Friday, November 28, 2014

A Chance for Lasting Change in RomaniaA Chance for Lasting Change in Romania

Opinion by
MARK GITENSTEIN
WSJ, Nov. 27, 2014

Romania and the world were stunned by Klaus Iohannis ’s victory on Nov. 16 in the country’s sixth presidential election. Mr. Iohannis, currently the mayor of the Transylvanian city of Sibiu, leads the country’s center-right coalition. Most observers had expected Prime Minister Victor Ponta, the leader of the center-left party, to win handily. The election represents a fundamental change in the direction of Romanian politics and hopefully a tipping point toward the West, democracy, rule of law and transparency.

A titanic struggle has been under way in Romania since its revolution in 1989. On the one side are the forces of change and reform, encouraged by the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and Western diplomats. On the other side are the oligarchs and political barons, with stakes in what is an only partially reformed status quo. Romania may have joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 2004 and the EU in 2007, but the reforms undertaken to secure entry have never seemed to truly take hold.

An example of this struggle emerged in 2012, when an anticorruption drive sparked a constitutional crisis over the control of the courts. The anticorruption prosecutors had recently convicted former center-left Prime Minister Adrian Nastase. When his party took power in the late spring on a program to reverse austerity measures, it attempted to impeach the president and prevail upon a new president, designated by Parliament, to remove the prosecutors and issue pardons for recently convicted politicians, perhaps even Mr. Nastase.

The U.S., the EU and German Chancellor Angela Merkel responded with unwavering support for the rule of law and the anticorruption regime, culminating in a list of specific commands to Romania from the EU, including prohibitions on interfering with anticorruption prosecutors, issuing pardons to those convicted of corruption, and interference with the Constitutional Court that would supervise the referendum to ratify the impeachment of the president.

Mr. Ponta, newly elected at the time, followed those diktats and brought the country back from the brink. But it was troubling that reform in Romania was so dependent on outside pressure. Reforms, a functioning democracy and a free market will only be sustainable if they are fully embraced by the Romanian people.

This month’s election suggests that moment might have come. Mr. Iohaniss ran on a platform of law and order and anticorruption. He fully embraced the agenda of Monica Macovei, the Romanian member of the European Parliament and anticorruption champion, who had been a candidate in the first round of the presidential vote. This included specific commitments to not interfere with the operation of the anticorruption directorate, to be transparent on the appointment of anticorruption prosecutors, to not weaken the anticorruption criminal code, and to promptly seek a waiver of legislative immunity for officials charged with crimes.

Ms. Macovei also had been a particularly strong critic of an amnesty bill that was proposed in Parliament in the fall of 2013. The bill would have made it difficult, if not impossible, to bring any more charges against Mr. Nastase or other political figures who might at some point be implicated in corruption probes. Mr. Iohaniss joined in opposing the amnesty, too.

Mr. Iohaniss’s message and the apparent effort by the foreign ministry to suppress the pro-Western diaspora vote energized an electorate that was frustrated with what seemed to be an unchangeable status quo. As a sign of increased engagement, voter turnout jumped to 64% in this election from 58% in the last presidential poll in 2009. Young Romanians, many of them first-time voters and including those living abroad who urged their families back home to vote for Mr. Ioannis, played a significant role. Apparently because of the diaspora-voter scandal, the “amnesty” legislation gambit last fall, and other issues raised by Ms. Macovei and Mr. Iohannis, Iohannis supporters didn’t believe Mr. Ponta would be able to resist the antireform element in his party.

Other politicians got the message. Two days after the election, Parliament—still controlled by Mr. Ponta’s party by a large margin—voted to withdraw the controversial amnesty bill for those convicted of corruption.

The West didn’t bring about this change. Romanians did. As many of them said to me during the week of the election, they were finally proud to be Romanians.

This has significant implications amid Russian moves in the region and concerns that countries like Hungary appear ready to make deals with the Kremlin over Russian influence. One of the best bulwarks against Russian aggression is for the governments in Bucharest, Kiev, Tbilisi and elsewhere to listen to their citizenry, who want to align with the West, fight corruption and build strong transparent, empowering institutions.

Liberal democracy is alive and well in Romania. But it is essential that these millions of new young Romanian voters remain empowered, and that Messrs. Iohannis and Ponta work together to continue to strengthen the rule of law. Romania can yet become a model for the region.

Mr. Gitenstein is a special counsel at Mayer Brown LLP and was U.S. ambassador to Romania from 2009 to 2012.

Bloomberg News: Romanian Premier’s Ruling Coalition to Remain in Power

By Andra Timu
November 27, 2014

Romania’s ruling coalition will stay in place after a junior member of the coalition, the UDMR ethnic Hungarian party, pulled out, Prime Minister Victor Ponta said.

Ponta’s Social Democrats and three junior members will continue to govern the country and present a draft budget for next year and a restructured cabinet to parliament, Ponta told reporters in Bucharest yesterday.

