Category Archives: Romania

Romania 2012

Legislative elections were held in Romania on December 9, 2012. All seats in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, which hold over 500 seats together, were up for reelection. Prior to 2003, the two houses held identical powers, since a constitutional reform in 2003 both houses still have to approve a law but each house has designated fields of policy over which it has the final decision. The bicameral system and the large size of the country’s Parliament are often subjects of political debate in Romania. In 2009, voters approved a proposal to adopt a unicameral system and reduce the number of MPs to a maximum of 300, but there does not seem to have been movement on that front since then.

Romania’s electoral system for both houses is infinitely confusing and complex, though luckily enough nobody in the world seems to understand it either. The Chamber of Deputies has 315 single-member constituencies (called ‘electoral colleges’) to begin with, with each county having a variable number of seats. The Senate is elected with the same electoral system, there are just fewer seats, starting off at 137 seats – with each county also having a variable number of seats. The Chamber of Deputies has seats for ‘national minorities’ (except the larger Hungarian minority), which are constitutionally reserved for them, but minority parties, from my understanding, still need to clear some sort of special threshold. In 2008, 18 minority parties won seats – representing Germans, Romas, Macedonians, Armenians, Bulgarians, Albanians, Jews, Tatars, Czechs/Slovaks, Russians/Lipovians, Serbs, Poles, Italians, Ukrainians, Turks, Croatians and Ruthenians.

From my understanding, voters cast their votes in single-member constituencies for the lower house and the upper house, like in an FPTP system. In a constituency where a candidate wins over 50% of the vote, he or she is automatically elected to represent that constituency in Parliament. For example, in Teleorman County this year (which has 6 constituencies), in all 6 seats a candidate was elected because they had won over 50% of the vote. But the Romanian electoral system includes an element of proportional representation (with a 5% threshold, higher for alliances). In each county, the county’s seats are distributed proportionally to parties based on their share of the vote (rounding down). In the of Teleorman County, even if the county’s 6 seats were all won outright, two other parties qualified for a seat each. In this case, the candidates who did not win over 50% of the votes are ordered by the number of raw votes they polled (this discriminates in favour of candidates in constituencies with more voters, even if they received a smaller percentage of the vote than a fellow candidate in a constituency with less voters). If a party is entitled to 3 seats, then the 3 candidates polling the most votes for that party are elected. In constituencies where no candidate won over 50% of the vote, there can only be one representative from the constituency in Parliament, so the candidate who polled the most votes does not necessarily get to win the seat. This was the case, among many others, in Arad County’s 5th district – a candidate won 49.2% but because his party had already gotten 3 seats off the bat by taking over 50% in those, he did not win his district because it was given to another party’s candidate who won 33.9% and the most raw votes of his party’s constituency candidates (and the party was entitled to 2 seats, so he got one of them). In cases like Teleorman County, however, the requirement for proportional representation still holds even if one party has won all seats. In this case, the number of seats for said county is automatically increased, so a single-member constituency may end up having 2 MPs. This is followed by a national redistribution process which I won’t even pretend to understand.

Get it? No, I don’t either. In fact, most voters in Romania probably don’t understand the system, and even parties might have a hard time explaining the weird intricacies of this system. The government passed a law to change the voting system to FPTP (with a small bonus for national minorities), but it was rejected by the President and the courts invalidated the law.

Romanian politics have become increasingly depressing in recent years, and most Romanians have become extremely cynical with their country’s politics. This, in good part, explains the huge decrease in voter turnout since the fall of communism, from about 80% in the first elections to barely below 40% in the most recent legislative election (in 2008). Political parties in Romania have become perceived as corrupt, opportunistic and power-hungry empty shells, devoid of ideology, running solely on the desire to take the reins of power and patronage for themselves. This has become exceptionally true this year, as I explained this summer when Romanians were called to vote on the impeachment of the President, Traian Băsescu. As I posted back then:

Since January, Romania has been rocked by major political instability. The country’s politics have been bitter and sulfurous since at least 2009, and at the root of it all is Băsescu himself. The President quickly alienated most of his former political allies after being elected to the presidency on a centre-right, anti-corruption platform in 2004. Băsescu has a very hot temper and is well known for his erratic and off-the-cuff style, which sometimes degenerates into foul-mouthed tirades against his opponents. He has not lived up to expectations on the matter of corruption, and he has been criticized for his authoritarian penchants.

Băsescu survived a first attempt by the opposition to impeach him on fairly flimsy grounds in 2007, when three-quarters of the 44% who turned out voted against removing him from office (even if the referendum had been valid – it had a 50% turnout threshold - Băsescu would not have been removed from office). Relations between Băsescu’s centre-right Democratic Liberal Party (PDL) and the opposition – both the Social Democrats (PSD) and the National Liberals (PNL) worsened following Băsescu’s narrow reelection in 2009 with only 50.3% of the votes in a disputed runoff election.

Romania is a semi-presidential republic, with the President holding responsibility over foreign affairs as well as the power to appoint judges or to delay legislation. Between 2008 and 2012, his Prime Minister was Emil Boc, a member of the PDL. Boc governed in coalition with the PSD until 2009, when his first government was taken down by a no-confidence motion backed by the PSD, the PNL and the Hungarian minority party (UDMR). Following Băsescu’s reelection, he renominated Boc instead of nominating a candidate backed by the three parties which had voted the no-confidence motion. However, Boc managed to obtain Parliament’s confidence in December 2009, thanks to the support of the UDMR and dissidents from the PSD.

In office, Boc wrestled with the economic crisis. Romania fell into recession in 2009 and again in 2010, and since then the country’s economic recovery has been slow. While Romania remains the second poorest country in the EU, its economic situation – in a comparative perspective – is not all that bad. However, in 2009 Romania received a $27 billion bailout from the IMF, which came with strings attached. The Boc government implemented and became extremely unpopular for austerity measures, including budget cuts, wage cuts in the public sector and a sales tax hike. The government is committed to reducing the country’s budgetary deficit from 4.4% of the GDP in 2011 to 1.9% this year.

The austerity measures associated with the PDL and Băsescu were extremely unpopular. Voters in the EU’s second poorest country were tired of tax hikes, wage cuts and decling public services; all with the backdrop of politicians and political parties which are widely seen as lining their pockets. Maybe austerity would have been better received if voters did not feel that their representatives were stealing their money. Several PDL politicians, including Băsescu himself, are suspected of corruption; but the opposition hardly has a better reputation. The PNL’s ranks include a corrupt oil magnate/billionaire, while the ex-communist PSD is seen as the epitome of the old corrupt clique – a coalition of old communist party bosses and security employees.

There were major protests earlier this year, which ultimately forced Boc to resign on February 6. A few days later, he was replaced by a cabinet led by Mihai Răzvan Ungureanu, a former boss of the foreign intelligence services. However, on April 27, his government was voted down by a motion of no-confidence backed by the opposition. In February 2011, the three main opposition parties (the ex-communist centre-left PSD, the liberal PNL and the small right-wing Conservative Party) formed an electoral coalition, the Social Liberal Union (USL).

Initially, in February, after Boc resigned, the leader of the PSD (and USL), 39-year old Victor Ponta, refused to become Prime Minister. However, after the Ungureanu cabinet fell, Băsescu was compelled to name Ponta, his top political rival, as Prime Minister. Romania was thus thrown into a French-like situation of cohabitation between an opposing President and government. However, unlike in France, Romanian politics – especially with a President like Băsescu who is known to be a prick – are far less consensual.

Since taking office, Ponta and Băsescu have been embroiled in a bloody schoolyard fight. Things got extremely ugly at the end of June, after the courts – which Ponta claims are stacked with Băsescu’s allies – found Ponta’s political mentor and former PSD Prime Minister Adrian Năstase guilty in a corruption and fraud case. It was after this incident that the Parliament voted to impeach the President, accusing him of using the secret services against political enemies, refusing to appoint cabinet ministers, trying to influence prosecutors in criminal cases and engaging in illegal phone tapping. Băsescu has flatly denied these allegations, and regardless of their veracity, the case for his impeachment is constitutionally flimsy and is definitely politically motivated. In this schoolyard brawl, Ponta’s allies claims that Băsescu struck back by leaking a plagiarism scandal in which Victor Ponta is accused of plagiarizing his doctoral thesis. Ponta had the commission in charge of academic integrity dissolved and has said that he will not resign regardless of what happens in this case.

After a fight with the courts and Băsescu over who from Ponta and Băsescu should have represented the country at a European summit, Ponta made his most controversial moves. He threatened to fire constitution court judges (he claims that they are Băsescu loyalists), fired and replaced the ombudsman with a party loyalist, seized control of the official journal and replaced the heads of both chambers of Parliament. These measures, which opponents claim are clear moves to weaken the country’s independent institutions, sent a chill down the spine of the European Commission and most EU grandees. The EU has struggled in the past year with the issue of Hungary – which presents a similar case of a European elected government disrespecting the rule of law and liberal democratic values. In Budapest, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán made controversial changes to the Hungarian constitution which has limited media freedoms and judicial freedom.

