Maybe it’s just us, but we can’t help thinking that this has been the most lacklustre Romanian election campaign since 1990.
Remember: this Sunday there is a general election in Romania. It will be the third time Romanians have gone to the polls this year, following June’s local elections and July’s presidential referendum. Perhaps that explains the total lack of interest being shown by almost anyone involved in the vote. All of the main parties have run low-impact, half-hearted campaigns, the only slight exception being Dan Diaconescu’s PP-DD, which is spending a small fortune in its bid to become the second largest party. (Diaconescu himself is running against Prime Minister Victor Ponta, in a constituency in Targu Jiu). We can only assume that all the main players are happy with what they currently have and are unwilling to rock the boat. Factor in a jaded electorate, a lack of any real debate about real issues, a lack of policies on all sides, general distrust of the entire political class and you could be looking at the lowest turnout in Romania’s post-1989 election history (the current record low turnout was in 2008: 39.2 per cent).
Barring a major upset, the ruling centre-left USL (a fusion of Crin Antonescu’s PNL and Ponta’s PSD) will win, taking anything from 45-55 per cent of the vote. President Traian Basescu’s nominally centre-right ARD (an electoral alliance including the PDL and a couple of small PDL-in-not-very-clever-disguise parties) will probably come second, with around 15-20 per cent. The populist PP-DD will be third (expect it to get a 10-12 per cent share) while the Hungarian nationalist UDMR will take its usual six or seven per cent. The Romanian nationalists, the PRM, will once again miss out on any seats.
While the USL’s victory looks set to be big (the last major opinion poll – published today – puts them at 60 per cent) it is unlikely that it will take the 66 per cent of seats it needs to do any real damage, such as changing the constitution without the need for a referendum. Much will depend, however, on the final number of MPs admitted to parliament, a number which will not be established until after the election (thanks to Romania’s stupid voting system. Read more about that here).
The biggest unknown surrounding the election is probably the name of the person Traian Basescu will nominate for prime minister. If the USL make it past 50 per cent this will almost certainly have to be Victor Ponta, the current prime minister, as leader of the USL. Crucially, however, Basescu has yet to confirm this would be the case.
Should the USL fall below 50 per cent however, then Basescu would be obliged to name nobody in particular. There are bits and pieces in the constitution which vaguely mention naming somebody from the winning party, but as both the USL and ARD are alliances of more than one party, much is open to interpretation. Basescu would be able to claim that deciding which actual party (and not alliance) took the most seats is a moot point. He would therefore be able to name whoever he feels will be best able to form a government. Cue chaos.
There are whispers that Basescu will not name Ponta as PM under any circumstances. Should that be so, the USL will declare all out war on Basescu, and will probably initiate another presidential suspension. If Basescu fails to nominate Ponta despite the USL having a parliamentary majority it would be very difficult see how the European Union – so vociferous in its condemnation of the suspension of Basescu in the summer – could object all that much to such a move this time around.
Once again then, it’s not the outcome of the election that we need to pay attention to, it’s the outcome of the outcome. Given how boring the campaign itself has been, the week or two after the election could be fun.