Too much Palin-mania here. So now for something completely different.
(Please note: Since I work in a field related to this stuff, any opinions expressed are entirely my own.)
Romania has parliamentary elections scheduled for November 28. Currently, the minority government is controlled by a coalition of Prime Minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu’s National Liberal Party (PNL) and Marko Bela’s ideologically-flexible ethnic Hungarian UDMR. The opposition consists of the center-right Democratic Liberal Party (PDL) who also hold the separately-elected Presidency, as well as the Social Democratic Party (PSD) who actually hold the most seats. A number of much smaller factions including the far-right Greater Romania Party (PRM) round out the upper and lower chambers. (PRM, out on the lunatic fringe, scored as high as 19% and 13% in elections in 2000 and 2004. However, the wheels have come off since then and they fell below 5% in the 2007 European elections and currently poll in the lowest single-digits.)
The 2007 European elections were an interim test of political power for the parties. PDL won, although their 29% outcome was considered a letdown. PSD’s second place showing of 22% was a strong effort for a party in permanent crisis, while the governing PNL got thrashed in a distant third with 13%.
There have been a number of minor and major scandals since 2007, including ongoing spats between the President and Parliament over the role of the National Anti-Corruption Office. (This is what happens in a country where everyone and their aunt is facing charges.)
Just last week the opposition PDL struck a controversial deal with PRM, the details and fallout from which remain murky. On September 3, PDL agreed to grant the Vice-Presidency of the Senate to PRM’s nasty leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor. This appears to have been a trade for other Parliamentary positions, and, according to some allegations, preparation for a political alliance going forward past the election.
President Basescu decried the deal as “abnormal,” claiming to feel “humiliated” to find out about it through the press. Tensions between Basescu and PDL party leader Emil Boc go way back. Despite Boc’s formal position as head of the party, Basescu’s sky-high popularity makes him a dominant figure and it’s questionable whether Boc has the real ultimate power to pull a move like this on his own. Whoever cut the deal, it may not have been worth the bad press considering PRM’s aforementioned drop to the low single digits in polling. One PDL presidential councilor, Catalin Avramescu, has already abandoned his run for Senate in protest.
So where’s this all lead? Obviously Romania lacks the type of day-to-day polling that we see in America. However, there have been at least three major polls since late June that may tell us something. Here’s the parliamentary preference table:
One thing is clear: PNL is in trouble. The Romanian system will require a coalition, and another minority government is likely. If PDL wins a decent plurality, this could be enough to form a government with Basescu’s blessing. PDL has put up Theodor Stolojan as their nominee for Prime Minister, an experienced, technocratic former Finance Minister, a perfect ego for Basescu’s id. Also a dead-ringer for West Wing‘s Leo McGarry.
Alternately, the Social Democrats will likely name Mircea Geoana as their man at their upcoming party congress on the 27th. Geoana, a former Foreign Minister, represents the progressive wing of the party and is well-regarded in western democratic circles. (Much prefered to the highly corrupt old-guard of Ion Iliescu and his prodigy Adrian Nastase.) Here’s Geoana on Flickr. PSD is paired up with the Conservative Party (who may contribute a few points,) and have governed in tandem with the Hungarians before. There’s no telling exactly what the outcome will be, but the days of the PNL minority government appear to be numbered.
Anyway, now back to your regularly scheduled U.S. domestic politics and use of the “Chris Hansen” tag.