The EC issued a stark warning to the Romanian government in early July, and Germany’s Angela Merkel minced no words in condemning Ponta’s actions. The EC has debated which sanctions, if any, should be adopted against Romania. A freeze in EU transfers was seriously considered, but the crisis has likely derailed or at least significantly delayed Romanian attempts to join the Schengen area. Unlike Orbán however, Ponta has not been defiant of  European institutions and moved to soothe fears that he was staging something akin to a coup d’état. Ponta claimed that there had been misunderstandings, and reassured that he would withdraw his controversial laws if they were to cause any trouble for Romania in the EU.

In 2007, the previous referendum on Băsescu’s impeachment was deemed invalid because turnout was below the 50% threshold required to validate it. Ponta tried to remove this quorum and allow for the referendum to be valid even if less than 50% of voters turned out. After protests by the courts and the EU, he was forced to reinstate the turnout requirement. Băsescu, denouncing a constitutional coup d’état and a grave threat to democracy, called on his supporters to boycott the referendum (with the hope that less than 50% of voters would turn out and invalidate whatever the verdict was). However, Băsescu was far more popular in 2007 than he is today. Local elections held in June saw his party, the PDL, win only 15% of the vote against 49.7% for the USL.

In the end, however, Ponta and the USL lost their gamble. Even if those who turned out overwhelmingly approved the turnout fell short of the 50% threshold required for the referendum to be valid (it was 46.5%). Ponta argued that the court should validate the result anyway, but ultimately – as expected – the courts invalidated the results before turnout was below 50%. As I said back then, the referendum proved a no-win result which has only extended the schoolyard brawl between Ponta and Băsescu.

Romania has major economic problems. Most notably, the country took out a  €20 billion loan with the IMF and the EU, in exchange for austerity measures which Ponta and the USL are now pledging to roll back somewhat. The government must reduce the deficit to the 3% threshold (which it still seems a good way off from doing) and privatize some failing state companies. However, even if economic issues explain why Băsescu and his party have become so deeply unpopular, they did not really play a central role in the campaign. Once again, the campaign was marked by the subsequent acts in the Ponta-USL/Băsescu conflict. Both sides in the dispute appear more interested in the personal vendetta than actually governing the country, or when they do govern the country it is to shore up their own personal (or business) interests. For example, even if Ponta learned his lessons and shied away (somewhat) from overly controversial measures, his government recently rammed through a media bill which makes changes to the national council which regulates the mass media (considered as right-leaning); the bill seems destined at shoring up the business interests of one of the USL’s most prominent backers: Dan Voiculescu (the founder of the small ‘Conservative Party’), a former Securitate (communist secret police) informer and a media mogul behind two major TV channels in the country.

The USL is a big tent coalition of parties (or what passes as political parties) who are united by their common dislike (if not hatred) of Băsescu. It includes Ponta’s Social Democratic Party (PSD), the descendants of the old communist party; the purportedly liberal National Liberal Party (PNL), led by the President of the Senate Crin Antonescu (who served as interim President during the impeachment procedure); the small Conservative Party (PC), founded by Dan Voiculescu and the new National Union for the Progress of Romania (UNPR). All of these parties are widely regarded as corrupt, the PSD has often been described by its opponents as a corrupt coalition of old communist bosses and Securitate officials, with authoritarian leanings. The USL unites parties which all oppose Băsescu, but it is noteworthy to say that both the PSD and PNL at various times governed with Băsescu’s PDL.

The USL’s campaign promised to roll back some of the austerity policies and lower taxes. Notably, it wants to replace the country’s 16% flat tax with a graduated progressive income tax, reducing the VAT back down to 19% (Emil Boc’s government increased it to 24%) and increase the minimum wage from €154.70 (700 lei) to €265.4 (1200 lei) over four years. Ponta also signaled his intention to revise the constitution, notably to change Article 103 which sets out the procedure for the nomination of the Prime Minister.

Ponta enjoys, at best, very frosty relations with the EU. His government claims to be pro-European, but the PNL’s leader Crin Antonescu made some controversial nationalistic statements during the campaign, alleging that Băsescu’s right-wing allies in Europe (notably Merkel) were discussing plans to ‘federalize’ Romania and stating that Romania’s leaders would not be the ‘servants’ of EU institutions. The EU remains popular in Romania, but significantly less popular than it once was. The close alliance and association between prominent centre-right EU leaders (Angela Merkel), and the unpopular President and his austerity policies have hurt the EU’s image in the country.

Băsescu’s party, the PDL, attempted to rebrand itself. The party formed a coalition, known as the ‘Right Romania Alliance’ (ARD - Alianța România Dreaptă; from my understanding of Romanian the ‘dreaptă‘ probably refers to the concepts of righteousness, truth, fairness, straight like the word droit in France). The ARD was basically an attempt to rebrand the toxic PDL by creating a few sidekick parties (such as ‘Civic Force’, led by former Prime Minister Mihai Răzvan Ungureanu) for the purposes thereof.

The ARD, just like the USL, virulently attacked its opponents. Since Ponta came to power and started taking measures aimed at reducing the power of democratic institutions (such as the Constitutional Courts) which he didn’t like, Băsescu and his allies have claimed to be the defenders of Romanian democracy against a corrupt and authoritarian government (somewhat hypocritically, it’s not like the PDL doesn’t have any authoritarian or centralizing tendencies of its own when it is in power). The ARD’s platform included reducing the flat tax from 16% to 12%, increasing the minimum wage to 850 lei and a new law on healthcare. Earlier this year, when the PDL was still in power, the controversy sparked by a new healthcare law which opponents claimed was opening the way to privatizing healthcare led to major protests and badly hurt the PDL’s popularity.

During the campaign, Băsescu indicated that he would not appoint Ponta as PM again. He said that he wanted a ‘pro-European’ Prime Minister without ‘shady spots’ on his CV. Ponta, on the other hand, said that he was confident that Băsescu would appoint him again.

There was a new party on the scene, the People’s Party – Dan Diaconescu (PP-DD), which, as its name indicates, is led by Dan Diaconescu, a wealthy media magnate who owns one TV station and hosts a popular TV show. Backed by his personal wealth, Diaconescu’s party ran a populist campaign which included promises such as giving €20,000 to Romanians who start a business, raising all salaries and pensions and cutting salaries for MPs and top officials.

Turnout was 41.76%, slightly higher than in 2008 (around 39%) though of course still very low turnout, which reflects both the collapse of Băsescu’s party (many of his former voters not turning out this year) and the continued cynicism of most voters towards Romanian party politics.

The results were:

Chamber of Deputies

USL 58.61% (+6.95%) winning 273 seats (+94)
ARD 16.52% (-15.84%) winning 56 seats (-59)
PP-DD 13.98% (+13.98%) winning 47 seats (+47)
UDMR 5.15% (-1.02%) winning 18 seats (-4)
Minorities 2.6% (-0.85%) winning 18 seats (nc)
PRM 1.24% (-1.91%) winning 0 seats (nc)
PER 0.78% (+0.52%) winning 0 seats (nc)
PPMT 0.64% (+0.64%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Others 0.32% (-2.48%) winning 0 seats (nc)

Senate

USL 60.07% (+7.17%) winning 122 seats (+45)
ARD 16.72% (-16.85%) winning 24 seats (-27)
PP-DD 14.63% (+14.63%) winning 21 seats (+21)
UDMR 5.25% (-1.14%) winning 9 seats (nc)
PRM 1.47% (-2.1%) winning 0 seats (nc)
PER 0.78% (+0.09%) winning 0 seats (nc)
PPMT 0.79% (+0.79%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Others 0.2% (-2.63%) winning 0 seats (nc)

The results of this election could probably have been predicted months ago. Victor Ponta’s USL won a huge victory, a massive landslide which has given the coalition a two-thirds majority in both houses, which can allow them to amend the constitution (which they apparently wish to do). It is somewhat doubtful that a huge majority of the 42% of Romanians who bothered to vote voted for the USL because of its own policy proposals. Instead, the USL’s victory, which was one of the most predictable political events of the year, is the product of the President’s unpopularity and how his unpopularity (and that of the Boc governments until this year) have destroyed the PDL. The very tough austerity measures which Băsescu and Emil Boc implemented were unpopular, as was the PDL’s attempt at healthcare reform earlier this year.

The PDL’s last-ditch attempt at rebranding itself as the ‘ARD’ and creating various spinoff parties in the process went horribly wrong. Some voters did not recognize the name ‘ARD’, and the ARD led a very lackluster campaign which did not help matters. The result is that the PDL lost over half of its support from the 2008 election, apparently losing the most support with lower-income and middle-aged voters who flocked either to the USL or to Diaconescu’s new populist party. As mentioned above, other PDL voters did not vote at all.

The USL’s landslide and the quirks of Romania’s electoral system has increased the size of Parliament to a record-high 588 members. Because so many USL candidates in the Senate and in the Chamber won their constituencies outright with over 50% of the vote, the size of both houses increased pretty significantly. The Chamber has 412 seats and the Senate has 176 seats now. Romanians have tons of representatives, but not a lot of Romanians seem to care about their representatives. Deep cynicism has taken root in Romanian society, and citizens have given up on politics and focused on issues closer to them. Politicians are seen as corrupt power-hungry oligarchs squabbling amongst themselves for a share of the pie. Ponta and Băsescu’s behaviour in the last few months seem to have confirmed this view.

