Now in Mega Image

Given Mega Image’s track record of new products appearing and then disappearing very quickly, we suggest filling your boots now, while you can. The Wyke Farms Vintage cheddar is very strong.



It’s all too good to be true

In a famous scene from David Puttnam’s rather brilliant film The Killing Fields, a smiling, waving Khmer Rouge enter Phnom Penh to the cheers of the population, only for Al Rockoff (played by John Malkovich) to tell Sam Waterston’s Sydney Schanberg that: ‘It’s all too good to be true. I just don’t think these guys are for real.’ Shortly afterwards of course the Khmer Rouge reveal their true nature and order the entire population of the Cambodian capital to leave and head for the countryside, killing many of them along the way.

It’s a bit of an exaggeration of course, but that’s kind of how Bucharest has felt this past week: there is a sense of disbelief in the air so thick you can almost touch it. This Klaus Iohannis bloke is just too good be true. It’s as though we expect him to take off his mask at any moment and reveal that he was Victor Ponta all along, and that we are all being deported to labour camps.

Iohannis doesn’t officially become Romania’s president until December 22nd, yet he has been acting this week as though he is very much the man in charge. In his first speech as president-elect, on Monday, he ordered parliament to reject once and for all a general amnesty bill would would have facilitated the release from prison of many corrupt politicians: parliament duly obliged. Parliament also – with little more than a whimper of resistance – on Tuesday removed the special immunity of three MPs. On Wednesday, two senators (the former Education Minister Ecaterina Andronescu and her PSD colleague Serban Mihailescu – known to all as Micky Spaga), also had their immunity lifted, allowing them to be arrested should anti-corruption prosecutors choose to do so.

For lunch on Wednesday, Iohannis went to meet the king. Then he went to a book fair to sign copies of his autobiography. He stayed more than three hours, refusing to leave until everyone queuing up had had their book signed.

Oh, and his wife – a teacher – went straight back to work on Monday, and has said she wants to carry on teaching.

These people can’t be for real.

The biggest problem Iohannis is likely to now face is to ensure that he does not collapse under the sheer weight of expectation. We have seen all sorts of calls for him to do this and do that, from reducing taxes to making Bucharest’s busses more reliable. As we have already said: as president there isn’t a great deal that he can actually do, at least not directly. But he can set the tone by which the country is run, and so far – before he is even sworn in – he has made the best of starts.

As for Victor Ponta, he’s gone AWOL. Kind of. Clearly in a deep depression he has taken ‘a few days off’ in order to spend some time with his family. If he wants to take a few years, that would be fine with us.

Meantime, he has left the government in the hands of uniform fetishist Gabriel Oprea. Next year’s budget (due to be presented to parliament last Friday) is still unpublished. Last night, incumbent president Traian Basescu joined Iohannis in suggesting that the government gets a move on and presents something fast.

What on earth is that?

The election now over, a welcome return to our normal programming: the mundane, day-to-day business of Bucharest Life.

And what a return.

We spotted this in Piata Unirii this morning, on the corner of Bulevardul Unirii (which is in Robert Negoita’s People’s Republic of Sector 3):





What on earth is it going to be? The worlds highest kerbstone?

They were pouring concrete into the casing, so we fear the worst. A monument to the glorious achievements of our beloved mayor?

Suggestions on a postcard, please.

Reasons to be cheerful

Click for source

Click for source

Well, we weren’t expecting that.

As tempting as it is to say that we called it, having stated on Saturday that Klaus Iohannis would win yesterday’s presidential election if turnout was over 58 per cent, we did not expect him to win, let alone win by such an enormous margin (almost 10 per cent). We thought that the PSD’s electoral machine was too well oiled and indeed, for much of Sunday it looked very much as though the German’s goose was being cooked in the usual places: Teleorman, Calarasi, Giurgiu, Olt.

Read through the tweets of Raluca from the blog La Coltul Strazii, who was an official observer in a village in Olt. Here’s a taste:


Desperation, desperation. The PSD is trying to find out how many people have voted so they know how many more people to bring [to vote]. The commission knows I am watching however so will not tell them :)

Yet such stories, allied to the amazing photos and video of Romanians queuing outside polling stations all over Europe appear to have galvanised the anti-Victor Ponta vote. Ponta’s campaign spokesperson, the delightful Gabriela Firea, also did her bit by claiming that such photos and videos were ‘intoxications’ and that in fact, the polling stations were empty.

