The Progressive Post

🇷🇴 Romania: a confirmation for the governing parties

ROMANIA

Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science, University of Bucharest
13/06/2024

Romania has four rounds of elections in 2024: European, local, presidential and parliamentary. The first two of them took place on 9 June and reconfirmed the stable coalition government, support for the EU, the fading away of anti-establishment parties and the (still) limited influence of far right in Romanian politics. 

Romania has finally become a ‘boring’ country. After decades during which domestic political tendencies were considered concerning by the more democratically advanced countries of Western Europe, Romania has proved an unexpected maturity in the 2024 European election, having managed to stop the advance of the extreme right. With 52,4 per cent turnout, the country ranges close to the EU average (but voting is not compulsory), and it maintains its 2019 European elections percentage. Of course, the fact that local elections were held simultaneously also helped since citizens in Romania are much more interested in local politics than in European issues. 

Having the two types of elections together also helped politicians skilfully avoid European topics and only address them very marginally. The campaign had very heterogeneous slogans and branding (including for one and the same party), with a range of diverse messages targeted at local audiences. Important subjects in other EU countries, such as migration or the Green Deal, were completely absent from the public debate in Romania. Instead, the most salient European issue addressed during the campaign was the inflow of EU funds. Indeed, the country has seen great progress during recent years due to investments in the framework of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, and the parties in government capitalised on that. Other EU issues touched upon were the European minimum wage – which the governing SD party has promised to adopt this autumn –, security and the defence industry, which are particularly concerning issues for Romanian society in the contemporary geopolitical context. Thus, similarly to other EU countries, economic issues as well as security were the most important topics discussed in the European campaign. On the other side of the spectrum, the extreme parties’ discourse was not explicitly anti-European but mildly insisted on the fact that ‘the foreigners’ are stealing Romanian resources and are not respectful enough towards Romanian traditional values. Moreover, one of the leaders of the extreme right parties celebrated her election as MEP at the Russian embassy in Bucharest

However, despite the high turnout and a quite low anti-establishment vote, European elections still are second-tier elections in Romania, given the lack of European issues during the campaign and the fact that the result was interpreted as a confirmation of the popular legitimacy of the two parties in government.

The two government parties, the Social Democrats (S&D) and the National Liberals (PPE), which presented a common list, obtained a crushing victory, gathering 48.57 per cent of the votes. The two extreme right parties, the Alliance for Romanian Unity (AUR) and SOS Romania obtained 14.93 and respectively 5,04 per cent. The latter passed the five-percent electoral threshold exclusively thanks to the diaspora votes. The United Right Alliance (affiliated with Renew) obtained a surprisingly low 8.7 per cent. Thus, the political colour of the Romanian team in the next EP shows 11 seats for S&D (making it the fifth-largest national delegation in the group), ten for EPP, eight for ID, three for Renew and one independent candidate. The important number of seats obtained by the Romanian Social Democrats should also give them more leverage in negotiating the distribution of important EU positions, although this has not been a guarantee in the past. 

The situation of the diaspora vote is quite striking and deserves special attention. First, turnout was much lower than for the 2019 elections. Second, the bulk of the votes in the Western European diaspora went to the far right, with percentages much higher than at the domestic level. However, the vote of the diaspora in the Republic of Moldova (mostly Moldovans with double citizenship) was similar to that in Romania. The result of the vote was hardly surprising, confirming the comfortable majority of the two parties in government.

Photo credits: Shutterstock/rawf8

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