As the dust settles on the Romania elections, it becomes clear that the Democrat Liberals (PDL) have done rather better than predicted, running the Social Democrats (PSD) a very close second in terms of the popular vote. The kingmakers are the third placed National Liberals (PSD), who should, if ideology means anything, ally with the PDL, but whose relations with the presidentially sponsored party are so bad that they could equally work with the PSD, apparently. The only other party to make it over the electoral threshold is the Hungarian minority party (UDMR).
The far right Greater Romania Party (PRM) is dumped out of parliament adding to a trend across the region for radical nationalists to be less than electorally resilient and, perhaps as as a consequence, to fade out of the region’s political systems, although the political comeback of the Slovak National Party in 2006 shows that it ain’t necessarily so. The big unresolved question is , of course, how global economic recession will crunch CEE political systems, but the tendency of extreme populists and radical nationalists to flop as larger blocs hoover up votes (also seen in Poland in 2007 and Croatia last year) suggests that the usual predictions of a return to atavistic extremism again may be wide of the mark. More telling perhaps was the record low turnout of around 40%.
The final talking point is the new electoral system, a complex mixture of majoritarian single member district and (where – as in most cases – no one wins 50%+ in a SMD) proportional allocation of seats within larger electoral districts. The complex bit seems to be that the ranking of candidates for these proportionately distributed seats is done not by the parties themselves, but on the basis of a candidate’s vote in his/her SMD. You can thus be elected to represent an SMD if you are one of your party’s best perfomers in the region, even if you came a long way behind other candidates in the SMD. So for example, Ludovic Orban (PNL mayoral candidate in Bucharest in June) got 28% of the vote in one constituency but will become its Deputy despite being out-polled by the PSD and
the PDL candidates in the constituency) his vote was one of best by a PNL candidate in that sector of the capital, so he is one of the first in line for that party’s share of the seats redistributed on a PR basis within that sector. PIt is not quite clear happens if two candidates get the highest vote for their party in the same
constituency. PSD leaders with more of a local power base /levers of patronage to pull seem more often to have got into parliament via the 50% rule than leaders of either of the two Liberal groups.
For this example and explanation I am endebted to Ed Maxfield.The Romanian electoral commission’s swanky website, which zooms in and out of an interactive map, shows which party won which SMD, but as far as detailed voting figures were concerned all I got was a Rezultatele nu sunt disponibile. That at least I did understand.