By Daniel Stroe – Bucharest
Romania seems to have gotten into the electoral mood with most of the debates now focused on the presidential elections in November which will most likely see a run-off. As leftist Victor Ponta, prime-minister and head of the largest party in the country – PSD – social democrat party – contenders on the right side are multiplying every passing day, dealing a heavy blow to effort to unite the rightist party against poll-favored Ponta.
The myriad of candidates on the right side seem to benefit Ponta who sits back relaxed. “In the first round, I will get myself popcorn and watch the debates between Mrs Macovei, Mrs Udrea, Mr Diaconescu, there are two of them and Mr Iohannis…There will be a spat (…) I don’t want to be part of. The second round is a different story” Ponta said yesterday. He also pointed out he starts this electoral race from a 40 per cent threshold and the rest is up to him. However relaxed the PM may be now, the second round will raise his heart beat for sure, with polls showing an open battle between him and his opponent, most likely Klaus Iohannis, German ethnic mayor of Sibiu. Ponta is fully aware of his political mentor’s experience in 2004 when then PM Adrian Nastase, just released from prison,
The right side of the political spectrum has been crowded with competitors which will most likely divide the votes of the followers which Ponta is actually relying on. Monica Macovei, former Justice minister and currently an Euro-lawmaker, Elena Udrea, head of the Popular Movement Party, Cristian Diaconescu, former foreign minister and an independent candidate, Klaus Iohannis, running for the Liberal Christian Alliance (the liberals and the democrat-liberals) and Calin Popescu tariceanu, former prime-minister and currently the Senate speaker, an ally of Victor Ponta suspected of joining the race just to chip at the rightists’ votes.
“I can defeat Victor Ponta”, Elena Udrea, who joined the race this week, said soon after announcing her candidacy. President Traian Basescu said he would give her his full support, calling her a pragmatic, extremely loyal and of an incredible physical resistance man.
The latest poll done by CSCI, an institute run by one of Ponta’s adivers, show the prime-minister leading with 46 of the votes, followed by Iohannis (24 %), Tariceanu (9 %) and Diaconescu (5 per cent). Monica Macovei is credited with a mere 2 per cent of the votes. The poll didn’t measure Udrea’s popularity since she announced her candidacy later. In the second round, Ponta would defeat Iohannis by 58 to 46, says the same poll done by the prime-minister’s allies.
“It would have been better if we had less rightist candidates” Iohannis admitted last night, pointing out he is very trustful in what he will achieve over the electoral campaign. He said his campaign will target the youth who are most disappointed by politicians but who are the next generation and the future of the country. Iohannis, a slow speaking man, with a temperate speech, has toughened his rhetoric against PM Victor Ponta lately, accusing him of running the country on TV, hinting at Ponta’s pilgrimage to Antena 3 and Romania TV, the two stations the support him. He also accused Ponta of lying to the Romanian people about the state of the economy, a week after Eurostat revealed the Romanian economy registered a two consecutive quarterly decline, which the national institute of statistics failed to make public.
Despite the many contenders on the right side, it is crucial all of them give firm support to Ponta’s final opponent in the second round. In their public appearances, they all identify Ponta as the common electoral target, but the debates to follow may pitch them against each other which will again favor the leftist candidate. With the stakes so high in these presidential elections which will find the successor to Traian Basescu, in power since 2004, the longest acting head of state in the EU, the rightist parties cannot fail to show unity at last on the last legs of the campaign, unless some of them agree to shake hands with the leftist Ponta if the polls show a clear win of the latter. With a lot of pride involved in this race, unity may come hard for the rightist contenders.