“It is very important to focus all our positive energies to do a good governing that will boost economic growth and create jobs,” Ponta said. “I want to continue to govern well, with special focus on healthcare, education and infrastructure.”

Romania’s ruling coalition, which was shaken by Ponta’s defeat in presidential elections to opposition leader Klaus Iohannis, is counting on the votes of 332 lawmakers in the 579-seated Parliament after the UDMR withdrew support for the cabinet.

Ponta said he plans to change some ministers and add the newly formed party of former Premier Calin Popescu Tariceanu to the government after sending a budget draft to parliament Dec. 10 following review by the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

With economic growth exceeding estimates and plans to adopt the euro in 2019, Romanians voted to replace outgoing President Traian Basescu after 10 years in power with ethnic German Iohannis. The elected president, who rode a wave of public anger against poor management of the government of voting abroad, takes office Dec. 22.

The Financial Times: Number of E Europeans registering for national insurance soars

Aliya Ram

After employment controls were lifted in January, the number of Romanians registering for UK national insurance increased sharply compared with the year before – from 18,000 to 100,000. The figure for Bulgarians rose from 10,000 to 30,000.

According to official estimates, half of these registrations are from new arrivals, suggesting that some of those already in the UK had been working illegally.

“My community is growing every day,” said Iris Radulian, project manager of My Romania Group, which provides support and advice to Romanians arriving in the UK.

“People arrive with qualifications, but they don’t know what a national insurance number is, or how to get one.

“Like any community, there are a range of people from Romania, but they don’t understand British processes yet and aren’t confident with the language, so from the outside they look all the same.”

Ms Radulian helps Romanians send their certificates to NARIC, the UK agency that translates international degrees into British qualifications. She has also created a network of Romanian accountants, barristers, solicitors and journalists who can advise immigrants, and runs schools where children are taught about their Romanian heritage while their parents learn English next door.

Ms Radulian said London attracted more migrants than other British cities because of the support network and the proximity of the embassy.

She said the west London borough of Brent was the most popular destination for Romanians, with 15,000 registered migrants, but that other areas of London, such as Harrow, Barnet, Tower Hamlets, Redbridge and Enfield, also had large eastern European populations.

Existing immigrants help arrivals settle in, and often two or three will share a room to save on accommodation.

Larisa Arama, manager of My Own Media, which publishes the Bulgarian newspaper Rodina News and the Romanian Ziarul Romanesc, said migrant communities had great potential but were held back by a lack of information. “These are proud people – I hear them telling me all the time they don’t want to be on benefits, or that they are saving for mortgages,” she said. “But they are not confident because they don’t know the rules.”

The Romanian and Bulgarian embassies did not respond to requests for comment.

One Romanian woman who recently moved to London from Italy said she and her husband had decided to come to the UK because friends had told them the schools were better. “We know it is very expensive, but my husband, thank God, has found work. I have a degree in law, in jury science, and I hope to find something here, too.”

She said she had felt much more respected here than in Italy: “In Italy, it is difficult to find a job, or maintain a job . . . but here I haven’t met English people who make you feel like strangers.”

This year, research by University College London found that EU immigrants made a large net contribution to the UK economy.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

EurActiv: High profile Romanian arrest bodes well ahead of monitoring report

The high-profile arrest at the Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism is expected to influence an upcoming monitoring report, which may open the doors to Romania’s Schengen accession. EurActiv Romania reports.

The Romanian justice system took a hit last week, as Alina Bica, the chief prosecutor of the Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT), was detained by anti-corruption prosecutors.

Bica is being charged with malfeasance in office for actions committed during her tenure in the Central Commission for Establishing Compensations, where she represented the Ministry of Justice. The former chief-prosecutor is being accused of approving an overvalued compensation for a land plot in favour of businessman Stelian Gheorghe that produced damages worth €62 million.

The chief prosecutor has been suspended as a magistrate, and will stay in custody for 30 days pending further judicial decisions.

Among former members of the Commission, the National Anticorruption Directorate has also detained the former chief of the National Authority for Property Restitution (ANRP), Crinuţa Dumitrean, and has requested approval to arrest the liberal deputy, Florin Teodorescu.

Alina Bica was appointed aa the head of DIICOT in 2013 by Prime Minister Victor Ponta. At the beginning of this week, President Traian Băsescu approved her resignation, and the Superior Council of the Magistracy (CSM) suspended her from the judiciary.

CVM consequences

It is highly likely that the Romanian scandal is seen in Brussels in a positive light. Like Bulgaria, Romania is monitored under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM), put in place to help the two countries mend deficiencies in their law enforcement systems (see background).

Unlike Bulgaria, Romania has been able to effectively jail several high officials, including former Prime Minister Adrian Năstase. More recently, Viorel Hrebenciuc, vice-president of parliament's lower house, and a member of the ruling Social Democrats, resigned from Parliament, after it became known that he is being investigated for corruption.

