Sunday, November 25, 2007

Romanian MEP elections a litmus test for Socialist EU manifesto

SOFIA: Romania goes to the polls on Sunday to elect its MEPs and the Socialists, despite trailing in the opinion polls, are "well-placed" to do well.

That was the forecast of MEP Adrian Severin, leader of the country's Socialist delegation in parliament.

Speaking on Friday at the two-day annual Party of European Socialists (PES) council in Sofia, Severin said, "These are extremely important elections, notably because they are the first European elections my country has held.

"But they are important for another reason. It will also be the first electoral test of the new PES election manifesto. The full manifesto is, of course, still be drafted and subject to consultation.

"But we have campaigned on some of its proposals, such as climate change, in the run up to this weekend's election.

"I cannot predict the outcome but am quietly confident my party will do well. Fortunately, I am pleased to say that, generally, the campaign has been devoid of the scandals so characteristic of my country in the past. We have also tried to orientate the campaign towards Europe and EU issues."

Although Romania has not yet held European elections, it has had representatives in parliament since its accession on 1 January.

Thirty-five "temporary" MEPs were nominated in 2005 by the Romanian parliament and some of these "observers" will run in Sunday's election.

Bulgaria held its first ever European elections on 20 May when 18 MEPs were elected. Generally, the mandate of MEPs is five years but the first elected Bulgarian and Romanian representatives will serve two years until the 2009 European elections

The campaign has, however, failed to capture the imagination of the Romanian public, sparking fears of a particularly low voter turnout.

There are currently 12 Socialist and seven centre-right MEPs among Romania's 35-strong parliamentary delegation.

Speaking ahead of the election, parliament's president, Hans-Gert Poettering, said, "The European elections will be a further significant step on Romania's transformation and integration into the EU."

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