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EP mid-term elections in Romania and Bulgaria

by DoDo Wed Nov 28th, 2007 at 09:07:48 AM EST

Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU earlier this year. Their parliaments already appointed 35 resp. 18 MEPs as observers in the European Parliament, who then became voting members. But this past Sunday (25 November), they were replaced democratically in mid-term European Parliament elections.

The results are no reason to celebrate for progressives and leftists, but there were some noteworthy changes, as can be seen on the summary table on shifts in the EP:

European Parliament party/groupSeatsChange
EPP (European People's Party, centre-right)24+11
PES (Party of European Socialists)15-3
ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe)11-4
ex ITS (Identity, Tradition, Sovereignty; dissolved far-right faction)3-4

E.g., the clear and sole winner is the EPP, even if some of the gains won't be voters too disciplined. Below the fold, the results for parties in the two countries, with some commentary.

The general bad news first: low participation, just below 30% in both countries.


I took the table from Wiki page and edited it:

PartyEP Party (group)Vote %SeatsChange
PD (Democratic Party, neocon, President Băsescu's party) EPP 28.81 13 +8
PSD (Social Democratic Party, ex-reformed-communist) PES 23.11 10 -2
PNL (National Liberal Party, con-neolib, PM Popescu-Tăriceanu's minority government party) ALDE 13.44 6 ±0
PLD (Liberal Democratic Party, neocon-neolib, PNL's pro-PD breakaway)to join EPP 7.78 3 +3
RMDSz/UDMR (Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania, minority centre-right) EPP 5.52 2 -1
PNG (New Generation Party - Christian Democratic, populist one-man party) None 4.85 0 --
PRM (Greater Romania Party, far-right)ex ITS 4.15 0 -5
László Tőkés (independent, Hungarian hard-right)to join EPP 3.44 1 +1
PC (Conservative Party, social-conservative) ALDE(!) 2.93 0 -2
DFDR/FDGR (Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania, minority centre-right) EPP - 0 -1
Mircea Coşea (PNL and ALDE deserter)ex ITS - 0 -1

Turnout was 29.46%.

Romania has right-wing parties of various stripes a-plenty. After the last national elections, PD and PNL barely scraped together a majority with smaller parties/independents, but then fell out with each other, and split the liberals, resulting in an oddity: PNL formed the perhaps smallest minority government in the democratic world ever.

So the good news is the fiery death of PRM, the party of  Corneliu Vadim Tudor, Ceauşescu's court poet turned fascist leader. This happened shortly after PRM blew up the far-right faction ITS in the European Parliament: they left in protest of their anti-Romanian-immigrants colleagues from Italy...

Independent candidate László Tőkés is a story in its own.

Tőkés was a Calvinist pastor in Timişoara (Hungarian: Temesvár, German: Temeschburg, Bulgarian: Тимишоара, Serbian: Темишвар/Temišvar). In December 1989, an eviction order was put on him, but his flock's protective blockade turned into mass anti-regime protests the regime tried to crush violently (almost a hundred dead), which triggered the 1989 Romanian Revolution.

Tőkés became bishop, as well as honorary President of RMDSz/UDMR. However, he drifted off towards the nationalist-separatist far-right, regularly criticised his party as too compromising, and then left it and formed a new movement -- without election success so far nationally. But a few weeks ago, Viktor Orbán, the reckless leader of the main opposition party in Hungary, right-populist Fidesz (member of EPP like RMDSz), came to Transsylvania (where he is very popular) to campaign for Tőkés!

Perfect move to have a subservient base in Transsylvania and please his right at home, and also perfect for inciting ethnic tensions. What's more, since the ethnic Hungarian minority in Romania is 6.6%, it was predicted that RMDSz will fail at the 5% limit and Tőkés at the 100%/35=2.8% limit. Instead, outstanding turnout in Transsylvania propelled both the party and the loathsome bishop above the limit (but if all that would have gone to RMDSz, they may have won 4 seats instead of 2+1). Interestingly, the relative vote was not uniform: the Szekler areas went for Tőkés.


I took the table from Wiki page and edited it:

Parties EP Party (group)Vote % Seats Change
Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (party of Boyko Borisov, the populist mayor of the capital Sofia) EPP 21.68 5 +5
Bulgarian Socialist Party (last time in coalition with other left parties) PES 21.41 5 -1
Movement for Rights and Freedoms (centrist Turkish minority party) ALDE 20.26 4 +1
National Union Attack (far-right)ex ITS 14.20 3 +2
National Movement Simeon II (the former last Tsar and former PM's centrist party) ALDE 6.27 1 -3
Union of Democratic Forces (former main right-wing party) EPP 4.74 0 -2
Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria (Former PM Ivan Kostov's breakaway from UDF) EPP 4.35 0 -1
Coalition of Bulgarian Social Democrats
(Party of Bulgarian Social Democrats, Political Movement "Social Democrats") (last time in coalition with Socialists)
[ex PES] 1.94 0 -
Agrarian National Union (last time in coalition with Free Democrats) EPP 1.54 0 -1
Communist Party of Bulgaria (last time in coalition with Socialists)[ex PES] 0.98 0 -
Union of Free Democrats (last time in coalition with Agrarian National Union)[ex EPP] 0.74 0 -
Green Party of Bulgaria (last time in coalition with Socialists)[ex PES] EGP 0.51 0 -

Turnout was 28.6%.

The winner of most votes was the populist party created in support of Sofia mayor Boyko Borisov, who was covered earlier on ET by our sadly absent Bulgarian students:

Also, on 19/05/2007, nanne quoted an article quoting Borisov's criticism of how accession was handled in the Salon.

It appears that the popularity of Borisov's popularism is ebbing, earlier he had up to 47% in polls. The bad news is that the far right increased its share of the vote. This may be a result of low overall and high extremist turnout, but still -- compare to Romania.

