By Daniel Stroe – Bucharest
Elmar Brok, a German Euro-lawmaker and head of the foreign affairs committee of the European Parliament, has publicly endorsed ethnic peer Klaus Iohannis (photo) for the top job in Romania, drawing the ire of the social-democrat ruling party whose candidate, PM Victor Ponta, will most probably square off with Iohannis in the second round of elections on 16 November.
Brok visited Sibiu late last week and went on stage with Iohannis, the mayor of the city, and showed support for the latter’s candidacy. Brok likened Iohannis to Konrad Adenauer, the first post-war German chancellor who had previously been the mayor of Koln, and pointed out many in Brussels support Iohannis in his endeavor to become Romania’s next president.
“I can tell you he enjoys an extraordinary large support within the European People’s Party, within the group in the European Parliament and from all the representatives of the nations represented there. We appreciate his work and when he becomes president we will support him and will have a partnership in the great European people’s family”, Brok added.
The German official’s words struck a sensitive chord with the Romanian ruling party, PSD, who collided with Brok early this year amid a wider debate on EU immigrants searching for social benefits in the West. Romanian PM Victor Ponta had then accused Brok of having a “Nazi mindset” after the German Euro-lawmaker called on Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants coming to Germany and getting social benefits to be fingerprinted lest they can ask for the same benefits twice.
As Ponta’s comparison sparked fury in the European Parliament, with the head of the communitarian legislative, Martin Schulz criticizing the Romanian PM, the latter finally apologized to Brok, blaming the media for the inadequate translation of his statements.
But some of Ponta’s party colleagues reacted vehemently to Brok’s support for Iohannis. A senator called Brok “an anti-Romanian” and questioned Iohannis’ choice of electoral support from the German member of the European Parliament. Another Euro-lawmaker, Viorica Dancila, called on Iohannis to distance himself from Elmar Brok or else the presidential candidate approves Brok’s fingerprinting measures. Last but no least, a social-democrat lawmaker who declared himself “scandalized” by Brok’s support for Iohannis asked the latter to apologize to Romanians.
Ponta and Iohannis will probably face off in the second round of presidential elections. Ponta has not missed the chance to use any means of attack against his main electoral rival, starting with a false debate on whether Romanians would vote for a protestant and a member of an ethnic minority. Latest polls show Ponta would win in the second round by 57 per cent, while Iohannis would get 43 % of the votes.
But analysts say it is too early to talk about a clear winner on 16 November, especially since Ponta has been besieged by recent revelations he had worked for a Romanian intelligence service while being a prosecutor which the law bans. Even though it is premature to gauge the effects of such revelations, further details may damage his candidacy in the end, especially before the second round when swing voters cling to any aspect to make up their mind.