Romania’s next general election: What’s at stake and is it time to turn towards independent candidates?
Photo by Ondrej Bocek via Unsplash

The next Romanian general election is mere days away. On 5th and 6th December, Romanians both at home and abroad will be choosing who sits in Parliament for the next four years. A constitutional, parliamentary democracy, the country has been facing unprecedented political instability in the past decade. Parliamentary sovereignty is a main democratic principle to which the Romanian system adheres. This means the legislative has power over the executive, so implicitly, the President and the Prime Minister have less authority than the Parliament.

At present, the Romanian Parliament includes two chambers: the Senate and the Deputies’ Chamber. The electoral candidates are competing for both. The current Members of Parliament represent most known political parties, but the majority of MPs are members of the Social-Democratic Party (PSD). The PSD reportedly has a negative reputation for corruption, abuse of power and false promises. Young Romanians are particularly against the social-democrats and so is the Romanian Diaspora. 

ROMANIA’S TWO MAIN POLITICAL POWERS

Last year’s presidential election saw National-Liberal President Klaus Iohannis take his second term in office, after winning against PSD’s candidate and ex-Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă by 35%. While President Iohannis received 66.09% of the votes filed by Romanians at home, Diaspora’s support for him was much wider, with 92.19% of the Romanians abroad electing him again. This shows Diaspora’s disapproval of the social-democrats, which has been repeatedly expressed through the years, both silently, by votes and openly, through protests.

This is why the stakes of the upcoming parliamentary election are even higher than during the presidential election. The Romanian Parliament not only approves, amends and revokes laws, but is also responsible for European and international affairs. Recent criticism has emerged as a majority of social-democrat MPs suggested increasing wages and pensions by as much as 40% in the next year. This would in turn increase the national financial deficit by 11% of the GDP. The President and the government have contested this proposal in the Constitutional Court, expressing anxiety it could cause an economic downfall by next year, with Romania set to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. 

Following this set of budget proposals, criticism came from the national-liberals, who accused PSD of “pretending to raise wages”, when in fact, the inflation that would come with it could mean the already small buying power of the national currency will decrease even more. Prime Minister Ludovic Orban declared that PSD are playing at addressing people’s financial difficulties ahead of the parliamentary election without disclosing the economic imbalance their proposed budget would cause.

The ideological conflict between the Romanian Parliament and government is not surprising, since they comprise opposite political parties. While PSD is infamous for its wrongdoings to the country, recently the Opposition’s National-Liberal Party (PNL), which holds the executive power, has also been under scrutiny for allegedly politicising key Romanian institutions. A news documentary published by independent journalism site Recorder last week, shows how, since the Orban government was appointed, many high-profile PNL members gained director positions at Public Water Administration institutions in 13 counties. 

Ahead of the election, which is only days away, it seems likely that voters might face a dilemma. With the two most powerful political parties facing new allegations, many Romanians might look into electing independent MPs or candidates representing other political parties. 

THE DIASPORA’S INDEPENDENT CANDIDATES: THEIR AGENDAS, AIMS AND MOTIVATION

Looking at the voting history of the Romanian Diaspora, it seems unlikely a social-democrat majority will win their trust by 6 December. With the poorly handled scandal unveiling PNL’s alleged actions to remove politically neutral public directors from their positions, some voters in the Diaspora will likely bail from supporting the government’s party as well. But apart from the eight political parties with long lists of names on the ballots, there are two independent candidates promising to represent Romanians abroad, in Parliament.

Running for the Deputies’ Chamber, vocalist Darius Radu intends to increase Diaspora’s influence on Romania’s current affairs. In an interview for The Meridian, he said “Diaspora’s potential is huge. If they unite, they can decide Romania’s fate, which has been stagnating for 30 years”. His motivation lies behind the frustration shared by many who have left the country, that the system is failing them and pushing them away. He believes “Diaspora deserves more respect from the authorities”.

On his agenda, Mr Radu has included  introducing the electronic vote and improving the Romanian embassies and consulates abroad, whose services are overcomplicated by bureaucracy. He urges Romanians abroad to inform themselves before voting and make an educated decision: “Analyse each candidate, look on their Facebook pages and see what they’ve done for the country. Did they take part in protests? Were they in the Victory Place on 10th August 2018, when people were attacked with tear gas?” He added that each candidate’s involvement in such movements proves their devotion to the country.

Running for Senate, Vatra-Dornei-born Ștefan Voloșeniuc is Diaspora’s second independent candidate. His focus is on supporting fellow Romanians abroad, by creating job opportunities, a better media representation and a better access to education for them. Based in North London, Mr Voloșeniuc joined the Diaspora in 2001, living in Portugal and France, before settling in the UK. His aim is to become “Diaspora’s voice in the Romanian Senate”. 

There will only be four deputies and two senators representing the Diaspora in Parliament after the election. This is arguably too small a section of the Parliament to sit for one fifth of the country’s population, who have settled abroad. With the latest scrutiny faced by the two most powerful parties in the country, only time will tell who will form the next Parliament and what changes will come with it. President Klaus Iohannis’s response to his party’s alleged actions will be a decisive factor in where the stamp will go on Romanians’ ballots.