In the internet age, you simply can’t get away with lying like that. Within minutes, the polling station Firea claimed was ‘close to London’ was identified as being in the well-known London suburb of, erm, Liverpool. What’s more, Firea claimed the video was taken at lunchtime. In fact, it was very early in the morning. We know because the girl seen coming out of the polling station – a Romanian student – was recognised by her father who called Realitatea TV.

Be sure your sin will find you out.

Then there was the interim foreign minister, Teodor Melescanu, ultimately responsible for how the vote was organised abroad, telling those queuing up to vote in Paris that they should consider voting in Nancy (almost 400km away). Nancy has the advantage, Melescanu added, of being a lovely Art Nouveau town.

No, we are not making this up.

We know someone who queued up in London yesterday for eight hours and did not get to vote. As we told them last night, they did not queue up in vain: those queues forced Romanians to go out and vote, which they did in record numbers: 64 per cent.

More than 6.2 million people voted for Klaus Iohannis yesterday: that’s a million more than ever voted for Traian Basescu, and some mandate.

We hope he uses it well. Although nominally the leader of the PNL and backed the ACL (an electoral amalgam of the PNL and PDL) he is the closest thing Romania has ever had to being a genuinely independent president. As such, his first and most important task is to protect Romania’s increasingly independent judiciary. His first speech as president-elect suggested he would.

We also hope that he will do everything he can to ensure that come the next election (be it parliamnetary or presidential) any Romanian wanting to vote will be allowed to do so.

Finally, what of Ponta?

He said today that he will remain as prime minister as long as he has a parliamentary majority, ideally until the next scheduled general election in 2016.

We will be betting heavily on him not lasting that long.

Romania’s presidential election run-off: What to expect

The most divisive presidential election campaign in Romanian history comes to an end on Sunday when the country goes to the polls to elect a new head of state. The favourite remains prime minister Victor Ponta (he of ‘Copy/Paste‘ fame), although his opponent, Klaus Iohannis appears to be closing in following a relatively strong showing in the second of two televised debates held this week. In both debates Ponta came across as ranting mudslinger, while Iohannis was his usual calm and collected self, saying little (perhaps too little, particularly in the first debate). Neither candidate landed a winning blow, reflected in two opinion polls released on Thursday which suggest the two men are running more or less neck and neck (Ponta – who was a shoo-in for much of the campaign – has just a one per cent lead). As always, however, we urge caution: opinion polls in Romania need to be taken with a large pinch of salt.

Regardless, it is clear is that the outcome of the election is not done and dusted, and that Sunday’s vote could go either way. Here, however, is a short of things about which we are certain.

1. Turnout will be crucial

Iohannis cannot win on a turnout less than that of round one (53.17 per cent). Our back-of-an-envelope calculations suggest that Iohannis needs a turnout of at least 58 per cent in order to win: mobilising the urban and Transylvanian anti-Ponta vote will be crucial to his chances. Local journalist Robert Turcescu by the way claims Iohannis needs 55 per cent: we doubt that, for the simple reason that even Traian Basescu needed 58 per cent to defeat the PSD machine in 2009.

2. Expect more chaos at foreign polling stations

Very little has been done to ensure that Romanians voting abroad will not be subject to the same problems they faced when trying to vote in round one. The resignation on Monday of foreign minister Titus Corletean came far too late. With an even higher percentage of the Romanian diaspora determined to vote, the queues – and the accompanying scandals – will perhaps be even bigger than those of two weeks ago.

3. More than one million votes will be made on ‘special lists’

In the first round, 965,022 people voted on supplementary lists at polling stations other than those in their own constituency. While many of these votes were from people who have good reason not to be at their home polling station on election day (students, for example), the vast majority were cast by ‘tourists’ who had chosen that particular Sunday to visit the delightful counties of Olt, Teleorman, Mehedinti and Calarasi. In 2009, the number of people voting on the special lists was 479,196. You can draw your own conclusions, but we remain convinced that the chaos at polling stations in London, Paris, Munich and Vienna was carefully planned in order to create a diversion with which to distract people’s attention from where the real electoral fraud was taking place: in remote villages much closer to Bucharest. Expect even more ‘tourists’ to visit the countryside on Sunday. We think the final number will top one million. It is the impact of such shenanigans that only a high urban turnout can counter, and why Iohannis needs to mobilise the anti-Ponta vote.

4. If the playing field were level, Iohannis would romp home

Alas it isn’t, and for all our wishful thinking we would be very surprised if he is allowed to win. Direct action might well be the order of the day come Monday morning.