BY MICHAEL BIRD AND STEFAN CANDEA
BUCHAREST - Romania’s European election campaign is dominated by the faces of candidates bidding to become President in November’s elections for a new head of state.
With incumbent President Traian Basescu forced to step down in November after two five-year mandates, it remains unclear who will succeed him as ruler of the EU's seventh largest country.
Positioned across the boulevards of cities and towns, along the country roads of villages and throughout social media, are portraits of the contenders likely to stand in the Autumn poll, pushing the candidates for the European Parliament into the background.
These include Social Democratic (PSD) Prime Minister Victor Ponta, National Liberal Party (PNL) leader Crin Antonescu and ex-tourism minister Elena Udrea from a new party, Popular Movement (PMP).
None of these seasoned Romanian politicians are fighting for a European seat.
While Ponta and Antonescu are likely to stand for their parties for President, President Basescu has thrown his support behind Udrea, if she chooses to run.
Recently, Udrea posted pictures of herself, Basescu and the PMP’s young and female members cavorting at the seaside on her Facebook page, wearing T-shirts inviting the electorate to vote for her party.
Prime Minister Ponta declared this was in violation of the constitution, which forbids a President to be involved in the election campaign.
He filed a complaint to the Constitutional Court which, if upheld, means parliament has grounds to suspend Basescu from his role.
His attempt to strike a political blow further indicates that the battle for Europe has become a rehearsal for the fight over Romania’s top job.
Meanwhile, polls in Romania show a union led by the Social Democrats (PSD) winning 40 percent of the votes.
The Liberals (PNL) and right-of-centre Democratic Liberals (PDL) are polling between 11 and 20 percent, and the PMP look set to double their voter share from around five to 10 percent.
Apathy is set to be the biggest winner, however, as no more than 30 percent of Romanians intend to vote next Sunday (25 May).