18:36 Fri 02 May 2008 - Alex Bivol
The campaign for local elections in Romania was officially launched on May 2, although a large number of runners had started even earlier.
Some candidates have wooed voters with handouts of food before the Orthodox Christian Easter on April 27, while others went for Labour day open-air parties with free mici (a traditional Romanian grilled meat roll) and beer, local media reported.
Voting turnout is expected to be low for the polls, which are seen as the starting point for the parliamentary elections, held later this year.
Outdoor advertising and door-to-door campaigns will take centre stage over the next four weeks, although in bigger cities, especially capital Bucharest, nominees are putting increasing emphasis on the internet as a campaign medium.
In Bucharest, the race is the most even it has been in years, with 19 nominees vying for the city hall, although incumbent Adriean Videanu is not among them.
Videanu's party, the Democrat-Liberals, put forth former interior minister Vasile Blaga as its nominee. Other candidates credited with a strong chance to win are National-Liberal transport minister Ludovic Orban, former Social-Democrat justice minister Cristian Diaconescu and Sorin Oprescu, the former Social Democrat senator who quit the party to run as an independent. Oprescu has already been defeated twice in run-offs for the job in the past.
In municipalities where a mayor is not elected in the first round of voting on June 1, run-offs will be held on June 15.