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Presidential Sparring: Round 1

Romanian presidential seal at the Cotroceni Palace in Bucharest | Klaus Iohannis Facebook Page (video capture)

By Ioan Bucuraș

Romanians will go to the polls to elect their president on the 10th (first round) and 24th (second round) of November this year. For the first time since the fall of Communism, it’s highly likely that the biggest establishment party’s candidate might not make it to the second round.

Internal power moves within the PSD suggest that the current PM and party president, Viorica Dancila, will be win the nomination after the two other candidates – Eugen Teodorovici, the finance minister, and Mihai Fifor, former defence minister – withdrew their bids.

But there are some lurkers sitting on the backbenches of the establishment party. Former PM Ponta suggested a single candidate to represent his rebranded PSD party, ProRomania, ALDE Romania and the actual PSD. ALDE Romania leader, Calin Popescu-Tariceanu, was hoping for a common presidential ticket as well. After disastrous results at the European elections (not even passing the electoral threshold), this scenario became very unlikely.

Watch out for Gabriela Firea though, the capital’s mayor. She has distanced herself from the former (and now imprisoned) party leader Dragnea a long time ago and could play that card well. Some internal party badmouthing suggests that the current PM will always be loyal to Dragnea, despite publicly announcing that under her leadership, no measures will be taken to weaken the judiciary. Dancila also sacked Dragnea’s most loyal acolytes.

On the other side of the political spectrum: European election winners PNL have announced a big rally in support of the incumbent president, Klaus Iohannis, in early August. Iohannis is currently leading the polls and has positioned himself as the fair albeit rather tacit president. His candidacy was uncertain after rumours were spreading in Brussels that he would have massive support to replace Donald Tusk at the helm of the European Council. He finally ruled that possibility out late last month.

The Alliance 2020 USR-PLUS+ came out, as expected, with one candidate, sealing a deal between the two parties after intense negotiations. Political newcomer Dan Barna will be the presidential candidate and is on course to face the sitting president in the second round of the elections. This deal has yet to be validated by the National Council of the PLUS+ party, but high-ranked sources within the party suggest that it’s a done deal. The presidency for USR and the PM’s role for PLUS+: this would bring back former PM and PLUS+ party leader Ciolos to form the Romanian government.

Since Barna and Iohannis share at least some parts of the same electoral pool, it would be a spellbinding second tour. The biggest question now is: who will address (and win over) PSD’s electorate if this will happen? Make no mistake – we’re talking about 2 million votes here.

It’s going to be a hot summer and this year’s political autumn won’t be any different.

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