I hardly blogged at all for a month. So there hasn't been much about the Romanian elections. Now they're just two days away, so there's not much left to say. Here's the simple version. There are Parliamentary elections and then there's also a Presidential election, which is separate. Romania has a "French" parliamentary system, which means it has both a President and a Prime Minister. It could possibly happen that one party might gain a majority in Parliament -- which would allow them to choose the Prime Minister -- while another party elects the President. The Parliamentary elections will be all done by Sunday night. The Presidential election will only finish if one candidate wins 50% -- unlikely, since there are 12 candidates in the race. More probably, it will go to a runoff election between the two strongest candidates, two weeks later. Some brief details follow.
Romania has a lot of political parties, but here are the ones that may play a real role in the election. PSD/PUR -- PSD, the Partidul Social Democrat, is the 400 pound gorilla of Romanian politics. It's mostly ex-Communists. You could call it a center-left party, but really it's a bunch of corrupt but pragmatic would-be populists. PSD controls the Parliament, with an overwhelming majority in both houses. The Prime Minister, Adrian Nastase, is PSD. So is the President, Ion Iliescu. (Officially the President shouldn't be a member of any party, and officially Iliescu isn't, but really, he doesn't even bother to pretend any more.) PSD should be in a strong position. The economy has grown rapidly in the last four years. Romania has joined NATO, and is inching closer and closer to EU membership. Most of Romania's business elite support them. And, of course, they control or strongly influence more than half of Romania's major TV and radio stations and newspapers. But a lot of people have come to associate PSD with rampant corruption. And in the municipal elections last June, they got spanked. So, just to make sure, they allied themselves with PUR, the Humanist Party of Romania. (We blogged about PUR a while back.) PUR consistently picks up about 5% of the vote, and -- better yet -- it has a big pile of money plus a TV station and a newspaper. So PUR and PSD have formed a coalition. (Random prediction: if PSD wins big, they'll kick PUR out again within a year. Maybe less. They did it once before.) PSD is very popular in rural areas, especially in "Old Romania" -- the south and east of the country. Not so popular in cities or in Transylvania. The current guess is that PSD/PUR will win the biggest block of seats in Parliament. The big question is whether they'll win a clear majority. Meanwhile, for the Presidency, they're running Prime Minister Adrian Nastase. (Nastase might have preferred to stay as Prime Minister, but I'm not even going to begin discussing the complicated backstory there. This is what I get for taking a month off. Sorry. If any of our Romanian readers want to fill in the blank spots, please go right ahead.) The Democratic Alliance (D.A.) -- Composed of two parties, the Democrats and the Liberals. Also a sort of center-left party composed of former Communists. Though "left" and "right" in the US or Western European sense don't map so well onto Romanian politics right now. The D.A. is more a collection of factions than a party, or even an alliance of parties. Basically it's all the political have-nots, including a lot of people from the previous (1996-2000) government. Since that government wasn't too popular, this is a problem. The D.A. isn't very clear on what it's for, but they know what they're against: Adrian Nastase, and corruption. (They also don't much like President Ion Iliescu, but since he's still pretty popular, they're more quiet about that.) As noted, a lot of people associate PSD with corruption, so the Alliance is hammering this theme hard. The Alliance's biggest electoral asset is probably its presidential candidate: Bucharest Mayor Traian Basescu. Basescu is a former naval officer who's done a not-completely-horrible job of running the (notoriously difficult to govern) city of Bucharest. He's very popular in cities and, for some reason, with educated people and liberals. (Which is odd because he's a rough, plain-spoken sort of fellow, and no liberal himself.) Best guess is that the Alliance will win the second biggest block of seats. If PSD gets a bigger block, but doesn't win enough to form a government, watch for internal stresses as PSD tries to seduce Alliance factions away. PRM, Partidul Romania Mare, the Party of Greater Romania -- This is the populist, asshole nationalist party. They're rather like Le Pen in France, or the Serbian Radical Party over in Serbia. The leader of the party is a fellow named Vadim Tudor, who used to be Ceausescu's court poet. (Really.) PRM was a major player in the 2000 elections. It seems to have been weakened in recent years, though. This is partly by erratic behavior on Tudor's part (he used to be an anti-Semite, now he's a philo-Semite); partly by the other parties stealing their best lines; and partly by economic good times, which are always bad for radical populists. They're expected to get around 12-14% of the vote, down from about 19% in the last election. This is still enough to give them a lot of seats in Parliament, though, and to make them a possible member in a coalition government. The Democratic Alliance has said they will never, ever join a government with PRM, but the PSD folks seem to be leaving the door open a crack. Vadim Tudor has directed most of his campaign attacks on Basescu and the Alliance. This has caused a lot of people to think that either (1) he's currying favor with PSD in the hope of forming a coalition with them in the next Parliament, or (2) he's already been bought by them, and is really Iliescu's attack dog. UDMR, the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania -- This is the Hungarian party. It used to be the only Hungarian party. Now it's not. This is bad, because a party needs at least 5% of the vote to get into Parliament. So, if a small party wins 8% of the vote, they get 8% of the seats. (Or actually a bit more.) But if that small party splits into two smaller parties that get 4% each, nobody gets anything. Since UDMR traditionally gets 6%-8% of the vote, this is a concern for them. The UDMR story is long and baroquely complex, and involves cross-border interactions with Hungarian politics in Hungary, but that's the gist of it: they have to overcome an internal rebellion. If they do, they'll be in. Otherwise, maybe not. If they're not, it will do some odd things to the composition of Parliament, and may also make the Hungarian minority very nervous. UDMR has historically been pragmatically opportunist -- they allied with the old government, then promptly switched sides to work with PSD after the 2000 elections. They've already made it clear they'll join whatever party or coalition has a majority. There are a couple of smaller parties that are hoping to break the 5% barrier, but leave those be for now. Best guess at the moment: PSD will dominate Parliament, but with a reduced majority. This would force them to invite someone else into coalition. The candidates would be (1) UDMR, if they survive; (2) various pieces of the Alliance, if they can be picked apart; or (3) PRM. That last one is pretty repugnant, though. Meanwhile the Presidential campaign will come down to a close race between Nastase and Basescu. My money is on Nastase, if only because he has a lot more resources behind him. As I said, it's a brief summary. Comments from Romanian readers are very welcome.