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News 28 Mar 16

Romanian Politicians Switch Sides Before Local Elections

Many local officials are changing their political affiliations in an attempt to maximise their chances of re-election ahead of important municipal polls in June.

Cristina Bucureasa, Marian Chiriac
Bucharest
Many local officials in Romania are changing their political affiliation ahead of the elections | Photo: youtube

Local elected officials and political party members been changing their affiliations in recent weeks and joining parties in power in what analysts say is an attempt to ensure they retain their positions after June’s polls.

One such official, Emanoil Savin, the mayor of the tourism-focused town of Busteni in southern Romania, announced his resignation last week from the centre-right National Liberal Party, PNL, and moved to the rival leftist Social Democratic Party, PSD, which is currently the main party in the Parliament.

Savin cited what he said were “organisational problems inside the PNL”, and was quickly joined by some 1,800 more party members who decided to follow him and desert the PNL too. 

Analysts said the main reason for such changes of alliance is self-interest.

“As the local elections are approaching, city mayors or other officials are interested in increasing their chances of being re-elected,” said political analyst Cristian Parvulescu.

“Being a member of a party in power means bigger financial resources or at least access to such resources,” he added.

Local officials in Romania routinely get extra money from the government if they are members of the ruling parties.

A recent study said the government's emergency reserves fund and a national programme for local development projects were the main tools used by Romanian government during 2012-2015 to arbitrarily distribute funds to local administrations, supporting mayors from the ruling alliance and encouraging political migration. 

The PSD-led government has allocated 7.5 billion lei (1.6 billion euros) from the government’s Reserve Fund to local administrations in a discretionary manner, financially supporting mayors from government parties, the report by the Expert Forum think tank said.

“The main beneficiaries were mayors belonging to the PSD and junior parties supporting the ruling coalition, but also independent mayors,” the report said. 

Analysts from Expert Forum also noted big discrepancies in the funds allotted to different districts of the capital Bucharest. For example, the District 3 mayor received 55 more times money from the state budget than the more poverty-stricken District 2. 

“No fair process of fund allotment to Bucharest districts can generate such distribution of money,” said anti-graft expert Laura Stefan.

In addition, most of the money allocated from the Reserve Fund to local authorities, 57 per cent of the total, was handed over in 2014, an electoral year.

Romania, which is currently run by a technocratic government, is to hold municipal elections in June and parliamentary elections by the end of this year.



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