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.