Dimitar Bechev: Presidential Vote Showing Romania’s Maturity, Consolidation
Novinite has asked Dimitar Bechev* to comment on the results of November 16 presidential run-off vote in Romania won by Sibiu city mayor Klaus Iohannis, an ethnic German.
What are the results of the presidential elections in Romania signalling? What should the election of an ethnic German as Head of State of Bulgaria’s northern neighbour show to us?
This shows that the Romanian society has achieved a certain level of maturity and can make a judgement. It turned out that ethnic origin is not of such significance, it is much more important what the candidate has on offer, as well as the policies and principles which one is following.
All kinds of people from different ethnic groups have voted for Klaus Iohannis. In my opinion democracy is functioning in Romania, because Iohannis won despite the attempts of Prime Minister Victor Ponta to use the state machin in his favour during the presidential election.
What are your expectations of President Iohannis and Prime Minister Ponta working together?
It will be difficult. As we remember, it was not an easy task during the term of Traian Basescu. The Romanian Consitution, just like the Bulgarian one, is creating problems. The President is elected by a direct vote and competes for executive powers with the Prime Minister. When the two belong to different political parties, as is the case now, this creates additional rivalry. I expect tremors along this line.
What will change in Romania with the election of Iohannis?
We have to see to what extent he will commit to taking serious measures. Despite the good economic environment, a lot of institutional reforms are to be made. The fight against corruption should continue. We have to see to what extent the new President will commit to modernisation and reform and to what extent he will be carried by inertia.
What is the key to the success of Iohannis?
This is primarily due to his authority as a mayor. There was a considerable split of votes, and he managed to consolidate a large part of them. There is even a regional divide. Romanians living abroad were also active. The attempt of the state machine to curb voting abroad turned against its initiators. The same percentage of Bulgarians are living abroad, which is important to us, as it shows that emigrants can tip the balance. Basescu called upon voters to support Iohannis despite his frictions with the party leader, which was also of great importance.
How can we explain the high voter turnout – 64%?
The good news from Romania is that the society is mature enough to react and punish attempts to put hands on the state apparatus and use it for party goals. Mobilization demonstrated that consolidation of democratic thinking has begun.
* Dimitar Bechev is a researcher at the London School of Economics. Formerly, he was the Director of the Sofia Office of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), an international think-tank established in 2007 that aims to get Europeans talking about their role in the world.
Bechev is a co-author of a 2010 ECFR report carrying the title “The Spectre of a Multipolar Europe”, in which three poles of European security are pointed to – the EU, Russia and Turkey.
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