Socialist party beats anti-corruption rivals in Romanian election

Nicuor Dans Uniunea Salvati Rom�nia was only formed this year but came third in the election. Picture: AP
Nicuor Dans Uniunea Salvati Rom�nia was only formed this year but came third in the election. Picture: AP
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Romanians hoping for major change in a country which is considered one of the most corrupt in Europe suffered a setback yesterday after it was confirmed that socialist party Partidul Social Democrat (PSD) had won parliamentary elections with 45 per cent of the vote.

The PSD saw its former leader, president Victor Ponta, resign last year following calls to end corruption after a fire in a Bucharest nightclub which killed 64 people. Ponta is also the subject of a major anti-corruption investigation.

The result of this week’s election has sparked anger among young, pro-change voters, who had hoped that parties sympathetic to the anti-corruption movement would fare better.

The PSD is seen as an establishment party set up by former Communists in the wake of the 1989 revolution, which saw dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu killed by firing squad.

However, the turnout was one of the lowest since the revolution, with just 39.5 per cent of the electorate casting a vote.

The Partidul Național Liberal (PNL), supported by Ponta’s successor, Klaus Iohannis, elected as an independent candidate on an anti-corruption ticket last November, won almost 20 per cent of the vote, while new party Uniunea Salvați România, launched by civic activist Nicușor Dan just two months ago, won around 9 per cent.

At a press conference in Bucharest, Mr Dan told supporters: “It will be a positive pressure that we put on other parties in how we interact with citizens, with the voices in society who have something to say. We will invite them to be represented in all the parliamentary debates, to use their expertise.”

PNL chairman Alina Gorghiu resigned yesterday following the poor result.

PSD chairman Liviu Dragnea, who was handed a two-year suspended prison sentence in April for election fraud during a July 2012 referendum to impeach the then president, Traian Basescu, will not be allowed to stand as prime minister, but said he would not rule himself out as a future leader, sparking anger from opposition parties.

Scot John McKellar, who lives in Cluj, Romania’s second largest city, said that many people had believed that their vote would make little difference. He said: “Young people who voted are outraged that after Ponta’s resignation, which was as a direct result of protests, that the majority of young people have kept quiet.”