The Socialists failed to keep together the Coalition for Bulgaria with the other leftist parties, which meant that all the others failed miserably, and one EP seat was lost -- even while the non-populist right-wing was split and also crashed out of the EP.

The real winner of the EP elections was the Turkish minority party, benefitting from a high ethnic minority vs. overall low turnout. Thus they managed to achieve the seat gain the RMDSz/UDMR was prevented from in Romania. The role of this party was discussed in ccarc's 12/04/2006 diary The Role of an Ethnic Party--the Bulgarian Example.

So the EPP marches on...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Nov 28th, 2007 at 09:08:27 AM EST
Where have you got the descriptives of the Romanian parties? It does not seem to me that terms like neocon are applicable in Romania. It would first mean that Romanian parties might defined by a set of policies, which is not yet the case.
by Deni on Wed Nov 28th, 2007 at 12:36:06 PM EST
The descriptives are my judgement, used loosely :-) Below I give some reasons, but criticism/nuance/added detail would be very welcome.

PD as 'neocon': I was thinking of three things. One is the enthusiastic support for the Iraq War and Coalitions of the Willing, and that even after PNL got second thoughts. The other is less direct: PD didn't start as a conservative party, with Petre Roman it started more Social Democrat-ish, and wandered to the other side under the populist Bucharest major turned President. Third, I thought of the intellectual support base, Patapievici et al.

PNL as 'con-neolib': I am primarily thinking of the flat tax. Also their negative views on common EU policies beyond open markets.

PLD as 'neocon-neolib': I tried to grade relative to PNL, and was thinking of overtures towards the clergy.

BTW, at the same time as the EU election, there was also a referendum (pursued by PD) that failed on participation, about election reform towards more first-past-the-post and more Presidentialism if I got it right. Any comments on that?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Nov 28th, 2007 at 05:32:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
   The politics of Romania being what they are, I think that the signal to noise ratio its to little to actually apply such terms. I mean that in America or Western Europe, where these terms originated, the way parties act in a certain situation is determined by both ideology and circumstances (ie what will increase the ratings now). In Romania is almost only circumstances.
   For example the Liberals opposition to the Iraq war came only after the two parties were almost in open conflict and in a time of strong popular opposition in the Western Europe; at least to me it seemed that the Liberals hoped the same type of opposition existed also in Romania and wanted to turn it against Basescu; but since the public didn't seemed to really care about the issue, they stopped giving it importance also.
   The irony is that the initial participation of Romania into the Coalition itself was decided not by the PD but by the PSD, which was the in power, that is by the same people that had castigated the intervention in Kosovo in 1999, when they were in opposition.
by Deni on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 07:56:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have no real idea about politics in depth in Bulgaria, but I feel a sense of despair about it (hence low turnout). They got right royally shafted during the collapse of communism and are desperate for europe to ride to the rescue.

Equally there is a feeling that the turkish people'sparty are benefitting from a little help from a loose voter registration schme that allows a significant number of relatives still in turkey to vote in bulgaria. I have no idea how real that is but it's a commonly expressed idea.

That siad, communism has seemed to have left a legacy of waiting for the governmnet to fix things, yet moaning about the indifference of government. When I suggested that, under democracy, you have to organise to fix things, citizenship is an active respoinsibility, they seem surprised. Indeed, I've been shocked at how pervasive is the idea that they are still being monitored, that if they speak out of turn they'll go on a "list". Where do they think they are ? america ??

Maybe when I've been here a while I'll have sussed things out a bit better instead of repeating what Ivan bloggs says in the pub.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Nov 28th, 2007 at 12:51:52 PM EST
Yep, sadly, a long history of autocracies culminating in the One-Party-rule forbade a concept and practice of civil society in the former East Bloc, and what came after wasn't much of a fertile ground for its development, either. It may come with newer generations. As for fearing going on a "list" -- that sounds worse than elsewhere.

Regarding the Turkish minority and cross-border voting, that did come up in ccarc's diary which I linked at the end of my diary. My judgement remains that if there is widespread gaming of the system, it could have been righted by the other parties long ago, and this more sounds like rumors feeding on xenophobic parnaoia and enhanced with each re-telling.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Nov 28th, 2007 at 05:39:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Almost 30% turnout for a Euro-election is not so far out of line for similar elections in the UK.

The first one in 1979 attracted a 32.7% turnout. The 1984 turnout reached 32.9%. The next two in 1989 (36.8%) and 1994 (36.8%) were high turnout polls compared to 1999 (24.1%). I do not have the figure for the 2004 turnout, but I doubt it would significantly change the argument.

by Gary J on Wed Nov 28th, 2007 at 01:29:35 PM EST
Wikipedia for help: 2004 was actually the highest turnout in the UK 38.9%. Most old members were above 40%, Hungary also managed 38.5%, though half the new members were below that.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Nov 28th, 2007 at 05:47:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think there are two more or less simple solutions to get participation up.

  1. Couple the number of seats a country gets with the number of votes cast in some way. Problem: that's not how representative democracy works and would lead to all kinds of complaints. Countries with (traditional) voting duty like Belgium had a (perceived) unfair advantage.

  2. The European parties pick a well- known candidate for the presidency of the commission (in accordance with the council) and run a more personalised, pan- European campaign. Problem: diverse national parties would have to run on the same platform.

No easy solution in sight, but I think the second one would raise interest in European affairs permanently, enhance the importance of the EP and might actually work. As of now, the EP has a big legitimation problem.

"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu
by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 04:06:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would love the opportunity to vote for EU-wide lists. (Especially as no progressive list was on my ballot in 2004, and I had no better choice than the neolibs...)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 04:32:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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