Archive for June, 2012

What Maps Do Not Tell Us? Peering Past Victorious Shouts and Humbled Mumbles of Defeat

The recent local elections in Romania (10 June 2012) have reflected what several political commentators and researchers have warned about: the Social Liberal Union (USL/ Uniunea Social Liberală) consisting of the PM Victor Ponta’s Romanian Social Democrats (PSD/ Partidul Social Democrat) and their allies the Center Right Alliance, which reunites the National Liberals (PNL/ Partidul Naţional Liberal) and the Conservative Party (PC/ Partidul Conservator), made significant inroads into the formerly center-right liberal democrat (PDL/ Partidul Democrat-Liberal) ‘fiefs’, thereby capitalizing on the general dissatisfaction with the PDL’s mismanagement of the past years.

Without doubt, the PDL has registered a significant loss of the citizens’ support, polling only 15.10% for the presidents of the county councils; 15.44% for mayors; 15.29% for members of county councils (according to the Romanian Central Electoral Bureau (BEC), aici). The PDL was sanctioned, not necessarily for the austerity measures during the PDL-led cabinets Boc I (2008-2009), and especially Boc II (2009-2012), but mainly for its complete lack of sympathy for the hardships the average population has been going through from the beginning of the financial crisis, for its undisguised corruption, and contempt for the principles of democratic accountability.

A lot of attention has been given to the apparent ‘colouring in red’ of most Romanian counties (with refrence to the USL’s electoral colours), though such a phrase is not the most accurate, as the PSD did not succeed to gain the majority of positions within the county councils, president of county council, or as city mayor. The USL has registered a very good election result indeed, 45.85% for the presidents of the county councils; 38.46% for mayors; 49.80% for members of county councils. However, as it was aptly pointed out, in the previous 2008 local elections, the constitutive parties of the said alliance have registered better results individually, totaling around 51% (the official results for 2008 available from the BEC, aici ).

Romania 2012 local election results (

Many commentators have rushed to assure – even ex ante – that the results of the elections are to be seen as ‘true’ measure of the coming Parliamentary elections in November 2012. With the recent change of the electoral law, the social-liberal USL is forecast to gather some 60 to 70% of the votes. Leaving aside the frenzy of counting in advance what could happen in a few months from now (especially in the very volatile context of European politics, with – among others – a very tough negotiations with regard to the future of the common currency and the overall economic (in)stability in the EU, the second round for the French Parliamentary elections yet to take place, and the new Greek Parliamentary elections scheduled later this week), there is another development, less visible from the country-wide maps of the election results.

Indeed, something does not become apparent

Romania 2012 local election results (

at a simple look over the various maps displaying the election results (see for instance the one provided by, aici ; Adevarul, aici; and even Evenimentul Zilei, aici). In the electoral competition between the USL, on the one side, and the PDL on the other, a third political force has made its presence noted on the Romanian political scene. More clearly, the third largest party is the newly founded People’s Party–Dan Diaconescu (PP-DD/ Partidul Poporului Dan Diaconescu) (the party’s website, mainly in Romanian, aici). The PP-DD polled 9.23% for the presidents of the county councils; 7.29% for mayors; 8.96% for members of county councils. Concomitantly, the consecrated radical right populist (RRP) parties in Romania, namely the Greater Romania Party (PRM/ Partidul România Mare) and the New Generation Party (PNG/ Partidul Noua Generaţie) seem to have had only a marginal presence in the preferences of the Romanian electorate (the PRM polled somewhere around an average of 2%, while the PNG only 0.20%), and might actually signal that popular dissatisfaction is most successfully channeled by the PP-DD.

The PP-DD is the product of the eponymous TV-channel owner Dan Diaconescu, who more or less single-handedly has founded the party and created its nation-wide network of branches. At a quick glance, judging from the 20-Points Proclamation the party has uploaded on its website (see link above, in Romanian), the PP-DD appears to have a rather complex ideological makeup, displaying strong populist appeals, such as social justice to be undertaken in the framework of a strong state (which reminds of the former communist state); trial of all

Romania 2012 local election results (click to enlarge) (

previous governments found to have mismanaged the country; confiscation of illicit fortunes gained from pillaging the public goods, but also some surprising decidedly right wing, such as tax cuts, tax unification. All these are tinged with discrete nationalist appeals (the numerous and insistent references to supporting Romanianism, respecting the Romanian national anthem, subscription to Romanian Orthodox Christianity, etc.). In a sense, it reminds a lot of the PRM‘s main tenets at the beginning of 2000s as they were expressed by the party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor.

Even more so, as Romanian sociologist Mircea Kivu aptly noted in his analysis of the Romanian local elections and the emergence of new political entities contesting the elections (in Romania Libera, in Romanian, aici), the PP-DD candidates did not engage in any classical campaigning, opting for having their candidacy endorsed ‘on air’ at the TV station owned by Dan Diaconescu. This comes so strengthen my categorization of the PP-DD as an emerging radical right populist party, with a strong (male) leader that gives his formal ‘blessing’ to his acolytes on TV. In this light, if Corneliu Vadim Tudor had a very influential weekly magazine at his disposal to maneuver his captive electorate, Dan Diaconescu has taken the process to a new level, having his own TV station.

Looking at how the local electoral competition has tested the newly founded parties within the Hungarian-speaking community, it becomes apparent that the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR/Uniunea Democrată Maghiară din România, RMDSZ/Romániai Magyar Demokrata Szövetség) has managed to fend off the negative effects of its being in government the past decade, and used the nationalist escalations sponsored by the Hungarian government to appeal for a return to rationality and moderation. As such, the UDMR/RMDSZ registered some loses, but succeeded to collect 4.95% for the presidents of the county councils; 3.90% for mayors; 5.52% for members of county councils.

In this context, the questions that arise pertain to the stability of the present political system in Romania, especially having in mind the wider developments across Europe. Is the USL alliance aware of the very delicate situation it is facing, with an interim government, already marred by serious scandals – it suffices to point at the no less than 3 ministers that succeeded in the Education portfolio in less than a month- , and the PDL apparently surprised by its own defeat? Does the PP-DD have the electoral appeal to play a similar function as the PRM in the 2000 Parliamentary elections, when it became the largest opposition party? Is the PP-DD the emerging radical right populist force in Romania? What would be the consequences of such a development, with the UDMR/RMDSZ apparently excluded from future government coalitions, and an ever more polarizing and nationalist Hungarian government? Are we witnessing yet another backlash against women in Romanian politics – only one woman has been elected mayor in one of the major cities in Romania, namely Lia Olguţa Vasilescu (PSD) in Craiova?

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Thursday, June 14th, 2012 Research No Comments