Where does this leave Băsescu and what does this result mean for Romania? After a huge defeat, Băsescu’s position is weaker than ever. His second term draws to a close only in December 2014, but many question whether Băsescu will be able to survive until then. He is extremely strong-will and vindictive, which makes it doubtful that he would resign before then. However, Ponta and the USL have often implied that a third impeachment procedure against him is not off the table. If Băsescu did fail to appoint Ponta as Prime Minister (which would probably be unconstitutional, as the President must appoint a PM candidate ‘as a result of his consultation with the party which has obtained absolute majority in Parliament’), the USL would probably waste no time in impeaching him again. One of the USL’s objectives is amending Article 103 of the constitution, which deals with the designation and confirmation of the PM by Parliament.

Many draw parallels between Victor Ponta’s government in Romania and Viktor Orbán in Hungary, whose government (with a similarly huge majority) managed a constitutional power-grab and has curbed the powers of independent institutions. However, the two cases are different and Ponta does not seem to be an authoritarian strongman a la Orbán. To begin with, the USL is a heterogeneous and disparate negative coalition built on common enmity towards Băsescu. On election night, Ponta indicated that he would like to form a coalition with the UDMR, a decision which had apparently not been discussed with or approved by the PNL’s leaders in the coalition. Crin Antonescu and other PNL leaders vocally criticized the decision to bring the UDMR into government (governing with an ethnic minority party is also another thing which the very nationalistic Orbán would never do). The governing coalition does not seem to be on the same page, which is hardly surprising given that little seems to unite the PSD and PNL besides a temporary agreement on dumping Băsescu and putting their hands on the state apparatus. Many are concerned that the USL will use its two-thirds majority to stage a constitutional power-grab like Orbán did in Budapest, but given that cracks between the PSD and PNL are already visible in the USL, will it really succeed in doing so?

The government’s cohesion will be tested by the tough economic and fiscal decisions which lie ahead of it. Some seem to think that Romania will need to seek another bailout from the IMF/EU, and it has to fulfill its obligations to these institutions on its current loans. The USL’s platform promised to tone down the austerity and cut taxes, but it would hardly be surprising if it did neither of those things.

Finally, Ponta does not seem to be of the same caliber as Orbán. At home, he does not seem to be perceived as an authoritarian strongman and he does not have the reputation of being a particularly strong leader. At the head of a disparate and diverse coalition, it is therefore doubtful – for now – that he will be able to go as far as Orbán has gone.

Romanian impeachment referendum 2012

A referendum on the impeachment of the President of Romania, Traian Băsescu, was held in Romania on July 29. This referendum was required to ratify the decision of the Romanian Parliament, on July 6, to impeach President Băsescu who has been in office since 2004. The constitution allows for the President to be impeached only for grave misdeeds, but this clause has been abused by Băsescu’s political enemies who had already tried to impeach him (unsuccessfully) in 2007.

Since January, Romania has been rocked by major political instability. The country’s politics have been bitter and sulfurous since at least 2009, and at the root of it all is Băsescu himself. The President quickly alienated most of his former political allies after being elected to the presidency on a centre-right, anti-corruption platform in 2004. Băsescu has a very hot temper and is well known for his erratic and off-the-cuff style, which sometimes degenerates into foul-mouthed tirades against his opponents. He has not lived up to expectations on the matter of corruption, and he has been criticized for his authoritarian penchants.

Băsescu survived a first attempt by the opposition to impeach him on fairly flimsy grounds in 2007, when three-quarters of the 44% who turned out voted against removing him from office (even if the referendum had been valid – it had a 50% turnout threshold - Băsescu would not have been removed from office). Relations between Băsescu’s centre-right Democratic Liberal Party (PDL) and the opposition – both the Social Democrats (PSD) and the National Liberals (PNL) worsened following Băsescu’s narrow reelection in 2009 with only 50.3% of the votes in a disputed runoff election.

Romania is a semi-presidential republic, with the President holding responsibility over foreign affairs as well as the power to appoint judges or to delay legislation. Between 2008 and 2012, his Prime Minister was Emil Boc, a member of the PDL. Boc governed in coalition with the PSD until 2009, when his first government was taken down by a no-confidence motion backed by the PSD, the PNL and the Hungarian minority party (UDMR). Following Băsescu’s reelection, he renominated Boc instead of nominating a candidate backed by the three parties which had voted the no-confidence motion. However, Boc managed to obtain Parliament’s confidence in December 2009, thanks to the support of the UDMR and dissidents from the PSD.

In office, Boc wrestled with the economic crisis. Romania fell into recession in 2009 and again in 2010, and since then the country’s economic recovery has been slow. While Romania remains the second poorest country in the EU, its economic situation – in a comparative perspective – is not all that bad. However, in 2009 Romania received a $27 billion bailout from the IMF, which came with strings attached. The Boc government implemented and became extremely unpopular for austerity measures, including budget cuts, wage cuts in the public sector and a sales tax hike. The government is committed to reducing the country’s budgetary deficit from 4.4% of the GDP in 2011 to 1.9% this year.

The austerity measures associated with the PDL and Băsescu were extremely unpopular. Voters in the EU’s second poorest country were tired of tax hikes, wage cuts and decling public services; all with the backdrop of politicians and political parties which are widely seen as lining their pockets. Maybe austerity would have been better received if voters did not feel that their representatives were stealing their money. Several PDL politicians, including Băsescu himself, are suspected of corruption; but the opposition hardly has a better reputation. The PNL’s ranks include a corrupt oil magnate/billionaire, while the ex-communist PSD is seen as the epitome of the old corrupt clique – a coalition of old communist party bosses and security employees.

There were major protests earlier this year, which ultimately forced Boc to resign on February 6. A few days later, he was replaced by a cabinet led by Mihai Răzvan Ungureanu, a former boss of the foreign intelligence services. However, on April 27, his government was voted down by a motion of no-confidence backed by the opposition. In February 2011, the three main opposition parties (the ex-communist centre-left PSD, the liberal PNL and the small right-wing Conservative Party) formed an electoral coalition, the Social Liberal Union (USL).

Initially, in February, after Boc resigned, the leader of the PSD (and USL), 39-year old Victor Ponta, refused to become Prime Minister. However, after the Ungureanu cabinet fell, Băsescu was compelled to name Ponta, his top political rival, as Prime Minister. Romania was thus thrown into a French-like situation of cohabitation between an opposing President and government. However, unlike in France, Romanian politics – especially with a President like Băsescu who is known to be a prick – are far less consensual.

Since taking office, Ponta and Băsescu have been embroiled in a bloody schoolyard fight. Things got extremely ugly at the end of June, after the courts – which Ponta claims are stacked with Băsescu’s allies – found Ponta’s political mentor and former PSD Prime Minister Adrian Năstase guilty in a corruption and fraud case. It was after this incident that the Parliament voted to impeach the President, accusing him of using the secret services against political enemies, refusing to appoint cabinet ministers, trying to influence prosecutors in criminal cases and engaging in illegal phone tapping. Băsescu has flatly denied these allegations, and regardless of their veracity, the case for his impeachment is constitutionally flimsy and is definitely politically motivated. In this schoolyard brawl, Ponta’s allies claims that Băsescu struck back by leaking a plagiarism scandal in which Victor Ponta is accused of plagiarizing his doctoral thesis. Ponta had the commission in charge of academic integrity dissolved and has said that he will not resign regardless of what happens in this case.

After a fight with the courts and Băsescu over who from Ponta and Băsescu should have represented the country at a European summit, Ponta made his most controversial moves. He threatened to fire constitution court judges (he claims that they are Băsescu loyalists), fired and replaced the ombudsman with a party loyalist, seized control of the official journal and replaced the heads of both chambers of Parliament. These measures, which opponents claim are clear moves to weaken the country’s independent institutions, sent a chill down the spine of the European Commission and most EU grandees. The EU has struggled in the past year with the issue of Hungary – which presents a similar case of a European elected government disrespecting the rule of law and liberal democratic values. In Budapest, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán made controversial changes to the Hungarian constitution which has limited media freedoms and judicial freedom.

The EC issued a stark warning to the Romanian government in early July, and Germany’s Angela Merkel minced no words in condemning Ponta’s actions. The EC has debated which sanctions, if any, should be adopted against Romania. A freeze in EU transfers was seriously considered, but the crisis has likely derailed or at least significantly delayed Romanian attempts to join the Schengen area. Unlike Orbán however, Ponta has not been defiant of  European institutions and moved to soothe fears that he was staging something akin to a coup d’état. Ponta claimed that there had been misunderstandings, and reassured that he would withdraw his controversial laws if they were to cause any trouble for Romania in the EU.

In 2007, the previous referendum on Băsescu’s impeachment was deemed invalid because turnout was below the 50% threshold required to validate it. Ponta tried to remove this quorum and allow for the referendum to be valid even if less than 50% of voters turned out. After protests by the courts and the EU, he was forced to reinstate the turnout requirement. Băsescu, denouncing a constitutional coup d’état and a grave threat to democracy, called on his supporters to boycott the referendum (with the hope that less than 50% of voters would turn out and invalidate whatever the verdict was). However, Băsescu was far more popular in 2007 than he is today. Local elections held in June saw his party, the PDL, win only 15% of the vote against 49.7% for the USL.

