“Case of Iohannis” and elections in Moldova

IPN analysis: Last Sunday, the citizens of Romania elected their new President. We, those we envy slightly  our neighbors for the possibility of choosing their leader by direct vote, can analyze certain particularities of their election campaign given that we may also witness  some of them in a week.

The candidate of Brussels

The major sensational event in Romania is undoubtedly the fact that a German protestant was elected as President of this country. This final of the electoral battle seemed impossible to some. The Social-Democratic candidate Victor Ponta, who polled 40% of the ballot in the first round of voting, gaining the support of the contenders who left the electoral race, improved his score in the decisive round of voting by only 5%. The leader of the National Liberal Party Klaus Iohannis, who won only 30% of the poll on November 2, gained almost twice more votes in two weeks.

But the arrival of an ‘exotic German’ at the Cotroceni Palace is only the surface of things, which causes many discussions, but does not show the main content of the elections in Romania. However, the evident stake of the European Union’s administration on ‘its candidate’ Iohannis became the key moment that determined the final result of the campaign.

It was easy to see who the European community sympathized with in the Romanian presidential elections from the titles of articles published in major publications both during the election campaign and after the announcement of the results. For example, the Spanish newspaper El Mundo entitled its article about the result of the decisive round of voting as “Romania votes against corruption”. The German newspaper Spiegel said it even more directly. In its article “One against the mafia”, the paper said that Iohannis won a victory even if the post-Communists tried by all means to stop him.

Leading European politicians also gave their support to the German from Transylvania, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who sent a letter to Iohannis even before the second round of voting, wishing him good luck in elections. This evident support allowed many observers and experts to speak about the future strategic alliance between Romania and Germany, owing to which Bucharest will make effort to solve the accumulated problems so as to strengthen its positions inside the European Union. There are many such tasks indeed – from joining the Euro Zone to entering the Schengen area. The Italian newspaper La Repubblica anticipated that the new President of Romania will receive greater support from Brussels than his predecessors.

Voice of the Diaspora

Another important circumstance that influenced the election outcome was the active participation of the Romanian diaspora. On November 17, all the news bulletins in Moldova were dominated by news about the interminable queues formed by Romanians at all the polling places established in Moldova and other countries where there are large communities of Romanians for the Romanian presidential elections. Towards evening, it became clear that the polling places will be unable to cope with the significant number of people eager to vote and, if the voting time isn’t extended, many of these people will simply not manage to cast their ballots. In many countries it happened so. In Italy and France, the number of Romanians who didn’t manage to vote was so large that the local police had to convince them to go away with teargas.

Nevertheless, 378,000 Romanians cast their ballots at the about 300 polling places set up outside Romanian. 90% of these voted for Iohannis. The diaspora thus made a contribution to the victory of the National-Liberal candidate not only by direct participation in the elections. The shortcomings in organizing the elections abroad, which led to long queues and confrontations with the police, mobilized the opponents of the current Prime Minister, who ensured an additional presence at the polling places inside Romania too.

Victory despite...

The parliamentary elections in Moldova will undoubtedly have features distinct from those of the Romanian presidential elections, especially because we will elect the members of Parliament. However, we will be unable to avoid two of the mentioned factors on November 30 – the vote of the diaspora and the position of the European Union.

Judging by the number of polling places that the Government of Moldova intends to establish abroad, it’s clear that the Moldovans living in the European countries will benefit from more favorable conditions than those who will be in Russia on the election day, while the active tours made by the leaders of the pro-European parties through Italy, Spain and France, where they meet with Moldovan citizens, show that a lot of hope is put in the Moldovan diaspora.

As regards the influence of the European Union and its support for the pro-European forces of Moldova, this support will become more evident possibly after November 30. Our people are not used to responding to the calls of the European politicians in the same way as the citizens of Romania. However, the current state of affairs revealed by the last Public Opinion Barometer, which can be said to be dominated by Euro-skepticism, shows to the European leaders that it is irrational to be modest in their public statements and calls. The Europeans will employ their main instruments after the vote count and will actively influence the formation of a new coalition. Discussions will be held not with the current leaders of the pro-European parties, but rather with the politicians whom we consider the ‘men of Russia’.

The representative of the ethnic and religious minorities of Romania, whose rating represented not even 30% several months ago, became now head of state. In Moldova, where the largest part of the population considers that the country follows an incorrect path, the representatives of the current government coalition have many chances of remaining in power because the EU is ready to take all the possible measures to keep Moldova within its orbit.

Veaceslav Craciun, IPN

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