Apathy wins Romanian elections, but ethnic Hungarians continue uninterrupted legislative presence

Less than one third of voters bothered to express their opinions

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Dénes Albert

Romania’s opposition social democrats (PSD) won legislative elections in Romania amid a record low turnout, which both analysts and politicians say was a clear sign of citizens’ dissatisfaction with the available options, though the raging COVID-19 pandemic also kept some voters at home.
With over 95 percent of the votes counted, five parties passed the five-percent parliamentary threshold: PSD gained 29.67 percent in the lower chamber of the Romanian Parliament, followed by the current governing liberal party (PNL) with 25.57 percent, the reformist and anti-graft USR PLUS alliance with 15.51 percent, the extreme nationalist AUR 9.09 percent and RMDSZ, the main political party of the ethnic Hungarians at 5.97 percent.
Given that the two biggest parties have already excluded the possibility of joining forces in government, the figures indicate that for a viable majority, a coalition of at least three or possibly four parties would be required for a parliamentary majority. Marius Ciolacu, leader of the social democrats, has made it clear after the vote that there will be no alliance with the liberals, and he expects liberal Prime Minister Ludovic Orban’s resignation.
Asked about the possibility of President Klaus Iohannis appointing Orban to form the new government — which he can do — Ciolacu said that would be disregarding voters’ opinion.
“God forbid! This would mean that we no longer understand anything about what the Romanians want or what democracy is about,” Ciolacu said.
For his part, Orban said early in the vote count that he fully expected his party to be able to form a governing coalition, but that was before it was clear his party would earn a smaller share of the vote.
RMDSZ, which ran on a joint list with the smaller Alliance of Transylvanian Hungarians, has again assured its presence in both houses of parliament, and despite its limitations — it is, after all, a political party only in the loosest sense of the world — its representatives have had an uninterrupted presence in legislation since the 1990 regime change. Although it has only served as a minor coalition partner, it has had longest de facto presence in government of all parties.
The disappointing 31.84 percent voter turnout, the lowest since 1990, however, showed that Romanians don’t believe in any of the currently available political choices.
“We have to look reality in the eye. The fact that less than a third of Romanians chose to go to the polls today is a slap in the face for the entire old political class,” USR PLUS mayor of Temesvár Dominic Fritz said. “I think it’s obvious that a large part of Romanians no longer believe that politics can indeed improve something in their lives and that is why it is very clear that the future government must assume a major reform of the Romanian state, a profound reform aimed at rebuilding trust between citizens and between public institutions.”
In the last 11 years, Romania has had ten governments and in the past five years five consecutive prime ministers, one of whom is currently serving a sentence for abuse of power.
Title image: RMDSZ President Hunor Kelemen holds press conference on election night in Kolozsvár. (MTI/Gábor Kiss)


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