Romania’s ruling coalition confirms lead position in European and local elections

Romania’s ruling coalition confirms lead position in European and local elections
PSD leader Marcel Ciolacu at a press conference after his party's strong performance in European and local elections. / PSD via Facebook
By bne IntelliNews June 10, 2024

Romania’s ruling coalition, comprising the centre-left Social Democratic Party (PSD) and centre-right National Liberal Party (PNL), confirmed its leading position in the European Parliament election held on June 9. Candidates for the two parties also scored a landslide in the local elections held on the same day, despite failing to take the capital Bucharest from independent Nicusor Dan. 

The ruling coalition received 54% of the votes cast in the European Parliament elections, according to the exit poll carried out by Curs and Avangarde. That puts the two parties in a strong position ahead of the upcoming general and presidential elections in Romania. 

Candidates for the Social Democrats (part of the Socialists and Democrats group in the European parliament) and PNL (European People’s Party), running on joint electoral lists, can thus be expected to take more than half of Romania’s 33 MEP seats, considering that several parties failed to meet the 5% electoral threshold.

The Alliance for the Union of Romanians (AUR) — which can be expected to join the European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR) — doubled its electoral support compared to the last general election in 2020, and the United Right Alliance came in third place at a significant margin below AUR. 

AUR president George Simion hailed the results, underlining that more than 2mn Romanians backed his party. Among the party’s candidates are MEP Cristian Terhes and lawyer Gheorghe Piperea. 

The list of candidates of the PSD-PNL alliance includes mostly former MEPs from both parties, but also the Social Democrats’ candidate for the Bucharest mayoral position, Gabriela Firea, who failed to retake the capital for the PSD. 

The third-largest party in the European elections was the United Right Alliance (11%) formed by Save Romania Union (USR) and two new parties, with 11% of the votes according to the exit poll. This is half of the 22% score in 2019, when USR ran together with the PLUS party of former European commissioner Dacian Ciolos, who later founded the REPER Party, which is not likely to meet the 5% threshold in the 2024 European elections.

The Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR), part of the EPP, still has to wait for the final results of the elections to see whether it met the 5% threshold, as the exit poll indicated a result in the vicinity of this figure.

Local election landslide

The two ruling parties in Romania together won 63% of the votes for the county councils in the June 9 local elections, according to the exit poll carried out by Curs and Avangarde.

The PSD got 35% of the votes followed by the PNL with 28% – far ahead of the two largest opposition forces: United Right Alliance and AUR with 12% of the votes each. The UDMR received 5% of the votes.

The turnout in the local elections was 49.9%, several percentage points below the 52.3% turnout for the European elections.

Despite the victories for the PSD and PNL across most of the country, incumbent Bucharest mayor Dan, running as an independent backed by the United Right Alliance, won another term by a wide margin. 

The Curs/Avangarde exit poll shows Dan took 45% of the vote – 21 percentage points (pp) above the PSD’s candidate Firea (24%).

Dan has already announced plans to negotiate with the Liberals and keep in place the alliance that backed him during his previous term. He confirmed these plans immediately after the exit polls on June 9.

Dan also announced plans to initiate a referendum on consolidating the power of the central City Hall at the expense of the District City Halls. The consolidation would affect the distribution of the budget (currently overwhelmingly controlled by district City Halls) and other powers including the power to endorse urban planning. The referendum would most likely be held alongside the general election in December. 

Despite Dan’s victory, in the race for the Bucharest City Council, the parties that backed him (ADU, REPER) took only 36% of the votes (30% and 6% respectively) compared to a combined total of 40% of the votes obtained by the PSD (28%) and the Liberals (12%).