Votes cast in yesterday’s Romanian general election are still being counted, but there are already more than a few conclusions that we can draw from the election. Here. for what they are worth, are ours:
1. The USL will have a huge majority in parliament
The final numbers will probably be lower than the exit polls suggested last night, but the USL looks set to take as many as 62 per cent of the seats in parliament, in the main thanks to the fact that it won so many seats outright (its candidates having taken 50 per cent of the vote in a constituency). Early reports suggest that in Bucharest the USL has taken all 40 seats.
2. The USL’s two primary components are not on the same page
Crin Antonescu’s surprised and somewhat hostile reaction to Victor Ponta’s co-opting of the UDMR to form a constitutional majority – 66 per cent of parliamentary seats – suggests he had not been told of any such USL-UDMR deal. (Or if he had been told, he had been opposed to it). Indeed, Antonescu spent much of last night doing a very good impersonation of a man who had just lost an election, not won one. It makes us wonder why.
3. The PDL’s last-minute name-change will go down as one of the worst re-brandings in political history
The PDL was never going to win yesterday’s election, but a sound campaign could have limited the damage. Instead, it ran one of the worst campaigns in living memory. Not only was it lacklustre, but it was self-defeating in its daftness. Creating spin-off parties such as the Forta Civica and the Civic Initiative and then bringing them under the umbrella of the Alianta Romania Dreapta (ARD) just a month or so before the election destroyed the PDL’s identity: still worth something in some parts. Many voters had no idea what the ARD was: no wonder they didn’t vote for it.
4. Some big names will miss out on parliament
No PDL candidate appears to have won a seat outright. This means that they will face the lottery of redistribution. (See here for details on how it is done). A couple of particularly big names, including PDL leader Vasile Blaga, former parliamentary speaker Roberta Anastase and former prime minster Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu look to have missed out completely. Elena Udrea however, although only finishing second in her constituency, polled far higher than the ARD average and looks set to make the cut.
5. Turnout was relatively high
It might seem a strange thing to say given that more than half of Romanians with the right to vote stayed at home, but given the weather the fact that a larger percentage of people voted than in 2008 was something of a surprise. The national turnout was 41.2 per cent, with the biggest turnout being – as usual – in the PSD heartlands of Teleorman and Gorj.
6. Traian Ungureanu is a poor loser
PDL Euro MP Traian Ungureanu – perhaps the most dedicated and vociferous supporter in the country of president Traian Basescu – made a desperate and really rather nasty appeal yesterday to the people of the Banat and Transylvania to ‘stop the Teleormanisation of Romania.’ Ungureanu appears to have been upset at the fact that people in Teleorman were voting in large numbers for the USL – which should have come as no surprise to anyone – while in traditionally PDL areas voters were staying at home.
7. Traian Basescu must take the blame for much of the ARD’s disastrous result
Yesterday was, as much as anything, a vote against Traian Basescu. We seriously doubt that too many of those who voted for the USL did so out of any conviction for its policies. Instead, they were voting against Traian Basescu, and the PDL/ARD paid the price. The big question now is can Basescu survive in office until the end of his term, in December 2014?
8. The PP-DD is in parliament
Politics, bloody hell. Now, while the thought of the populist PP-DD taking parliamentary seats is not exactly the best news we’ve had all week, there is a silver lining to this particular cloud: a new party, less than two years old, which formed no electoral alliances took around 12 per cent of the vote. OK, the PP-DD had plenty of money behind it, and a TV channel, but the point remains valid: those who wish to get into parliament do not necessarily need to remain prisoners of or slaves to the old party structures. Is that not at least a crumb of comfort to take out of yesterday’s vote?