The high prospect of the referendum both passing the turnout requirement and a majority of votes in support of Băsescu’s impeachment worried Romania’s European partners a lot. The EU would be forced to deal with the consequences of legitimate, free and fair referendum which was, however, motivated by a political turf war between two cliques and enemies. Such a result would have boosted Ponta’s power at home – it will still be boosted in November when the USL is the big favourite to win the legislative elections – by allowing for the election of a close ally of Ponta, perhaps the PNL’s leader and caretaker president Crin Antonescu.

Turnout, however, ultimately fell just short of the 50% threshold. 46.53% of registered voters turned out to vote, but of these 46%, 87.5% voted in favour of removing Băsescu from office. If the law is to be followed, then the courts will not validate the results of this referendum and Băsescu will remain in office.

This result is a brief respite for Romania’s European neighbors and political partners, who feared the consequences of 50%+1 turnout in the referendum. However, the political instability and acrimonious political situation has not, for that matter, ended. Băsescu was triumphant on July 29, styling the results of the referendum as a victory for democracy against the constitutional coup d’état and democratic transgressions of Victor Ponta. While he said that he would work to mend the “enormous rift in society”, he has refused to resign and shows no sign of shying away from his confrontational attitude against Ponta’s government. Băsescu’s allies have been eager to attack the current government, recently leaking a secret deal between Ponta and a shady trade union of ex-military men which seeks to scrap institutions such as the Constitutional Court. On the other hand, Victor Ponta has been similarly defiant. He has claimed that Băsescu has lost all legitmacy and should resign, and originally indicated that he would refuse to work with an illegitimate president (and it is true, in part, with such a large number of voters voting to impeach him, that Băsescu’s legitimacy is minimal at this point). The USL would like for the courts to validate the referendum anyway, claiming that some registered voters on the rolls do not live in Romania and haven’t voted in years. Regardless of what happens, it is a certainty that Ponta backed by the legislature and President Băsescu will continue their bloody schoolyard fight in the foreseeable future, given that Băsescu’s term will only end in 2014.

Map of turnout by county (source: Wikipedia)

Given that the President’s remaining base of support is hardly more than 15%, he did not “win” the referendum only by motivating his supporters to boycott the referendum. Against all expectations, however, less than 50% of voters actually voted. There are a number of factors at play here. The EU’s threats (to suspend transfer payments, or keep the country’s judicial system under supervision or even the nuclear option) likely played a role in demotivating potential opponents of Băsescu. There is certainly an element of political apathy at play as well, boosted by the timing of the referendum (in the middle of summer on a hot Sunday) but also traditional disenchantment with politicians and politics. The USL is the favourite to win the next election, but – at least in Romanian academia – there is little enthusiasm for it. Romanians do not political parties as political movements which represent them or work for the national interest, but rather as a grubby bunch of frontmen and corrupt oligarchs and ex-communist stooges. Neither party has a crystal clean reputation. Ponta’s controversial tactics, mixed with the very personal and partisan nature of this referendum and the EU’s surprisingly vocal reaction to all this, like played a role as well.The geography of turnout shows that there is a clear partisan element at work, given that turnout was lowest (below 40%) in Transylvania, where Băsescu’s centre-right party is usually the strongest. However, the lowest turnout levels were in Harghita and Covasna counties, at barely 11.6% and 20.6% respectively. Both of these counties are heavily Hungarian (over 70% of the population). Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán made a controversial entrance in the referendum campaign by calling Hungarians in Romania to boycott the referendum as well. Orbán’s controversial intervention was strongly condemened by Ponta, who claimed that Orbán was intervening in Romania’s internal affairs.

This referendum was, from a certain perspective, a no-win scenario given that a victory would have caused nightmares for the EU and cemented Ponta’s power, while its defeat means that the power struggle between both men will continue unabated, condemning the country to months of a bloody power struggle between two enemies who occupy the top two political offices in the country.

Romania (President) 2009

The runoff election in Romania’s presidential election was held yesterday. Incumbent centre-right President Traian Băsescu of the Democratic-Liberal Party (PD-L) faced off with former Foreign Minister Mircea Geoană, the leader of the Social Democratic Party (PSD). This was a crucial election in a country whose parliament has been in deadlock for over a month since the PDL-PSD coalition government formed in 2008 fell apart. An IMF 20-billion euro bailout package also hinges on the result of this election, and the country’s economic future as a whole is closely related to the outcome.

Băsescu, elected on an anti-corruption platform in 2004, has managed to antagonize his former allies – the National Liberals (PNL) whose candidate in the first round, Crin Antonescu, won 20.02% and enthusiastically backed Geoană. He has also grown unpopular for his confrontational style, and his party is now left isolated in Parliament against an opposition determined to block his nominees for Prime Minister. He led a largely populist campaign, attacking media tycoons and corrupt officeholders.

Mircea Geoană campaigned mostly on a platform for change and against Băsescu, but his image as a young reformer breaking from the PSD’s corrupt past was tarnished in the debate by Băsescu, running on a populist platform, who accused him of having links with a controversial media tycoon.

Geoană, who had won the support of most defeated first round candidates, and most notably liberal candidate Crin Antonescu, led all pre-election polls with around 53-54% and led in all but one exit polls last night with around 50.8%. On the basis on the exit polls, he claimed victory before results even came in and gave a victory speech, thanking his wife and mother and calling his victory a victory for those Romanian wanting a “better life”. However, at the same time, Băsescu assured supporters that exit polls were wrong (and that he led one exit poll with 50.4%) and that he had defeated his opponent. Of course, he also claimed victory and gave a victory speech.

The final results are:

Traian Băsescu (PD-L) 50.33%
Mircea Geoană (PSD) 49.66%
Turnout: 58.02%

An analysis of the results on a statistical and geographical basis indicates that Băsescu’s victory can be claimed on the basis of one major factor: he won around 75% of the vote from Romanians living overseas. These voters were probably not surveyed in any polls or exit polls, and in a narrow election these voters do matter quite a bit.

Atleast Al Gore didn't do this...

Geoană has claimed fraud, accusing the PD-L and Băsescu of ‘vote buying’ overseas and in Romania, and various other fraudulent maneuvers. However, the OSCE reported that the runoff was within the norms of European electoral legislation, but still asked for rapid investigation of 194 cases of potential fraud. Geoană’s evidence seems rather shaky, a lot of it being a stupid argument of having led in exit polls and early results, but will still appeal the result to the Constitutional Court as early as tomorrow, December 8.

Geoană’s victory might have been better for stability and Romania’s economy as he would have appointed a Prime Minister acceptable to a majority: the ethnic German mayor of Sibiu, Klaus Johannis, who has the support of every party except the PD-L and whom Băsescu stubbornly refused to appoint. The IMF’s aid is dependent on the nomination of a new government, and with the re-election of Băsescu and the continued opposition of the PSD-PNL to his Prime Ministerial nominees, instability is likely to continue unless the PSD and PD-L can stop being stubborn and agree to work together for the economic revival of the country. If not, there could be some important popular discontent (not that there already isn’t, most people are fed up of the parties and politicians).

Romania President 2009

Romania voted for its President yesterday, on November 22 as well as in two referendums notably establishing a unicameral legislature with less than 300 members. In addition, this was the first presidential election held after a five-year term, instead of a four-year term.

In 2004, Traian Băsescu, as candidate of a shortlived alliance between the centre-right Democratic-Liberal Party (PD-L) and the National Liberal Party (PNL), defeated the Social Democrat (PSD) Adrian Năstase, running to succeed PSD President Ion Iliescu. Băsescu’s main campaigning theme in 2004 was the fight against corruption, but little progress has been made in that regard during his term, and he has also grown unpopular due to his confrontational nature, which led to the PNL falling out of the short-lived coalition between Băsescu’s PD-L and the PNL.

These elections are key to to reviving economic policy halted by a government crisis that has delayed aid from the IMF. Băsescu has campaigned on a continued fight against corruption and government graft, as well as better social protection and tax cuts. He faces the leader of the PSD, Mircea Geoană, a new-style and rather clean politician who modernised the PSD’s image, tainted by past corruption and incompetence. Most of his support is mostly opposition to Băsescu’s confrontational style and a desire for deeper social protection in bad economic times. The third contender is Crin Antonescu of the liberal PNL, who notably advocates a cut in the country’s flat tax (implemented by the PNL in government in 2004) from 16% to 10%. The other main candidates are Corneliu Vadim Tudor, leader of the far-right Greater Romania Party (PRM), who had come second in 2000 with 28% and third in 2004 with 13% of the vote. The PRM has since fallen off, though it did well-ish in the June European elections. The Hungarian party (UDMR) has nominated Hunor Kelemen, while the incumbent ex-PSD Mayor of Bucharest Sorin Oprescu is running as an Independent.

