The Romanian election is approaching, and I, for one, am as baffled as ever by the shifting allegiances in Romanian politics.
The election will take place on November 30th, which is next Sunday, and frankly an odd choice for an election day. You see, that's a long weekend, as December 1st is Romania's national day. Thus many people (one assumes) will actually be away from home (and hence the place in which they are registered to vote) either visiting family or enjoying the first of the winter snow (which I'm reliably informed is just round the corner), and not really looking to spend Sunday at home so they can vote.
This is the parliamentary election to elect a new government (but not a new president). This, at least, will presumably stop the endless bickering between the current government and the current president. Unless of course the current government get reelected (though this seems unlikely at the moment). So, here, basically is a quick primer on which parties stand a chance of having seats and being involved in coalition speculation.
Let's start with the PSD. The PSD (Social Democrats) are essentially the ex-communists. I presume by now there are some young and thrusting members who were never in the Communist Party, as they were not yet adults in 1989, but it seems like most of them were. The grand puppet master of the PSD is Ion Ilescu who was Ceausescu's right hand man, before positioning himself handily at the revolution and ending up as president following Nic's unfortunate violent death. I'm not sure what he's up to now, but his presence is still very strong around the party. The PSD are nominally of the left, but who knows what that means these days. Most confusingly they've allied themelsves at this election with the Conservative Party (PC). Obviously it's a tad confusing being English and finding an electoral alliance between the ex-communists and the conservatives, but I'm coming to terms with the idea that names don't mean a great deal (as if to prove this the conservatives were formerly called the humanist party). But the Conervatives seem to me like a trad right wing party - anti gay, in favour of "family values" whatever they are, and basically you're run of the mill bunch of rightists. No idea what the thinking behind the coalition is.
The other two major parties were allies four years ago, but now seem to hate each other's guts. There are the Democrats (PD) from which party comes the current president Traian Basescu (he's the bald bloke you see on photoshoots of EU leaders). They are kind of centrist (but to me what these days counts as "centrist" really is soft right. The party they fell out with the Liberals (PNL) who currently head up a minority government without the PD because they are not friends any more. They are to the right of the PD. Most of the last two years of Romanian politcis has been about the feud between these two, with each attempting to ridicule the other, and especially the most visible face of each party - Basescu(PD) and Tariceanu(PNL), the Prime Minister. Nobody I have spoken to thinks this election will change anything much, but at least, presumably, we'll see less of this soap opera for a while.
Those three will get most of the votes, but other parties that might get above the 5% threshold needed to get seats are the UDMR (The Hungarian Party who are big fish in my small pond), the PMR (extremist right wingers, who are thankfully on the wane) , and that's about it. Thankfully Gigi Becali's PNG party who are just a bunch of mad far right extremist "christians" are unlikely to make it.
The voting system has also changed this time. Before it was a party list system, but this time it has been changed into something called the uninominal system. This means, I think, that you actually get to a vote for a person rather than a list, which I suspect will serve to make Romanian politics even less interesting to the electorate since the candidates are so often such faceless nobodies, At least if you voted for a list you could choose policies, now they're being asked to vote for a sack of white potatoes or a sack of red potatoes. I could be wrong though, and maybe turnout will floruish with excited voters all wanting to vote for their man.
On which note, the final point for now (and I certainly hope that I get some comments here correcting what I expect to be a litany of errors), and that is the gender of the candidates. The last word of the previous paragraph was chosen carefully. Because you see there are no women. Well obnviously there are 1 or 2, but really this is about the most male election I can imagine. Today I drove from Miercurea Ciuc to Bucharest and passed loads of election posters. Tons of the things, and I saw one woman, One woman in 250 km of election advertising plastered over every billboard. It's a tad depressing. The one successful woman in the last parliament, who was elected woman of the year in the European parliament, Monica Macovei, got kicked out of the justice ministry in Romania for trying too hard to stamp out corruption.