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Expert Comment: Social-Liberal Union wins Romanian Election

Voting Tuesday 11 December 2012

As the Social-Liberal Union takes 60% of the vote in Romania's general election, Liverpool Hope Geography Department's Dr Duncan Light looks at what lies ahead for the country.

As all the opinion polls predicted, Romania’s elections were won by the Social-Liberal Union with 60% of the vote. This is the first time since Romania’s first post-communist elections in 1990 that any single political formation has won an outright majority. The governing party in the 2008-2012 parliament – the Liberal Democratic Party – was punished by voters for clumsy attempts to implement austerity measures and scored 16.7%. Due to its close association with the unpopular president Traian Basescu it is unlikely to have much political impact in the future (and indeed may follow the Christian Democrats who were dumped by the electorate in 2000 after ineffective attempts to introduce ‘shock therapy’ reform and subsequently all but disappeared from the political landscape). The unknown quantity in this election was the Dan Diaconescu Peoples’ Party which scored 14.6%. This is the personal platform of a showy television presenter but its political position is unclear (and often contradictory).

At first glance it might appear that a period of political stability lies ahead after 18 years of often fractious coalition governments. But don’t hold your breath. The Social-Liberal Union is an unlikely alliance of the Social Democratic Party (which has roots in the former Romanian Communist Party) the National Liberal Party and the Conservative Party. The constituent members of the Union have little in common apart from a shared loathing of the president. Given that Romania’s political system gives the president strong executive powers it remains to be seen whether the Social-Liberal Union can work with President Basescu for the remaining two years of his mandate. The signs are not promising since the personal animosities are intense: Victor Ponta – the Union’s candidate for Prime Minister – tried unsuccessfully to impeach Basescu during the summer. In consequence, Basescu has indicated that he will refuse to appoint Ponta as Premier. The stage is set for two years of political instability with uncomfortable ‘cohabitation’ being about the best that can be hoped for. Throw in 13 newly elected politicians who, according to one leading newspaper, are under investigation for various illegalities (including corruption) and it’s not difficult to see why Romanians are so disenchanted with their political leadership. Unfortunately the 2012 elections are unlikely to give them the political stability that they so crave.

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