Here are the results, with 99.81% of precincts reporting:

Traian Băsescu (PD-L) 32.43%
Mircea Geoană (PSD) 31.16%
Crin Antonescu (PNL) 20.02%
Corneliu Vadim Tudor (PRM) 5.55%
Hunor Kelemen (UDMR) 3.84%
Sorin Oprescu (Ind) 3.18%
George Becali (PNG) 1.91%
Remus Cernea (Green) 0.62%
Constantin Rotaru (PAS) 0.45%
Eduard Gheorghe Manole (Ind) 0.35%
Ovidiu Cristian Iane (Ecologist Party) 0.23%
Constantin Ninel Potîrcă (Ind) 0.21%

Turnout was only 54%, notably very low in Hungarian areas (the lowest turnouts were in Hungarian-majority areas), thereby explaining the UDMR’s poor result (its results are usually between 4% and 8%, the Hungarian population is around 6.6% in Romania).

The first round was the easy part for Băsescu, but he now faces a very high-risk runoff against his Social Democratic rival Mircea Geoană. All polls in November so far have shown Geoană defeating Băsescu in the runoff with Băsescu’s polling numbers ranging from 46% to 48%. Geoană can count on the votes of the UDMR, whose voters split heavily in favour of the PSD candidate in the 2004 runoff, and also what I suppose to be PNL voters voting against Băsescu, who is pretty unpopular with the PNL.

There were also two referendums held yesterday. The first to create a unicameral legislature, which passed with 77.78% YES votes, and a second one to reduce the number of parliamentarians to a maximum of 300, which passed with 88.84%. Both were spearheaded by Băsescu’s PD-L, which held that unicameralism would make policy-making easier.

Europe 2009: Results

Here is the first post in a series of posts concerning the various Euro results from June 7. The results for the major parties winning seats (or not, in a few cases) are presented here, along with a very brief statistical analysis of what happened. If applicable, a map of the results is also presented. Again, except for the Germany map, all of these maps are my creations.

Austria

ÖVP 30% (-2.7%) winning 6 seats (nc)
SPÖ 23.8% (-9.5%) winning 4 seats (-3)
HP Martin’s List 17.7% (+3.7%) winning 3 seats (+1)
FPÖ 12.8% (+6.5%) winning 2 seats (+1)
Greens 9.7% (-3.2%) winning 2 seats (nc)
BZÖ 4.6%

As I expected, the junior partner in government, the centre-right ÖVP came out on top but the most surprising was the ÖVP’s decisive margin of victory over its senior partner, the social democratic SPÖ. In fact, the SPÖ, like the German SPD, has won its worst result since 1945. This is probably due to a poor campaign a poor top candidate – Hannes Swoboda. Swoboda ranted against job losses and outsourcing when he himself did the same thing to his employees at Siemens. The good result came from Hans-Peter Martin’s anti-corruption outfit, which got a third seat and increased it’s vote. While improving on its poor 2004 result, the far-right FPÖ is far from the 17.5% it won in the 2008 federal elections. A lot is due to abstention (anti-Euro voters being a large contingent of the abstentionists) and also Martin’s success. The Greenies have unsurprisingly fallen, though they held their second seat due to late (and still incoming) postal votes. The BZÖ of the late Jorg Haider fell just short of the threshold, and it did not win Haider’s Carinthian stronghold. Turnout was 45.3%, slightly up on 2004.

Bulgaria

GERB 24.36% (+2.68%) winning 5 seats (nc)
BSP 18.5% (-2.91%) winning 4 seats (-1)
DPS 14.14% (-6.12%) winning 3 seats (-1)
Attack 11.96% (-2.24%) winning 2 seats (-1)
NDSV 7.96% (+1.89%) winning 2 seats (+1)
Blue Coalition (UDF and DSB) 7.95% (-1.14%) winning 1 seat (+1)
Lider 5.7%

The pro-European centre-right GERB won, as in 2007, defeating the Socialists (BSP, officialy grouped with smaller parties in the ‘Coalition for Bulgaria’). The Turkish minority party DPS fell significantly compared to its surprisingly excellent 2007 result. This is due to higher turnout and to competition (by Lider) in the very active vote buying market in Bulgaria. The liberal NDSV led by former Bulgarian monarch Simeon II came back from the dead to win 2 seats and increase its vote share – all this due to a top candidate who had a high personal profile and popularity in an election where person and popularity are very important.

Cyprus

Democratic Rally 35.7% (+7.5%) winning 2 seats
AKEL 34.9% (+7%) winning 2 seats
Democratic Party 12.3% (-4.8%) winning 1 seat
Movement for Social Democracy 9.9% (-0.9%) winning 1 seat (+1)
European Party 4.1% (-6.7%) winning 0 seats (-1)

To my surprise, the opposition centre-right (albeit pro-reunification) DISY defeated the governing communist AKEL. However, both parties increased their share of the vote compared to 2004, mainly on the back of the centrist anti-reunification DIKO and the Social Democrats (who won a seat due to the collapse of the liberal European Party).

Czech Republic

Civic Democrats (ODS) 31.45% (+1.41%) winning 9 seats (±0)
Social Democrats (ČSSD) 22.38% (+13.6%) winning 7 seats (+5)
Communist Party (KSČM) 14.18% (-6.08%) winning 4 seats (-2)
KDU-ČSL 7.64% (-1.93%) winning 2 seats (±0)
Sovereignty 4.26%

Of the shocking results of the night, the Czech result was a shocker to me. I had predicted the Social Democrats to win all along (most polls agreed, albeit very late polls showed a narrow ODS lead), and you have this very large ODS victory that really comes out of the blue. This is really quite a piss poor result for the ČSSD and its controversial and, in my opinion, poor, leader, Jiří Paroubek. I wasn’t surprised by the results of either the Communists (on a tangent, the KSČM is the only formerly ruling communist party which hasn’t changed it name and it remains very much stuck in 1950) or the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL). The KSČM’s loses were predictable because 2004 was an especially fertile year for them (the ČSSD was in government, a very unpopular government). Two small parties which won seats in 2004 – the centre-right SNK European Democrats (11.02% and 2 seats) and the far-right populist Independents (8.18% and 2 seats) suffered a very painful death this year. The SNK polled 1.66%, the Independents (most of which were Libertas candidates) won 0.54%. The Greens, a parliamentary party, won a very deceiving result – 2.06%. This is probably due to turnout, which remained at 28%.

Denmark

Social Democrats 21.49 % (-11.1%) winning 4 seats (-1)
Venstre 20.24% (+0.9%) winning 3 seats (nc)
Socialist People’s Party 15.87% (+7.9%) winning 2 seats (+1)
Danish People’s Party 15.28% (+8.5%) winning 2 seats (+1)
Conservative People’s Party 12.69% (+1.3%) winning 1 seat (nc)
People’s Movement Against the EU 7.20% (+2.0%) winning 1 seat (nc)
Social Liberal Party 4.27% (-2.1%) winning 0 seats (-1)
June Movement 2.37% (-6.7%) winning 0 seats (-1)
Liberal Alliance 0.59%

Denmark EU 2009

Red: SD, Blue: Venstre, Purple: SF, Green: DF

No real surprise in the Danish results, which were as I expected them to be. The Social Democrats drop compared to their superb 2004 showing was to be expected, obviously. Obviously, these loses were profitable not to the government (Venstre, Liberals) but to the Socialists (SF) and the far-right (DF). SF and DF have won their best result in any Danish election, either European or legislative. The June Movement, the second anti-EU movement which is in decline since it’s shock 16% in 1999, has lost its sole remaining MEP. The older (and leftier) People’s Movement has picked up some of the June Movement’s vote, though its results are far from excellent. Despite an electoral alliance with the Social Democrats, the Social Liberals (Radikal Venstre) lost its MEP.

Estonia

Centre 26.1% winning 2 seats (+1)
Indrek Tarand (Ind) 25.8% winning 1 seat (+1)
Reform 15.3% winning 1 seat (±0)
Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica 12.2% winning 1 seat (±0)
Social Democrats 8.7% winning 1 seat (-2)
Estonian Greens 2.7%

Estonia 2009

Turnout was up 17% in Estonia over 2004, reaching 44% (26.8% in 2004), correcting the weird result of 2004 which saw the normally weak Social Democrats come out on top. However, the surprising result here was Reform’s rout (compared to the 2007 general elections) at the profit of Indrek Tarand, a popular independent. The opposition Centre Party, however, came out on top. However, the map clearly shows that Tarand took votes from all places – Centre, Reform, right, Greenies (winning a very deceiving 2.7%), and Social Democrats. The Centre came out on top purely due to the Russian vote in Ida-Viru and in Tallinn, the capital (despite the name, the Centre performs very well in urban areas – it’s not at all a rural centrist party a la Finland).

