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If you can’t beat them, annul them: Romanian electoral bureau rejects Dacian Cioloş’s alliance

The news of the day had the effect of a bomb in Romania: the Central Electoral Bureau (BEC) rejected the joint application for the European elections of the “Alliance 2020 USR PLUS”.

The coalition of the USR (Union Save Romania) and PLUS platforms gathers the sympathies and intentions to vote of most of the educated urban youth and entrepreneurs. Together, the two formations are credited with roughly 20% of the vote intentions.

It is the first time since the fall of Communism that an electoral list is being rejected.

The pretext used by the BEC is that the two leaders, Dan Barna from USR and the former EU Commissioner Dacian Cioloş for PLUS do not appear as presidents of their respective formations in the Register of the Political Parties.

Dan Barna was elected president of the USR in October 2017, while Dacian Cioloş became PLUS president in February 2019.

Both parties have requested the registration of their presidents at the Bucharest Tribunal, but so far they have not received a final decision. For this supposed reason, the BEC rejected the Alliance’s application for registration. It is a political decision taken at the pressure of the corrupt regime instaured by Liviu Dragnea in Romania”, said USR in a communique.

Liviu Dragnea is the the leader of the ruling Social Democratic Party, PSD. His PSD party won the elections in December 2016, with 45,50% of votes, with massive help from the countryside, and it is now running the country in a coalition with ALDE, an imitation of a Liberal party, led by Calin Popescu Tariceanu, the boss of the Senate, whom Guy Verhofstadt, chief of the European ALDE, has threatened to expel. Liviu Dragnea is himself the speaker of the lower chamber of the Romanian parliament, but it is he, personally, the one and only person who decides of any important political decision in the country.

He was twice convicted, for vote-rigging and corruption. The second conviction, three years and six months in prison, is on appeal. The convictions are the reason Dragnea is not officially heading the government: after his party’s victory in the 2016 elections, the conservative, centre-right president Klaus Iohannis refused to accept him as prime minister.

Also, the PSD/ALDE coalition is intent on blocking the nomination as EU Prosecutor of Laura Codruta Kovesi, the former chief prosecutor of Romania’s anti-corruption agency (DNA), whom they fear for her knowledge of their dossiers.

The “Alliance 2020 USR PLUS” has already gathered the necessary 200,000 signatures necessary for running in elections, the highest legal threshold in Europe. The move comes after a long series of efforts by the authorities to thwart attempts by the former Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Cioloș to form a political party.

For his part, Dacian Cioloș wrote on Facebook:

The Central Electoral Bureau, politically maneuvered by PSD-ALDE, forbids us to run for the European Parliament elections. It is an insult to the electorate and a totally undemocratic act. PSD and ALDE, together with their henchmen, destroy the very principle of democracy by violating our right to run for and be elected.
We will do all the necessary steps and we will protest until this undemocratic and illegal act is repaired. Since our first announcement that we are entering politics and until today we have been the target of the dirtiest maneuvers. When they saw that we were not intimidated, they went over to a political manipulation of the state institutions. I appeal to all PLUS and USR members to join in and fight this undemocratic act.

Over the weekend, a smear campaign was launched on all the social media against a close collaborator of Cioloș, for old comments on Facebook showing a supposed nostalgia for a society like that of the ancient hunter-gatherer groups, who supposedly were more egalitarian than us today, because they had very little property, owning things being an unnatural attitude that breeds long-term inequality.

Property is sacred for the Romanians, and anything smacking of sharing brings anathema on the person who dares formulate, even jocularly, any utopic suggestion about a more egalitarian society, so the smear campaign was used to suggest that Cioloș, and by extension his Alliance, might have Communist inclinations, this being the kiss of death in any Romanian political debate.

After this article appeared on Euractiv, the ALDE leader, Guy Verhofstadt, retweeted it with a message to the Romanian authorities:

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