28 September, 2023
(photo: Bloomberg TV Bulgaria)

The Romanian foreign policy elite insists that the ethnic German be elected, becuase it is looking for a close relation to the White House, while fearing the perspective of Russia’s becoming an acceptable partner for the EU

On 12 November 2019 the Bloomberg TV Bulgaria interviewed the editor of the blog “The Bridge of Friendhsip” in its morning emission “Business Start”. The tv host Zhivka Popatanasova wanted to learn more about the message that the vote for Iohannis represents, what are the messages of the other candidates and what could be expected from the new government of the National Liberal Party.

Here is the transcription of this interview:

We will speak about the presidential elections in Romania. The first tour took place on Sunday. We are going to hear the commentary of Vladimir Mitev – a journalist, who follows the processes in Romania, having created the site for news from Bulgaria and Romania “The Bridge of Friendship” and being editor of the Romanian section of the site “The Barricade”. Good morning, do you hear me, Mr. Mitev?

Good morning. I hear you perfectly.

I also hear you. I hope our spectator her us as well. The current president of Romania Klaus Iohannis didn’t manage to win the elections in the first round on Sunday. But he goes to the second round on 24 November 2019. What are the basic conclusions we can make about the first round?

What we see is that when there are changes and insecurity in international affairs, Romanians choose to emit a message of euroatlantic loyalty, choosing the present president Klaus Iohannis. He will probably win the second round without any problems. He has more than 36% in the first round. It is expected that he atttracts the votes of most of the candidates with weaker results. His opponent in the second round Viorică Dăncilă was the prime minister until recently and is the leader of the Social Democratic Party. However he is considered by the Romanians of the middle class as devoid of qualities to be a political leader. Iohannis is much more representative in international plan. He speaks foreign languages. He has the trust of Western partners and is an ethnic German. At the same time Dăncilă makes gaffes constantly. So if I have to formulate just one conclusion it would be that Romanians have discovered a political person, who is predictable and loyal to the euratlantic partners and shows that Romania belongs to the West without nuances and without local colouring.

You say that Dăncilă makes gaffes. What are the political platforms of the candidates such as her?

I will discuss only about two of the candidates, because the intrigue was about who will finish on the second place. Dăncilă managed to do it. She is mocked at, because of her gaffes. It is believed that she doesn’t have the qualities to be the leader, but her government and the governments of the social democrats in the last years raised the income of the population. They followed a policy of economic growth through consumption increase. In their times there was a huge rise of the GSP. Let me remind that this year pensions were raised by 15%, while the next year they are set to be increased by 40%. So the people who won from this policy were not few. Maybe they tend to support Dăncilă in spite of some of her weaknessed, because they vote for their economic interest. I will only mark that these elections take place in a moment, when the new government of the National Liberal Party came to power and it gives signs that it will introduce austerity.

The other interesting candidate is Dan Barna. He is the candidate of the alliance between the party of the young in Romanian politics – the Save Romania Union, and the party “Plus” of Dacial Cioloş. These forces are members of the group of the macronists in the European Parliament. So Barna is considered to be Macron’s man in the Romanian presidential elections. His messages are technocratic – against clientelism and corruption, in support of the business and of the young generation. Barna says that he has entrepreneurial experience, unlike Iohannis, who was a teacher before entering politics and becoming mayor – in other words, Iohannis has worked exclusively in the state sector. At the same time Barrna was probably the only important candidate, who was attacked through a journalist investigation during the campaign. The article claimed he abused European funds. The anti-corruption prosecution said that Barna didn’t have the status of accused or suspect in any case. But, evidently, the sign was given that he doesn’t represent the national interest of Romania in this moment and this was claimed by analysts. It looks like this national interests is embodied by Iohannis, who has to win without any problems.

Does the National Liberal Party represents this interest? And let me ask you about Iohannis’ statement immediately after the first results on Sunday – he said that Romanians have never voted so strongly against the social democrats in the last 30 years. Can we agree with this affirmation?

Iohannis relied on an alliance with the Romanian middle class. We can deduce from the protests, who were going on in the last years, and from what we see in general, that this middle class opposes the social democrats. Usually the people from smaller towns and villages have smaller access to the financial and state resources, so they vote for the social democrats, because they know that the social democrats at least will give them back something. Romania’s middle class despises the social democrats and associates them with lack of culture and education. Iohannis relied on this alliance with the middle class.

It is true that in the parliamentary elections of 2016 the social democrats received almost 50%. At this moment Viorică Dăncilă received 24%. Somebody could compare the two results statistically and make a conclusion, but other analysts noticed that it was expected that the social democrats’ candidate perfomer poorer. It was even expected that Dăncilă didn’t reach the second round. She finished second and this is a sign that the social democrats retain their influence in the society.

What are the messages, which Bucharest must emit before its partners in the EU?

I would see the Sunday vote from the standing point of Macron’s words that NATO is becoming “brain dead” and that Russia could again become an acceptable partner for the EU. The Romanian elites are worried by such developments. This year in the Republic of Moldova happened something which confused the Romanian foreign policy elites. The USA, the EU and Russia united in order to take the oligarch Plahotniuc, who has Romanian citizenship, out of powe.r Maybe that is why when Macron made his statements in the eve of the elections, the Romanian heavyweight analysts said that Romania must support a man, who can guarantee the connection with the White House, somebody who is a convinced euroatlantic politician. The sign was given that this is Iohannis. If I have to formulate in short the message, which Romania sends to the Euroatlantic partners, it is that Bucharest relies on them and they don’t have to abandon it. There is cooperation in the defense going on. There are projects for billions of dollars, which are being realised in this moent. All that cooperation must continue and the West must have a secured person in Romania. At this moment this is, evidently, Iohannis.

What are the expectations from the new government?

The expectations go into different directions. Personally, I see two priority areas. In economic plan the government cries out that the state expenditures in the times of the social democrats have become too big and that the budget deficit must be reduced. Austerity is expected. The other area is a personal issue of interest for Iohannis, because of his alliance with the Romanian middle class. Justice matters a lot to it. Iohannis insists that what social democrats changed in justice – the creation of a special section for investigation of the crimes in justice, be eliminated and situation be returned to default. These two areas – justice and economy, will be the main areas, where changes will take place. But this government will not rule for a long time. In the best case it will rule until the parliamentary elections after one year. It was announced as a provisional government in the times of its establishment. Maybe change will not be so big, but will be related more with the dismissal of social democrats’ cadres in the state administration and their replacement with other cadres.

One last question. Why did expert consider these elections the most expensive until now?

These are indeed expensive elections. It was said that they have costed 150 million euro. It interesting that for the first time more section were opened abroad and vote abroad was allowed in three consecutive days. At the previous presidential elections there were huge queues before the Romanian embassies in the Western countries and there was discontent among Romanians abroad. At these elections the diaspora voted actively – 670 000 Romanians voted in the diaspora.

This is a record.

Exactly. But it was connected with opening of many section abroad and with expenditures. It was said that 1/3 of the elections budget went for the vote abroad. And that 200 tones of paper were used for printing of bulletins. 

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