Finland

National Coalition 23.2% (-0.5%) winning 3 seats (-1)
Centre 19% (-4.4%) winning 3 seats (-1)
Social Democratic Party 17.5% (-3.7%) winning 2 seats (-1)
Greens 12.4% (+2%) winning 2 seats (+1)
True Finns 9.8% (+9.3%) winning 1 seat (+1)
Swedish People’s Party 6.1% (+0.4%) winning 1 seat (nc)
Left Alliance 5.9% (-3.2%) winning 0 seats (-1)
Christian Democrats 4.2% (-0.1%) winning 1 seat (+1)

Finland EU 2009

No surprises from Finland, which came out roughly as expected. The junior partner in government, the centre-right National Coalition (Kok) defeated its senior partner, the agrarian liberal Centre Party. However, the Finnish left (SDP and Left) suffered a very cold shower, winning its worst result in years. The Left even lost its sole MEP. A lot of that left-wing vote probably went to the Greenies (who won a very good result) and also the anti-immigration True Finns (in coalition with the Christian Democrats, which allowed the Christiandems to get one MEP). The Swedish People’s Party ended up holding its seat. The map is quite typical of Finnish elections, with the agrarian Centre dominating in the sparsely populated north and the National Coalition dominating in middle-class urban (Helsinki, where they narrowly beat out the Greenies for first) and suburban areas. The Swedish vote is concentrated on the Åland islands (over 80% of the vote for them) but also in small fishing communities on the west coast of Finland (which does not show up on the map).

Germany

CDU/CSU 30.7% + 7.2% (-6.6%) winning 42 seats (-7)
SPD 20.8% (-0.7%) winning 23 seats (nc)
Greens 12.1% (+0.2%) winning 14 seats (+1)
Free Democrats 11% (+4.9%) winning 12 seats (+5)
The Left 7.6% (+1.5%) winning 8 seats (+1)

In the EU’s most populated country, the Social Democrats took a major hit by failing to gain anything after the SPD’s horrible (worst since 1945) result in 2004. Overall, the Christian Democrats (CDU) of Chancellor Angela Merkel and its Bavarian sister, the CSU, won as in 2004 but their vote also took a hit (the CDU/CSU was a popular opposition party then, they’re the senior government party now). The winners were of course the Greens, who held on to their remarkable 2004 result and in fact gained a 14th MEP, but certainly the right-liberal Free Democrats (FDP). The Left also gained slightly compared to 2004. The Left’s map remains largely a map of the old DDR but, for the first time, you have darker shades appearing in the West – specifically in the industrial regions of the Saar, the Ruhr and Bremen city. In the end the CSU had no problems with the 5% threshold and they won a relatively decent (compared to most recent results, not 2004 or 2006) result – 48% – in Bavaria. Frei Wahler took 6.7% in Bavaria, and 1.7% federally.

Greece

PASOK 36.64% (+2.61%) winning 8 seats (nc)
New Democracy 32.29% (-10.72%) winning 8 seats (-3)
Communist Party 8.35% (-1.13%) winning 2 seats (-1)
Popular Orthodox Rally 7.14% (+3.02%) winning 2 seats (+1)
Coalition of the Radical Left 4.7% (+0.54%) winning 1 seat (nc)
Ecologist Greens 3.49% (+2.88%) winning 1 seat (+1)
Pan-Hellenic Macedonian Front 1.27%

Greece EU 2009

No Greek surprise overall, though the Greenies’ poor result could be one. As expected, the opposition ‘socialist’ PASOK defeated the governing unpopular and corrupt right-wing New Democracy. However, there remains no great love for PASOK, partly due to the fact that both ND and PASOK are very similar. The Communist Party (KKE), one of Europe’s most communist communist parties (it still lives in 1951, decrying bourgeois and capitalists), won 8.35%, slightly above its 2007 electoral result but below the KKE’s excellent 2004 result (over 9%). The surprise came from LAOS and the Greens. The Greenies, who were polling 8-11% in the last polls, fell to a mere 3% partly due to a controversial video by the Green Party leader who said that Macedonia (FYROM, the country) should be allowed to keep its name (s0mething which does not go down well in Greece). Most of the Green strength in polls came from disenchanted ND supporters who ended up voting LAOS (the ultra-Orthodox kooks). The Radical Left (SYRIZA) won a rather poor result, probably due to the fact that it is seen as responsible for the violence and lootings during the 2008 riots in Athens.

Hungary

Fidesz 56.36% winning 14 seats (+2)
Socialist 17.37% winning 4 seats (-5)
Jobbik 14.77% winning 3 seats (+3)
Hungarian Democratic Forum 5.31% winning 1 seat (nc)

The surprise in Hungary came from the spectacular result of the far-right quasi-Nazi Jobbik (which has its own private militia), which did much better than any poll or exit poll had predicted. Jobbik’s results significantly weakened the conservative Fidesz which won “only” 56% (down from 65-70% in some polls). The governing Socialist MSZP took a spectacular thumping, as was widely expected. While the right-wing MDF held its seat, the liberal SZDSZ (f0rmer coalition partner in the MSZP-led government until 2008) lost both of its seats.

Ireland

Fine Gael 29.1% (+1.3%) winning 4 seats (-1)
Fianna Fáil 24.1% (-5.4%) winning 3 seats (-1)
Labour 13.9% (+3.4%) winning 3 seats (+2)
Sinn Féin 11.2% (+0.1%) winning 0 seats (-1)
Libertas 3.1% (new) winning 0 seats (new)
Socialist 1.5% (+0.2%) winning 1 seat (+1)
Green Party 1.1% (-3.2%)

As expected, Fine Gael came out on top of FPVs in Ireland, inflicting a major defeat on the governing Fianna Fáil. Fianna Fáil, did not, however, slip to third behind Labour as some pollsters made it seem. This is due in a large part due to Labour’s complete lack of organization in most rural areas. In Dublin, both Fine Gael and Labour incumbents made it through without much sweat. The race, as expected, was for the third seat between the Fianna Fáil incumbent (Eoin Ryan), Socialist leader Joe Higgins and the Sinn Féin incumbent (Mary Lou McDonald). Surprisingly, Sinn Féin was the first out leaving the final seat between Ryan and Higgins. In the end, Higgins got the quasi-entirety of McDonald’s transferable votes and defeated Ryan with 82,366 votes against 76,956 votes for Ryan on the 7th count. Former Greenie (against the party’s participation in government) Patricia McKenna won 4.3% on first preferences against 4.7% against the official Greenie (however, further transfers from joke candidates got McKenna all the way to count 5, while the Greenie got out by count 3). In the East, Fine Gael’s Mairead McGuinness got elected on the first count, quite the feat indeed. However, no luck for Fine Gael’s second candidate in holding the third seat held by a retiring Fine Gael incumbent. Labour’s Nessa Childers, second on first prefs, far outpolled John Paul Phelan (FG’s second candidate) and got the second seat. Fianna Fáil held its seat. In the North-West, all incumbents (1 Independent ALDE, 1 FF, 1 FG) held their seats with Marian Harkin (Ind-ALDE) topping the poll (however, both Fianna Fáil candidates combined outpolled him and Fine Gael’s MEP). The founder and leader of Libertas, Declan Ganley polled a respectable 13.66% on FPVs and held out till the last count but lost out to Fine Gael due to rather poor transfers from the other anti-Lisbon outfit, SF. In the South, FF incumbent Brian Crowley topped the poll and won easily, as did Sean Kelly (FG). The third seat was between the incumbent Independent (eurosceptic and social conservative) Kathy Sinnott and Labour’s Alan Kelly. Kelly won.

In the local elections, the final seat share is as follows:

Fine Gael 340 seats (+47)
Fianna Fáil 218 seats (-84)
Labour 132 seats (+31)
Others and Indies 132 seats (+40)
Sinn Féin 54 seats (nc)
Socialist 4 seats (nc)
Green Party 3 seats (-15)

Full breakdown by county and city

Italy

People of Freedom 35.26% winning 29 seats
Democratic Party 26.13% winning 21 seats
Lega Nord 10.20% winning 9 seats
Italy of Values 8.00% winning 7 seats
Union of the Centre 6.51% winning 5 seats
Communists (PRC+PdCI) 3.38% winning 0 seats
Sinistra e Libertà 3.12% winning 0 seats
Italian Radicals (Bonino-Pannella List) 2.42% winning 0 seats
Pole of Autonomy (La Destra+MPA) 2.22% winning 0 seats
South Tyrolean’s People Party 0.46% winning 1 seat
Berlusconi Coalition (PdL+LN+Autonomy) 47.68% winning 38 seats
PD Coalition (PD-SVP+IdV+Radicals) 37.01% winning 29 seats

Italy EU 2009

Red: PD, Blue: PdL, Green: Lega Nord, Yellow in Aosta Valley: Valdotanian Union (PdL ally), Yellow in Sudtirol: SVP (PD ally)

