Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sex and elephants woo voters ahead of Romania polls


From parading an elephant through the streets to wrapping a condom on a finger or posing as Jesus, Romanian politicians are finding new ways to woo voters ahead of municipal elections on June 1.

In the Black Sea port of Constanta, a bulky candidate for mayor, nicknamed "the elephant," publicized his campaign by walking the animal through the town centre.

"It eats peas," the candidate Victor Manea said, poking fun at the current mayor of Constanta, whose last name, Mazare, means peas in Romanian.

The election for thousands of city mayors and county council members is an important gauge of the popularity of Romania's centrist government ahead of a parliamentary election this year. Hence the eye-catching stunts.

A candidate from the western city of Arad has printed banners showing himself sitting behind a long table, together with 11 colleagues, in a depiction of the Last Supper. His message is he "believes" in his team.

Banners in central Romania display images of a finger with a condom wrapped around it. The candidate for city hall in Bistrita, Gelu Dragan, hopes to show he will protect voters against ever-present corruption.

And in what a Romanian blog called "eggvertising," a candidate for the Navodari sea resort stamped his name on eggs to be sold in supermarkets. Their sell-by date is set for a week before a potential run-off on June 15.

Many voters, angry about Romania's dilapidated infrastructure and poor public services, are not impressed.

"I feel harassed," said Ileana Zamfir-Berca, a 49-year-old accountant from Bucharest.

"These people will do anything to get into power but just because they are walking an elephant doesn't mean they'll repair roads."

(Reporting by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Keith Weir)

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