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11 December 2016 Parliamentary Election

A year after leaving office in disgrace, the Social Democrats have scored a victory in parliamentary elections. With no clear candidate for prime minister, however, political uncertainty may continue in Bucharest. One year after exiting the political scene amidst scandal and unrest, Romania's center-left Social Democratic Party (PSD) staged a major comeback. Official partial results on Monday, with more than 60 percent of polling stations included, gave the PSD a clear lead over its rivals with around 45 percent of the vote in the country's general election. PSD leader Liviu Dragnea said that his party and the small center-right ALDE will be in talks to form a coalition. With 5.5 percent of the vote, an alliance with ALDE would be enough to create a majority.

Romania's Prime Minister Victor Ponta said 04 November 2015 his government was resigning in response to protests demanding he and other top officials step down after a nightclub fire resulted in 32 deaths. The protesters allege several senior officials allowed themselves to be bribed in exchange for permits to put on shows in crowded and unsafe clubs.

Former EU agriculture commissioner Dacian Ciolos on 10 November 2015 was designated Romania's new prime minister. If approved by parliament, 46-year-old Ciolos was expected to put together a broadly backed government of technocrats with a limited mandate of one year. Parliamentary elections were scheduled for December 2016. "I see a government of technocrats as the solution for now," Romanian President Klaus Iohannis told reporters in Bucharest. "Political parties have agreed with this idea. I am convinced it is the right path for a year (until the election)."

On 05 June 2016 the leftist Social Democrats (PSD) re-emerged as the top party in nationwide local elections, boosting their chances to form a government after a parliament election later in the year. This was the first vote since anti-graft protests brought down Victor Pontas government in late 2015. Partial results from the central electoral bureau with 35 percent of polling stations, showed the PSD won most votes, or 45 percent for mayoral elections, followed by the centrist Liberal Party (PNL) with 35 percent. Results showed that ALDE, a PSD ally got about 6 percent.

In municipal councils, the PSD got 42 percent and the PNL garnered 32 percent of the ballot. Gabriela Firea, a 43-year-old former journalist backed by a leftist alliance of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) and the National Union for the Progress of Romania, received 43.56 percent of the vote in the capital to become the first female mayor of Bucharest. Her win put the PSD back in control of the city, nine months after PSD-backed former mayor Sorin Oprescu was arrested on charges of taking bribes.

The technocrat government of Dacian Ciolos easily won a confidence vote in parliament on 15 November 2016, reinforcing its mandate for a one-year term to stamp out corruption. The technocrat cabinet won with the support of the biggest parties the Liberal Democrats and the former ruling Social Democrats. The previous government of Victor Ponta fell in November 2015 amidst public anger over a nightclub fire in the capital Bucharest that killed 56 people.

One of Europe's poorest countries, Romania is being run by an interim technocratic government until the next general election. There are some important changes regarding the election process that were adopted by the Parliament in 2015, namely the law of political parties, the financing of political parties, the law of local elections, parliamentary elections law and postal voting law which allows Romanians from abroad to vote electronically.

Romania will hold a parliamentary election on 11 December 2016. Romanias political landscape is growing increasingly hot, with mainstream politicians and parties resuming, after a relatively calm summer, stronger messaging. The premier, ex-EU Commissioner Dacian Ciolos, heading up a technocratic cabinet since December 2015, is still viewed as a reasonable leader, while he hesitated to embrace a political party, most likely the PNL. Ciolos was courted by PNL leaders.

For the parliamentary elections, Romanians once again vote on party lists, thereby reducing the number of deputies and senators from the one in 2012, when it was in force the uninominal vote. The rules of representation are a deputy of every 73,000 inhabitants and one senator for each 168,000 inhabitants. This rule means a total of 466 elected, a number very close to that of 2008, compared to 588 who had been elected in 2012, but much higher compared to 300 as was voted in a referendum in 2009.

Regarding the law on parties, starting 2015, parties may be established by at least 3 members. On the other hand, they must have, alone or in alliances, candidates in 75 localities in local elections or in a county full parliamentary elections, otherwise they will be dismantled. The law also removed the list of supporting signatures of 25,000 founding members as previously requested. For the parties and campaign financing law, the novelty is that the parties that passed the threshold of three percent will have the expenses disbursed from the budget election campaigns. If a party has obtained at least three percent, the Permanent Electoral Authority reimburses only amounts of expenditure incurred in the constituency in which he obtained at least three percent of valid votes.

The approaching December 2016 general elections increased the risk of further adhoc spending and slow-down in the implementation of structural reforms. A new source of financing of political parties was lending money from individuals and companies. In contrast, during the election campaign contributions may be filed by the candidate or the financial agent of donations only from individuals of their own income or from loans to individuals or contracted with banking institutions.

The National Liberal Party, Romanias main right-wing party, faced critical issues, such as its leadership (co-Presidents Alina Gorghiu and Vasile Blaga were not seen as electoral movers and shakers); internal cohesion; lacking a clear political strategy and messaging, which resulted in landing only third in the June 2016 local elections in the capital ( the PSD won the mayor of Bucharest and the mayors of the various sectors of the capital.) The Partidul Social Democrat positioned itself as the main opposition party and has, repeatedly, tried to brand the Ciolos cabinet as the zero government.

Historically, it had been really hard to manage grand coalitions in Romania. Previous experiments, in 2009 (PSD-PDL) and 2013 (USL, i.e. PSD-PNL) resulted in complete failure after just a year or two.

Polling stations in Romania opened on 11 December 2016, with the corruption-tainted left expected to surge back into power just one year after the party's prime minister stepped down in disgrace. The Social Democrats (PSD) - whose leader, Liviu Dragnea, was convicted of electoral fraud - appeared set to win 40 percent of the vote. The PSD, which would form a coalition with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE), enjoyed wide support from older and rural voters. The center-right National Liberal Party (PNL) and the new Save Romania Union (USR) were expected to receive a combined 35-40 percent. The PNL and the USR both said they supported the continuing rule of caretaker Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos. A PSD Government would install Dragnea as the new leader.

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