The Italian results were certainly a setback for Silvio Berlusconi and his “party”, the PdL, which performed a bit lower than what he and polls had expected (38-41% range). The centre-left PD did relatively well, and this will atleast keep the party from splitting up into the old Democrats of the Left and the Daisy. In terms of coalitions, the two large parliamentary blocs stand almost exactly where they stood overall in 2008, with a very very slight improvement for Berlusconi’s coalition. The marking result of this election is probably that of Lega Nord, which has won its best result in any national Italian election (narrowly beating its previous record, 10.1% in the 1996 general election). The Lega has expanded its support to the “south” (north-central Italy), notably polling 11% in Emilia-Romagna and 4% in Tuscany. The support and future of Lega Nord is to be watched closely in the future, due to a potential new electoral law which could significantly hinder it’s parliamentary representation (more on that later). The other good result is from Antonio di Pietro’s strongly anti-Berlusconi and anti-corruption populist Italia dei Valori, which has won its best result ever, by far. It has almost doubled its support since last year’s general election. After being shutout of Parliament in 2008, the Communists and other leftie parties (Socialists and Greens) are now out of the European Parliament, depsite improving quite a bit on the Rainbow’s 2008 result. Of the two coalitions, the old Communist one made up of the Refoundation Commies and the smaller Italian Commies polled slightly better than the Sinistra e libertà, the “New Left” coalition (Greenies, Socialists, moderate “liberal” Commies). Such was to be expected, but the irony is that both leftie coalitions were formed to surpass the new 4% threshold, and none did. However, if there had been a new Rainbow coalition (the 2008 Rainbow included both the hardline Commies and the New Left), they would have made it. As expected, those small parties which won seats in 2004 due to the old electoral law have been eliminated. These include the fascists, La Destra-Sicilian autonomists/crooks, and the Radicals. The South Tyrolean SVP only held its seat due to an electoral clause which allows these “minority parties” to ally with a party to win a seat. The SVP was the only one of these which was successful in doing so. Two smaller Valdotanian parties (one allied with PdL, the other with IdV) failed to win a seat. In provincial elections held the same days, the right was very successful and of the forty provinces decided by the first round, they had won 26 against 14 for the left. 22 provinces will have a runoff. I might do a post on that if I have time.

Latvia

Civic Union 24.33% winning 2 seats (+2)
Harmony Centre 19.57% winning 2 seats (+2)
PCTVL – For Human Rights in United Latvia 9.66% winning 1 seat (nc)
Latvia’s First Party/Latvia’s Way 7.5% winning 1 seat (nc)
For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK 7.45% winning 1 seat (-3)
New Era 6.66% winning 1 seat (-1)
Libertas.lv 4.31%

Latvian politics are very confusing, mostly due to the huge swings. This time was no different. A new party, Civic Union (probably EPP) topped the poll over the Harmony Centre, a Russian minority outfit. The PCTVL, another Russian outfit, fell slightly compared to its 11% result in 2004, but remained remarkably stable. TB/LNNK, a UEN party which topped the poll in 2004 fell down three seats. The conservative New Era, senior party in the governing coalition, won only 7% (a lot of its members, along with TB/LNNK members apparently joined the Civic Union). The People’s Party, the senior party in the old coalition which fell apart this year due to the economic crisis won barely 2%. The Union of Greens and Farmers, which won something like 16% in the 2006 election polled a mere 3.7%.

Lithuania

Homeland Union-LKD 26.16% winning 4 seats (+2)
Lithuanian Social Democrats 18.12% winning 3 seats (+1)
Order and Justice 11.9% winning 2 seats (+1)
Labour Party 8.56% winning 1 seat (-4)
Poles’ Electoral Action 8.21% winning 1 seat (+1)
Liberals Movement 7.17% winning 1 seat (+1)
Liberal and Centre Union 3.38% winning 0 seats (-1)

Remarkable stability for a Baltic nation in Lithuania. The winner of the 2008 election, the Homeland Union (TS-LKD) won a rather convincing victory, improving on its 2008 result (only 19.6%) and obviously on its 2004 Euro result (12.6%). The LSDP has picked up an extra seat and has cemented its place as the opposition to the TS-LKD, along with the third-placed populist Order and Justice. Labour, the centrist party which won the 2004 Euro election has seen its seat share cut down from 5 to one, a logical follow-up to its collapse in 2008. The Poles have probably benefited from low turnout (21%) to motivate their base and won an outstanding 8.2% and elected one MEP. I don’t really follow Baltic politics, but if I remember correctly, a government rarely wins re-election, so if that’s true, the result of the TS-LKD is even more remarkable.

Luxembourg

Christian Social Party 31.3% (-5.8%) winning 3 seats
Socialist 19.5% (-2.5%) winning 1 seat
Democratic Party 18.6% (+3.7%) winning 1 seat
The Greens 16.8% (+1.8%) winning 1 seat
Alternative Democratic Reform 7.4% (-0.6%)
The Left 3.4% (+1.7%)
Communist Party 1.5% (+0.3%)
Citizens’ List 1.4%

Remarkable and unsurprising political stability in Luxembourg, with no changes in seat distribution. While the CSV and LSAP suffer minor swings against them, the DP and Greens get small positive swings. The Greens’ result is their best ever and one of the best Green results in European elections.

On election night last week, I also covered the simultaneous general election. Here are, again, the full results.

CSV 38% (+1.9%) winning 26 seats (+2)
LSAP 21.6% (-1.8%) winning 13 seats (-1)
DP 15% (-1.1%) winning 9 seats (-1)
Greens 11.7% (+0.1%) winning 7 seats (nc)
ADR 8.1% (-1.8%) winning 4 seats (-1)
Left 3.3% (+1.4%) winning 1 seat (+1)
KPL 1.5% (+0.6%)
BL 0.8%

Malta

Labour 54.77% winning 3 seats (nc)
Nationalist 40.49% winning 2 seats (nc)

Obviously no surprise in tiny Malta, where the opposition Labour Party has defeated the governing Nationalist Party. Both sides made gains in terms of votes, feeding off the collapse of the green Democratic Alternative (AD), which won a remarkable 10% in 2004 but a mere 2.3% this year.

Poland

Civic Platform 44.43% (+20.33%) winning 25 seats (+10)
Law and Justice 27.4% (+14.73%) winning 15 seats (+8)
Democratic Left Alliance-Labour Union 12.34% (+2.99%) winning 7 seats (+2)
Peasant Party 7.07% (+0.67%) winning 3 seats (-1)

Poland EU 2009

Map by electoral constituency. Key same as above table

Polish politics move quickly, but it seems that this ‘setup’ is here to stay, atleast for some time. The governing right-liberal pro-European Civic Platform (led by PM Donald Tusk) has won a crushing victory over the national-conservative eurosceptic Law and Justice of President Lech Kaczyński. PO’s margin of victory is slightly larger than its already important victory in the 2008 elections. The SLD-UP electoral alliance, which is what remains of the Left and Democrats (LiD) coalition of the 2008 election (encompassing SLD-UP but also a small fake liberal party), won 12%, the average result of the Polish left these days. The Peasant Party, PO’s junior partner in government, won slightly fewer votes than in 2008 (or the 2004 Eur0s). The 2004 Euros, marked by the excellent result of the ultra-conservative League of Polish Families (LPR, now Libertas) and the left-wing populist Samoobrona saw both of these parties collapse. Libertas-LPR won 1.14% and Samoobrona won 1.46%. Smaller ultra-conservative jokes also did very poorly. After the 2004-2006 episode, sanity seems to have returned to Polish politics.

Portugal

Social Democratic Party 31.7% winning 8 seats (+1)
Socialist Party 26.6% winning 7 seats (-5)
Left Bloc 10.7% winning 3 seats (+2)
CDU: Communist Party-Greens 10.7% winning 2 seats (nc)
Democratic and Social Centre-People’s Party 8.4% winning 2 seats (nc)

Portugal EU 2009

Blue: PSD, Red: PS, Green: CDU (PCP-PEV)

Cold shower for the governing Portuguese Socialists after the huge victory of the 2004 Euros. The centre-right PSD has won a major victory by defeating the PS, albeit a relatively small margin between the two. The lost votes of the PS flowed to the Left Bloc (the Trotskyst and more libertarian component of the far-left) and the CDU (the older and more old-style communist component of the far-left), both of which won a remarkable 21.4% together. These voters voted BE or CDU due to the PS’ economic policies, which are far from traditional left-wing economic policies. The PS will need to fight hard, very hard, to win the upcoming general elections in September.

Romania

Social Democratic Party+Conservative Party 31.07% winning 11 seats (+1)
Democratic Liberal Party 29.71% winning 10 seats (-6)
National Liberal Party 14.52% winning 5 seats (-1)
UDMR 8.92% winning 3 seats (+1)
Greater Romania Party 8.65% winning 3 seats (+3)
Elena Băsescu (Ind PD-L) 4.22% winning 1 seat (+1)

Romania EU 2009

The close race in Romania between the two government parties ended in the victory of the junior partner, the PSD with a rather mediocre 31%. The PDL’s 30% was also rather mediocre. The PNL also did quite poorly. The two winners are the Hungarian UDMR, which won a rather remarkable 9%, probably benefiting from high Hungarian turnout in a very low turnout election. The far-right Greater Romania Party overcame past setbacks and won three seats and a surprisingly good 8.7%. This is due in part to the participation of the far-right quasi-fascist PNG-CD  on its list (the party’s leader, the very controversial Gigi Becali, was the party’s second candidate on the list). László Tőkés, an Hungarian independent elected in 2007 (sat in the Green-EFA group) has been re-elected as the top candidate on the UDMR list.

