Uncer­tainty af­ter Ro­ma­nia leftists’ elec­tion come­back

Cor­rup­tion-tainted leftists back into power

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Ro­ma­nia faced fresh po­lit­i­cal uncer­tainty yes­ter­day as a thump­ing elec­tion come­back by the cor­rup­tion-tainted left put them on col­li­sion course with the cen­tre-right pres­i­dent. A year af­ter anger over a deadly night­club fire drove them from of­fice, par­tial of­fi­cial re­sults showed the So­cial Democrats (PSD) won 45.3 per­cent of the vote in Sun­day’s elec­tion.

Their cen­tre-right ri­vals Na­tional Lib­eral Party (PNL) and the Save Ro­ma­nia Union (USR), newly cre­ated by a math­e­mati­cian-turned-ac­tivist, trailed on a com­bined 29.5 per­cent. “There is no doubt who the win­ners are,” PSD head Liviu Drag­nea said late Sun­day. “Ro­ma­ni­ans voted for eco­nomic growth, more money in their pock­ets and for well-paid jobs.” The PSD’s likely coali­tion part­ners, the lib­eral ALDE party, cleared the five-per­cent hur­dle needed to en­ter par­lia­ment, likely giv­ing them a com­bined ma­jor­ity in the par­lia­ment.

How­ever, it was un­clear who will be­come prime min­is­ter of the Euro­pean Union’s sec­ond-poor­est coun­try and suc­ceed care­taker pre­mier Da­cian Ci­o­los, 47, a for­mer Euro­pean com­mis­sioner. As chief of the big­gest party the log­i­cal choice would be Drag­nea and com­ments late Sun­day from the 54-year-old sug­gested that he wants the job. “I do not in­tend to gift my votes to some­one else, whether it be a per­son or an in­sti­tu­tion. I ran the cam­paign, the party, it was an enor­mous re­spon­si­bil­ity,” he said.

How­ever Drag­nea is serv­ing a sus­pended sen­tence for elec­toral fraud, which in the­ory un­der Ro­ma­nian law bars him from of­fice. The PSD may seek a way around this but cen­tre-right Pres­i­dent Klaus Io­han­nis has also re­fused to ap­point any­one with le­gal prob­lems. Po­lit­i­cal ex­pert Cris­tian Parvulescu said he ex­pects Io­han­nis to stick to his guns. “Drag­nea has an enor­mous prob­lem. He runs the risk of los­ing this bat­tle,” Parvulescu said. But he said there was also the pos­si­bil­ity that the PSD may try to sus­pend Io­han­nis, as hap­pened with his pre­de­ces­sor Tra­ian Bas­escu twice.

‘Dare to be­lieve’

The left’s tri­umph was re­mark­able, com­ing barely a year af­ter tens of thou­sands of peo­ple took to streets in the wake of the Oc­to­ber 30, 2015 disco blaze. The in­ferno was blamed on cor­rupt of­fi­cials turn­ing a blind eye to an ab­sence of fire pre­cau­tions, and the sorry state of Ro­ma­nian health care ex­ac­er­bated the death toll. The out­rage prompted a push to tackle graft, some­thing Brus­sels has long com­plained about, and there are con­cerns that the left’s come­back may re­verse progress in this area. But the well-or­ga­nized PSD, which has strong sup­port among older, ru­ral vot­ers, sought to turn at­ten­tion away from cor­rup­tion by fo­cus­ing on the econ­omy. With the slo­gan “Dare to Be­lieve”, Drag­nea vowed to cre­ate 45,000 new jobs with a “na­tional rein­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion” plan and to slash the flat in­come tax rate from 16 to 10 per­cent.

This went down well in a coun­try where half of ru­ral house­holds have no run­ning water, one in four peo­ple lives in poverty and scores of schools can’t af­ford heat­ing. How­ever, voter ap­a­thy re­mains rife. Turnout on Sun­day was just 39.5 per­cent, one of the low­est in the 27 years since the ex­e­cu­tion of dic­ta­tor Ni­co­lae Ceaus­escu and the end of Com­mu­nism. “In 1989 I was full of hope,” news­pa­per ven­dor Nic­u­lae Popescu said yes­ter­day. “But I can’t be very op­ti­mistic as long as I see there is no im­prove­ment in the peo­ple who govern us.” — AFP

BUCHAREST: Ro­ma­nian Prime Min­is­ter Da­cian Ci­o­los touches his fore­head dur­ing an in­ter­view with the As­so­ci­ated Press in Bucharest, Ro­ma­nia. —AP

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