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Romania - 2019 Presidential Election

Unlike in some European nations, Romania's president is chosen by popular vote and is in charge of foreign policy, the powerful intelligence services and the countrys defense policies.

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said he would seek a new five-year term in office in the 2019 election. "I'm firmly determined to run for a new term as president of Romania," he said on 23 June 2018 during a visit to Sibiu, his native city. The centrist Iohannis, 59, an ethnic German, became president in 2014 after campaigning on an anticorruption platform.

Iohannis was at loggerheads with the ruling Social Democrat Party (PSD), accusing it of attempting to weaken the fight against corruption, putting pressure on the judicial system, and implementing bad fiscal policies. The leader of the PSD, Liviu Dragnea, on 21 June 2018 was sentenced to three and a half years in prison by the Supreme Court on charges of inciting others to abuse of office. He denies the charges and remains out of prison pending his appeal.

Thousands of Romanians on 23 June 2018 protested outside the government offices in the capital, Bucharest, and in other cities against controversial PSD-backed amendments to justice laws and the penal code that critics say will set back efforts to prosecute corruption. Some of the protesters targeted Dragneas office, saying he would benefit from the legislation.

Iohannis, the European Commission, and the U.S. State Department criticized the proposed changes to judicial legislation, saying they could derail the rule of law. Iohannis on 08 June 2018 joined other members of NATO's eastern flank, known as the "Bucharest Nine," in calling on the Western alliance to bolster its presence in their region at the upcoming summit in the face of what they see as Russian "aggression."

Since winning the mayoral elections, Bucharest mayor Gabriela Firea, a former journalist and TV presenter, has been harshly criticised by her opponents for her poor management of the Romanian capital. At the same time, she has gained popularity by offering free holiday vouchers for students and pensioners, free vouchers for bikes and financial aid for mothers, and other benefits. In addition, the city hall has been organising many free entertainment events for Bucharest citizens.

A Sociopol poll quoted by Mediafax news agency in July 2018 showed that Firea was seen as the second most trustworthy person in Romania (25%), after Raed Arafat, the head of the Emergency Situation Department (50%), and ahead of President Klaus Iohannis (24%). The same poll put Dragneas popularity at just 15%. Firea is also the most popular PSD leader according to polls, and her accusations against the party leader might cause Dragnea to lose even more support, both from PSD voters and even inside his own party.

Dragnea said he is not planning to run for the Romanian presidency in the election due to take place in late 2019, where, according to the PSD leader, the coalition made up of the PSD and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (Alde) will have a joint candidate for the post.

Yet at the moment there appears to be no obvious candidate for the two parties to put forward. Firea has said she does not want to take either the Romanian president post or that of PSD leader. Alde leader Calin Popescu Tariceanu could become the joint candidate of the coalition, according to Firea, but a 01 September 2018 meeting revealed that would not be a popular choice among PSD members.

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