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%
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.
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).