The PNL candidate and incumbent President, Klaus Iohannis, won the 2nd round of the Presidential elections in Romania, by winning close to 65% of the total votes expressed by the citizens (the results are still provisional, as the voting process has just ended in the United States). The PSD candidate and former Prime Minister, Viorica Dăncilă, only managed to gather the support of 35% of the electorate. Only 50% of the eligible persons exercised their right to vote, amounting to the 2nd lowest presence at a Presidential election in Romania (only the presence at the 1st round of these elections was lower). Close to 1 million Romanian citizens working or studying abroad voted, the great majority of them having Iohannis as their preferred option (over 93% voted for Iohannis).
This means that Romania will have for almost a year – until the Parliamentarian elections taking place at the end of 2020 – a Government and a President from the same political party. PNL lacks a majority in the Parliament, however, and it remains to be seen whether it will be able to cooperate with USR, PMP and the other Parliamentarian parties until the next elections. In June 2020 will take place the local elections, which are already considered by USR-PLUS to be “the most important set of elections, given the influence mayors and counsellors have”.
According to the data provided by the Central Electoral Office, the highest rate of participation was registered in the Ilfov and Cluj counties, both being over 60%. At the other end are Covasna and Harghita, where the presence was less than 30%. Viorica Dăncilă won the vote in only 5 counties: Teleorman, Olt, Giurgiu, Mehedinți and Gorj. This is especially relevant in light of the upcoming local elections, as it can be inferred that these counties will also be dominated by PSD. Although Viorica Dăncilă had also won in the first round of elections in Dolj, Buzău, Dâmbovița, Botoșani and Ialomița, the same results have not been replicated now. The explanation is that PSD and Dăncilă took advantage of the votes being split between the other candidates in the first round, whereas the voters had no choice but to choose Iohannis in the second round.
What can the President actually do?
Although much attention has been given in the Romanian public sphere to the Presidential elections, the extent to which they really matter is arguably not proportional. The majority of the attributions of the President of Romania refer to the foreign affairs, whereas in regard to internal affairs the attributions of the President are quite limited. The President can nominate a Prime Minister, although her or his investment in function is dependent on the approval of the Parliament. The President can consult the Government and participate at its Sittings, as well as submit messages regarding some political problems to the Parliament. He also has responsibilities concerning the promulgation of the laws. More importantly, he can decide to resubmit to the Parliament for reexamination a law. In fact, this was one of the main instruments employed by Iohannis during his first mandate and one of the few ways in which he expressed opposition to PSD (the other main one being his refusal to accept some nominations for Cabinets after certain Government reshuffles). The President can also convoke a referendum, after consultation with the Parliament, and dissolve the Parliament (although this latter attribution is highly dependent on what the Parliament does).
What to expect in the near future?
What can we expect from Iohannis in his next mandate, given the limitations of his attributions mentioned beforehand? First of all, we should expect a tendency to promulgate as soon as possible the draft bills that are drafted by the Government (and manage to be approved by the Parliament). Furthermore, we can expect closer cooperation between the President and the Government that we have witnessed for the most part of the first mandate of Iohannis. The extent to which this will be translated into public policies is still up for debate, although we can expect a more intense activity in December 2019 (the month in which the national budget will take the lion’s share of the Government’s activity). Lastly, we can expect that a series of normative acts will be issued in the next couple of weeks concerning some objectives specified in the Government Program. Once again, the role of the President will be minimal when it comes to such aspects, but the way he will choose to refer to these aspects in his public intervention could be of some significance for how foreign investors perceive Romania.
More interesting, perhaps, is what will happen with the other parties, especially PSD. Viorica Dăncilă’s place at the head of PSD might be endangered, given that this is the worst defeats registered by the party (although Dăncilă underlined in her post-election speech that PSD “recovered” the votes lost at the elections for the European Parliament held in May 2019). Gabriela Firea could be a plausible replacement, especially if opinion polls show that she would not be able to consolidate a second mandate at the helm of the Bucharest City Hall. In regard to the other major party in the Parliament, USR, Dan Barna was voted last week as leader of USR, and the USR-PLUS Alliance will continue throughout 2020, but the internal dynamics of the Alliance will be interesting to follow in the upcoming months.
Adelin Costin Dumitru, Issue Monitoring