Massive turnout challenged the ruling party – VoxEurop (English)

Support for the ruling Social Democratic Party in Romania halved and its president departed the day after the vote to commence a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence for corruption. Meanwhile Renew Europe elects former Romanian prime minister and former European Commissioner Dacian Cioloș as its leader.

The clear winners of the European elections in Romania were the National Liberal Party (10 seats) and the EPP group (14 seats in all, one less than in 2014) with which it is affiliated. The Social Democratic Party (PSD) only managed half of the share of the vote it won in the 2016 parliamentary elections(22 percent). This followed its attempt to change anti-corruption legislation so as to see off criminal charges against its leader, Liviu Dragnea.

The loss was expected but its scale somewhat surprising, giving the party just eight seats, the same number as Alliance 2020, a member of Renew. Pro Romania, a new party founded by ex-prime minister Victor Ponta and affiliated with the European Democratic Party, received two mandates; as did the People’s Movement Party led by former president Traian Băsescu and the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania, with both contributing to the EPP’s lead. Given that there is no ecological party in Romania, there could be no green surge here. While the final results largely confirmed the pre-election polls, the increase in turnout from 32 percent in 2014 to 49.2 percent had not been anticipated.

In defence of the rule of law and an independent judiciary

This increase was spurred by a referendum concerning the PSD’s plans for the justice system and held the same day as the European elections. Called by Romania’s president Klaus Iohannis, it asked citizens whether they would support bans on amnesties and pardons in corruption cases and on the government adopting emergency ordinances concerning the judiciary (an area that the Social Democrats had abused previously).

Complicated as that may sound, the outcome was clear: over 85 percent of voters rejected the Social Democrats’ plans. While the president himself could consider his initiative something of a personal success, the result is also to be taken as proof that Romanian citizens are willing to defend the rule of law and an independent judiciary, which the PSD had tried to subordinate in the same way as Viktor Orbán did in Hungary.

The day after the European elections, PSD president Liviu Dragnea returned to court for the last appeal in his trial concerning the fraudulent hiring of two party workers. The Supreme Court sentenced him to three years and six months in prison. The decision is final.

This article is published in association with Eurozine.

Eurozine describes itself as “a network of European cultural journals, linking up more than 80 partner journals as well as associated magazines and institutions from nearly all European countries.”

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