Slovakia

Smer-SD 32.01% winning 5 seats (+2)
Slovak Democratic and Christian Union–Democratic Party (SDKÚ-DS) 16.98% winning 2 seats (-1)
Party of the Hungarian Coalition 11.33% winning 2 seats (±0)
Christian Democratic Movement 10.87% winning 2 seats (-1)
People’s Party–Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (ĽS-HZDS) 8.97% winning 1 seat (-2)
Slovak National Party 5.55% winning 1 seat (+1)

Smer’s result is definitely deceiving for them and possibly a sign that their past stellar poll ratings will slide to the benefit of the opposition SDKÚ-DS. However, the SDKÚ-DS (but also the KDH and obviously the ĽS-HZDS) have slid back compared to their 2004 Euro results. While the collapse of the ĽS-HZDS (formerly led by former quasi-dictator Vladimír Mečiar) is good news, the entry of the quasi-fascist Slovak National Party, Smer’s charming coalition partners, is not. However, the SNS’ 5.6% is not the 10% it used to poll and hopefully they stay low.

Slovenia

Slovenian Democratic Party 26.89% winning 2 seats (nc)
Social Democrats 18.48% winning 2 seats (+1)
New Slovenia 16.34% winning 1 seat (-1)
Liberal Democracy 11.52% winning 1 seat (-1)
Zares 9.81% winning 1 seat (+1)
DeSUS 7.19%

In Slovenia, the oppostion centre-right SDS has defeated the ruling Social Democrats. Here again, the current political setup between SDS on the right and SD on the left, a rather new setup, seems set to stay for a few years. The NSi, which won the 2004 election, and the LDS, which used to dominate Slovenian politics, have both slumped back. The new liberal Zares won 9.8%, roughly its level in the 2008 election.

Spain

People’s Party42.23% (+1.02%) winning 23 seats (-1)
Socialist 38.51% (-4.95%) winning 21 seats (-4)
Coalition for Europe (EAJ-CiU-CC) 5.12% (-0.03%) winning 2 seats [1 EAJ, 1 CiU] (±0)
The Left 3.73% (-0.38%) winning 2 seats (±0)
Union, Progress and Democracy 2.87% winning 1 seat (+1)
Europe of Peoples 2.5% (+0.05%) winning 1 seat (±0)

Spain EU 2009

As expected, the conservative PP defeated the governing PSOE, but due to the polarized nature of Spanish politics, no landslide here. However, the PSOE definitely polled poorly, though the PP didn’t do that great either. The regionalists held their ground well, and CiU got some little gains going in Catalonia. Aside from UPyD’s narrow entry and the obvious PP gains, it was generally status-quo.

Sweden

Social Democrats 24.41% (-0.15%) winning 5 seats (nc)
Moderate Party 18.83% (+0.58%) winning 4 seats (nc)
Liberal People’s Party 13.58% (+3.72%) winning 3 seats (+1)
Greens 11.02% (+5.06%) winning 2 seats (+1)
Pirate Party 7.13% (new) winning 1 seat (+1)
Left 5.66% (-7.14%) winning 1 seat (-1)
Centre 5.47% (-0.79%) winning 1 seat (nc)
Christian Democrats 4.68% (-1.01%) winning 1 seat (nc)
June List 3.55% (-10.92%) winning 0 seats (-3)
Sweden Democrats 3.27% (+2.14%)
Feminist Initiative 2.22%

Sweden EU 2009

First map: Parties (SD in red, M in blue) – Second Map: Coalitions (Red-Green in red, Alliance in blue)

The Swedish results must come as a major deception for both major parties, the Social Democrats and the governing Moderates. Both had done horribly in 2004 and the 2009 results are no improvements for either of them. In fact, the opposition SD has in fact dropped a few votes more from the 2004 disaster. These loses profit to the smaller parties in their respective coalitions (Red-Green for the SD, Alliance for M). The Liberals did very well, unexpectedly well in fact, and elected a third MEP. The Greens drew votes from Red-Green voters dissatisfied by the unpopular SD leader, Mona Sahlin, and its vote share increased by 5%. Of course, Sweden is now famous for electing one Pirate MEP, and even a second MEP if Sweden gets additional MEPs as planned by the Treaty of Lisbon. The Left’s vote fell significantly from its good showing in 2004, while the vote for smaller coalition parties – the Centre and Christian Democrats also slid a bit. The eurosceptic June List, which had won 14% in 2004, fell to a mere 3.6% and lost its 3 MEPs. However, this result might have prevented the far-right Sweden Democrats from picking up a seat. The Feminists, who had one MEP after a Liberal defection, won a surprisingly decent 2%, far better than what polls had in store for them. In terms of coalitions, the governing Alliance actually won with 42.56% against 41.09% for the opposition Red-Greens.

Longer, special posts concerning the Euro elections in Belgium, France and the UK will be posted in the coming days.

Romania 2008: Government Formed

A government coalition has been formed in Romania, a bit less than a month after the legislative elections. The PSD and PD-L, the two largest parties, have formed a grand coalition. It has 229 seats in the lower house, out of 334 seats. Or, over two-thirds of seats (69%). In the Senate, it has 100 out of 137 seats, or 73% of seats.

However, it does not seem that the UDMR has entered government and will likely form the opposition with the PNL.

Emil Boc (PD-L), former Mayor of Cluj-Napoca, is Prime Minister. Dan Nica (PSD) is Deputy PM. There are 9 PD-L ministers, 8 PSD ministers, and one ex-PNL Independent (Cătălin Predoiu, Justice, top post). There is one PSD Minister delegate, Victor Ponta in Relations with Parliament.

PSD leader Mircea Geoană is the new leader of the Senate, and PD-L MEP Roberta Alma Anastasa is the new leader of the Chamber of Deputies.

Romania 2008: Final

The final results with 100% of the votes counted. Turnout was only 39.2%, down a lot since 56.5% in 2004.

Chamber:

PSD+PC: 33.09% winning 114 seats (-10)
PD-L: 32.36% winning 115 seats (+48)
PNL: 18.57% winning 65 seats (+5)
UDMR: 6.17% winning 22 seats (±0)
Ethnic minorities: 3.56% winning 18 seats (±0)
PRM: 3.15% winning 0 seats (-21)
PNG-CD: 2.27% winning 0 seats (±0)

Senate:

PSD+PC: 34.16% winning 49 seats (-6)
PD-L: 33.57% winning 51 seats (+22)
PNL: 18.74% winning 28 seats (+4)
UDMR: 6.39% winning 9 seats (-1)

PRM: 3.57% winning 0 seats (-13)
PNG-CD: 2.53% winning 0 seats (±0)

The outgoing government was formed by only the PNL and UDMR and was a minority parliament. Following the 2004 election, the government was formed by the PD (now PD-L), the PNL, UDMR, and the PC, which left its electoral partner. The UDMR has supported governments of all political colours in the past, from PSD to the liberals. Basically the party which gives the most to the Hungarians wins their support.

A few scenarios: PD-L+PNL+UDMR has a large majority in both houses. A PD-L+PNL only (unlikely) also has a majority in both houses. The outgoing PNL+UDMR lacks a majority in either house. So does PD-L+UDMR. PSD+UDMR lacks a majority in either house. The chances that the PSD actually enters government are very slim.

Romania 2008: Vote Counts Only

Legislative elections to both houses were held on November 30 in Romania.

The results of last election in the lower house
PSD/Humanist Party 36.8% 132 seats (113 PSD, 19 PUR)
Justice and Truth Alliance (PD and PNL) 31.5% 112 seats (64 PNL, 48 PD)
Greater Romania Party 13.0% 48 seats
UDMR 6.2% 22 seats
Ethnic
minorities 18 seats (1 seat each for Roma, Germans, Armenians, Italians,
Bulgarians, Greeks, Jews, Lipovenians, Croatians, Albanians, Turco-Islamic
Tatars, Ukrainians, Slavonic Macedonians, Serbs, Ruthenians, Turks,
Poles, Czech-Slovaks)

In the Senate:
PSD/Humanist Party 37.2% 57 seats
Justice and Truth Alliance (PD and PNL) 31.8% 49 seats
Greater Romania Party 13.6% 21 seats
UDMR 6.1% 10 seats

The PC is the Conservative Party, a ultra-conservative kooky party allied with the Social Democrats (for some weird reason). Romania seems to have adopted MMP since the last election in 2004.

With 99.62% of the votes counted, the vote count is currently (seat count still unknown).

Chamber:
PSD+PC: 33.09%

PD-L: 32.34%
PNL: 18.57%
UDMR: 6.18%
PRM: 3.15%
PNG-CD: 2.28%

Senate:
PSD+PC: 34.12%
PD-L: 33.57%
PNL: 18.75%
UDMR: 6.41%

PRM: 3.56%
PNG-CD: 2.53%

The exit poll from last night, which turned out inaccurate in a few spots projected this final distribution of seats for both houses. The PRM, a far-right nationalist party which was in the presidential runoff in 2000, has lost all its seats in both houses. The PNG-CD, a party classified by the US DoS as extreme-nationalist and having links with a Iron Guard revival group, has also failed to enter parliament.

House:

PSD-PC: 122
PDL: 102
PNL: 68
UDMR: 22
(Minorities 18)

Senate:
PSD-PC: 52
PDL: 45
PNL: 29
UDMR: 11

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 476 other followers