Romania is due to hold parliamentary elections by December 2020 – although snap elections are possible because of the current volatility of Romanian politics. Local elections had been set for June 2020, but have been postponed due to COVID-19. A new date hasn’t been set, but several possibilities are being discussed, including holding the local elections at the same time as the parliamentary elections.
Since communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu fell in 1989, Romania has become a free democracy, but politics are volatile – the office of the prime minister has changed hands eight times since 2014. Corruption and weak rule of law remain serious problems.
Romania’s 2014 presidential elections handed a surprise victory to Klaus Iohannis, then-mayor of Sibiu in Transylvania, who defeated then-Prime Minister Victor Ponta in the runoff. Iohannis, backed by the center-right National Liberal Party, (PNL), won a second term in November 2019.
In Romania’s semi-presidential system, the president is more than a figurehead, but does share power with the prime minister. During the 2016 parliamentary elections, the left-wing the left-wing Social Democratic Party (PSD) won the most seats, but not a majority. Still, PSD formed a government. But in October 2019, the PSD government faced allegations of corruption and attacks on the rule of law and consequently was ousted in a no-confidence motion. Moreover, PSD leader Liviu Dragnea is currently in prison for abuse of power.
Subsequently, at Iohannis’ request, Ludovic Orban (no relation to the Hungarian prime minister) formed a center-right minority government. However, on February 5, 2020, the new government itself fell in a no-confidence motion. Iohannis re-appointed Orban in a move that some saw as an attempt to spark new elections. However, the country’s constitutional court ordered Iohannis to appoint a new prime minister rather than hold new elections. On February 26, Iohannis nominated economist Florin Citu from PNL, but PSD has said they would vote against the new government. The turmoil will likely continue at least until the next elections.
Since transitioning to democracy, Romania made integration with the Euro-Atlantic community a foreign policy priority, becoming a member of NATO in 2004 and the European Union in 2007. However, its precarious location – north of the Balkan Peninsula, on the shores of the Black Sea, and bordering geopolitical hotspots such as Ukraine and Moldova – creates challenges.
Valerie Hopkins, Financial Times (February 24, 2020): Romania court ruling derails Iohannis’s hopes of early election
Irina Vilcu and Andra Timu, Bloomberg (September 4, 2019): Here’s Why Romanian Politics Are Blowing Up Yet Again
Updated May 25, 2020
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