Behind the scenes of the 2024 power struggle

We vote on the same day for mayors and MEPs. PSD and PNL, common candidates for the EP, the president elected in September, at the request of the social democrats, without a validation of the extended leadership of the liberals.

The PSD and PNL leaders announced that the two parties are going together to the European Parliament Photo Inquam

The PSD-PNL agreement for the package organization of local and European parliamentary elections was initialed after months of discussions, including with a joint list in the European Parliament, but not without tensions in both formations.

PSD and PNL had several rounds of meetings on Wednesday, to work out the details of merging the European parliamentary and local elections. As early as Wednesday morning, two leaders of the Coalition, Mihai Tudose (coordinator of the PSD campaign in the European Parliament) and Rareș Bogdan (the leader of the PNL delegation in the EP) presented a survey that came late at night, which showed that over 50% of Romanians want a merger of elections, and 66% voted for a continuation of the government by the Coalition.

Marcel Ciolacu and Nicolae Ciucă also had a discussion with President Klaus Iohannis, before the official decision on the merger was given. At PSD, most of the heads of CJ and county organizations gathered in the office of the interim head of the Chamber of Deputies, Alfred Simonis, to talk with Marcel Ciolacu, Paul Stănescu, Sorin Grindeanu and Mihai Tudose. Liberals also came to this office at 3:00 p.m., for the second round of discussions, before the final discussion at 6:00 p.m.

In the National Political Bureau of the PNL there was an overwhelming vote for merging and joint lists. Liberals like Ilie Bolojan and Robert Sighiartău were critical of the deal with the PSD for a joint list. Bolojan stated that the joint list is a “political error”, which will not benefit either PNL or PSD, while Sighiartău asked for a vote against it. Instead, leaders like Gheorghe Falcă, Cristian Bușoi or Vasile Blaga, but also a newcomer like Varujan Vosganian, were in favor of merging. Incidentally, among the six who opposed the common list were Sighiartău, Bolojan and Ioan Turc, the mayor of Bistrița-Năsăud.

There were also colorful expressions. Cristian Buican, leader of the PNL Vâlcea, argued that if the party “still prostitutes itself”, it should do it to the end, that is, there should be agreements at the local level with the PSD. Asked after the meeting about the statement from the meeting, Buican remained silent, without denying. What Ciucă and the small leadership team, i.e. the first vice-presidents and the general secretary, did not discuss was the complete calendar, i.e. including the acceptance of the presidential elections in September.

At the PSD, the leadership also voted with an overwhelming majority for the joint lists and the merger of June 9, and Ciolacu proposed, and the others agreed, early elections for the parliamentarians, in December, but the presidential elections would be earlier, i.e. on September 8 (first round) and September 22 (second round). Ciolacu also admitted in the press conference that he wants the September 8-22 version for the presidential elections. “The calendar, including for the month of September, was discussed in the Coalition”emphasized Ciolacu.

Instead, Nicolae Ciucă was caught in the middle regarding the acceptance of the PSD proposal for the presidential elections, without a prior mandate given by the leadership.

In the BPN, we obtained a mandate only for merging the European parliamentary, local and joint list elections. We did not discuss the timing of the presidential and general elections. I discussed with the Prime Minister, they made a decision in this regard. After we complete all these preparatory stages, when they are ready to issue a GEO or a HG regarding the election calendar, we will definitely have a meeting at the BPN level and make a decision“, said Nicolae Ciucă, when asked if he told his liberal colleagues about the presidential election in the BPN meeting.

Photo by Inquam Photos

Photo by Inquam Photos

The campaign in the territory

There is still a fear both at the PSD and at the PNL level, regarding the behavior in the campaign, i.e. the possibility of attacks between the local candidates, while at the county level the formations go together. “I hope it will be a pact of common sense,” stated Gheorghe Falcă, PNL vice-president, when asked if a non-aggression pact should be concluded.

There are counties where liberals and social democrats do not get along at all, and such cases are in Giurgiu, Iasi, Gorj or Maramureș. Moreover, political sources have also stated that the PSD leaders who hope to win back the heads of the CJ or important town halls are not satisfied with the joint list at the European Parliament. One of the leaders who expressed his dissatisfaction in closed-door meetings is Gabriel Zetea, who in 2020 lost the mandate of head of CJ Maramureș to Ionel Bogdan.

The division of mandates is still a headache

The distribution of eligible seats gives the Coalition a headache, because everyone wants to have as many politicians as possible to enter the European Parliament. After the liberals initially demanded 50%-50% on the lists, the PNL started to take a step back. “It's about the level of representativeness according to the results that each of us has”, stated Ciucă. While the PSD has a parliamentary strength of around 30%, the PNL ended up having a weight of 22% in the Parliament. The PSD has approximately 1,400 mayors, while the liberals have approximately 1,250 mayors.

Social-democratic sources have specified that the ratio will be at least three PSD Euroles to two PNL, but the distribution by seats will take place later. In a pessimistic scenario, PSD would have ten MEPs, and PNL seven, while in a favorable scenario, including redistribution, it would reach 20-21 mandates, of which PSD 12-13, and PNL 8 .

The presence factor

One of the used and valid arguments of the Coalition for merging the elections is related to attendance. Apart from the 2019 European Parliament elections, when there was also a referendum for justice and an anti-Dragnea mobilization, being a 49.02% turnout, in the European Parliament elections the number of those who went to the polls fluctuated around 30% . In 2014, the turnout was 32.16%, in 2009 there was a turnout of 27.67%, and in the first electoral test for the European Parliament, the percentage was 29.47%. On the other hand, at the premises of 2020, still in the midst of the pandemic, the attendance was 46.62%, but in 2016 it was 48.17%. On the other hand, at the 2012 polls, the turnout was 56.26%, and in 2008, 48.81% of the voters went to the polls. Therefore, the number of those who expressed their voting option was always closer to 50% in this type of elections, where there is massive mobilization starting from the bottom, from local councilors and mayors, who primarily have a direct interest, the election theirs, unlike the European Parliament, where a limited number of people, 33 in this case, take the route of Brussels and Strasbourg.

Securing the seat

“Adevărul” also spoke with a political analyst regarding the effects that the merging of the elections will have, both for the ordinary citizen and for the parties. “Organizing several types of elections on the same day is not among Romanians' priorities. Surveys show that the standard of living, price increases and the Government's inflationary policy are the main concerns of Romanians. These problems do not disappear depending on the organization of elections. The consolidation will bring more presence, but at the same time it makes the incumbent mayors from medium and small towns vulnerable, who could be affected by the AUR wave, which is interested in the European Parliament. That could help lesser-known candidates of the Populist Opposition“, political analyst George Rîpă draws attention, pointing especially to the area of ​​closed lists, as is the case with county councils and local councils, where the vote is all for parties, not for certain political figures.

On the other hand, when asked who could be advantaged, he stated: “Together or separately, the score of the two Coalition parties would be largely the same. The advantaged ones, however, are the people at the top of the two parties, who through this alliance will hide the real score of the party they lead. In addition, even if the Coalition scores below expectations, below 50%, the leaders of the two parties will be able to claim victory at the end of the dayand”.