referendum for the impeachment of former president Traian Basescu.