Klaus Johannis in the pole position


Romania. In the presidential election, the incumbent was until recently as a big favorite. Johannis had campaigned for the protection of the rule of law in recent years.

Bucharest / Belgrade. As head-high favorite, the incumbent head of state Klaus Johannis turns on the home straight of Romania's presidency. Results of the first ballot on Sunday were not available at the time of going to press. But according to recent polls, the German-born incumbent pulls with a clear lead in the runoff on 24 November: Anything but a re-election of the 60-year-old would be a huge surprise.

Although Romania is not presidential democracy, the limited powers of the head of state in Bucharest are hardly comparable to the power of its French counterpart. However, in contrast to the German or Austrian President, the responsibilities of the Romanian head of state go far beyond purely representative functions: Romania's President is not only commander-in-chief of the armed forces, but also represents the country at summits of the European Council.

In the clinch with the PSD

But even in domestic politics, the head of state is more than just a representative: His limited, but existing influence has been cleverly used by Johannis in the tug of war over the threatened independence of Romania's judiciary over the past five years.

The effort of Liviu Dragnea, the ex-leader of the Social Democratic PSD to bring the judiciary under government control, while Johannis could not completely prevent, but at least slow down so much that his request of a self-amnesty for corrupt politicians failed: Since the end of May sits Due to abuse of office also in the second instance to three and a half years imprisonment legally validated Dragnea his sentence from behind bars. Several times Johannis made use of his right to deny the appointment of questionable ministers or to take part in cabinet meetings to the annoyance of the until recently ruling PSD.

Although the President, with the repeated intervention of the Constitutional Court, strongly angered the Dragnea-controlled PSD governments, he was able to avoid the impeachment proceedings against him. A successful move also proved its adoption of a referendum referendum coinciding with the European elections in May: 85 percent of voters at that time spoke out against an amnesty for corruption offenses and governing with emergency decrees. The successful referendum was in fact already the first ballot of the presidency, said the Bucharest analyst Cristian Pirvulescu.

Although Johannis is set as a big favorite, the election remains nonetheless exciting – because in polls the president was last under 50 percent, which would be necessary to cancel the runoff election between the winner of the first round and the runner-up. Especially for former head of government Viorica Dancila as a top candidate of the PSD, the political future is at stake: If they do not make it to the runoff – a PSD never seen in post-revolutionary times defeat – it will not for the Romanian comrades as party leader be longer portable.

The Romanian domestic policy had last also affected the European policy. The vote of no confidence against Dancilas government on October 10 threw the designated EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen into the craft – because after the rejection of the original Romanian candidate, Rovana Plumb, for the Brussels authority by the European Parliament (Plumb had failed to financial conflicts of interest) had the successor of Jean-Claude Juncker waiting for replacement candidates from Bucharest until November. Ludovic Orban, the new liberal prime minister, just recently sent two proposals to Brussels: MEPs Adina Valean and Siegfried Muresan, both – as well as the Leyen – members of the European People's Party. For Romania, the Commission foresees the Transport Department, according to which Leyens decision for one of the two candidates, the hearing in the EU Parliament in mid-November to take place.


("Die Presse", print edition, 11.11.2019)

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