From among the former members of the Commission, the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) has also detained the former chief of the National Authority for Property Restitution (ANRP), Crinuţa Dumitrean, and has requested approval to arrest the liberal deputy, Florin Teodorescu. DNA has seized the assets of several former members of the Commission, including those of the former chief prosecutor.

Last month, anticorruption prosecutors started a large investigation against several former ministers, including a current Romanian MEP – Dan Nica -, for taking bribes and facilitating illegal contracts with the aim of leasing Microsoft licenses at over-inflated prices. In sum, the latest cases under the focus of DNA involve police officials, prosecutors and politicians and aim at recovering millions of Euros. The Romanian authorities asked the European Parliament to lift Dan Nica’s immunity.

Experts at the European Commission visited Romania at the end of September. They met with high officials, and discussed the progress made with regards to the reform of the justice system and the fight against corruption. According to the Minister of Justice, Robert Cazanciuc, a final visit of the Commission is scheduled to take place in December, before next report is released.

Mina Andreeva, deputy spokesperson to Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, said on 24 November that the next CVM report will be made public “in the beginning of next year” and that the monitoring on Romania and Bulgaria will continue with yearly reports.

Xavier Lapeyre de Cabanes, the French ambassador to Bulgaria was quoted as saying on 20 November by Dnevnik, the EurActiv partner in Bulgaria, that the monitoring on Bulgaria could be strenghtened.

Meglena Kuneva, Bulgaria’s Deputy Prime Minister, responsible for European policies and for CVM, said on 24 November that Bulgaria was running the risk of being separated from Romania under the CVM, and that Romania could be allowed to join the EU’s border-free Schengen space.

Both Bulgaria and Romania are technically ready to join Schengen, but several old member states link their accession to progress under CVM. The Barroso Commission repeatedly confirmed that Bulgaria and Romania are ready to join the EU’s borderless space, and has insisted that Schengen and CVM are unrelated issues.

BBC News: Transylvania's castle owners sink their teeth into business

By Calin Cosmaciuc
Zabala, Romania

In the end it wasn't vampires that the castle owners of Transylvania had to worry about, it was communists.

With more than 100 castles, the historic region of central Romania - inspiration for Bram Stoker's 1897 horror novel Dracula - was for centuries home to many aristocrats.

This changed abruptly when the Romanian Communist Party seized power at the end of World War Two and confiscated all the castles, most of which were left to fall into a state of disrepair.

Some castle owners managed to escape the country, while others were thrown into penury.

Following the Romanian revolution of 1989, which saw the communists removed from power, the descendants of former owners started to hope that they could reclaim ownership of the properties. In 2005 this was finally made possible after a change in the country's law.

So now a growing number of people are going to court to get their family castles back.

Yet even if they are successful, the process involves hefty court fees. So with the old family fortunes often long gone, legal bills to pay, and repair work to do, most are having to think entrepreneurially, and run the properties as small businesses.

'The Count'

Kalman Teleki was a small child when his family's baroque castle in the village of Gornesti was taken from them.

The communists forced the family to instead live in a basement flat for 19 years.

Mr Teleki trained as a chemical engineer, and was eventually able to leave Romania in 1982, when he moved to Belgium.

Three years ago he regained Teleki Castle after paying about 20,000 euros ($25,000; £16,000) in legal fees.

Affectionately called "The Count" by some villagers, the 67-year-old says: "I open the gates of my castles for balls, weddings, music concerts, and [large] groups of tourists.

"I have to find a purpose for having a castle in the 21st Century."

He charges between 500 and 2,500 euros to hire out the building, and while demand can ebb and flow, he says that ideally he would like to see "at least one event per week".

At the same time, Mr Teleki lets individual tourists, or small groups, visit for free. "But we don't refuse donations, of course," he says.

Mr Teleki adds that the government could help his business by improving the roads in rural Romania, and by spending more on promoting tourism in the country.

But at the same time he says he is encouraged by the continuing fascination that people around the world have with Transylvania.

'A mission'

For Gregor Roy Chowdhury, it took "10 years of judicial fights" to get his family's castle back.

Located in the village of Zabala, Mikes Castle was used as a psychiatric hospital during the communist period.

Mr Roy Chowdhury's mother, Countess Katalin Mikes, escaped Romania when she was 16, and lived in Austria, where she married a man from Bangladesh.

Her sons Gregor and Alexander now run the castle and its wider estate, although they only got back a third of the land the Mikes family used to own.

Gregor Roy Chowdhury, who previously worked as an investment banker in London, describes running the castle as "more a mission than a job, here is my home".

The castle is now run as a guesthouse. It has 10 rooms at present, but this is set to double next year. Guests are offered traditional Transylvanian cuisine, such as goulash, lemon chicken, and a spirit called palinka.

Mr Roy Chowdhury says the castle now gets up to 2,000 guests a year, with most coming from the capital Bucharest. To help run the business he employs six people from the village.

'The big exception'

The dream for most castle owners in Transylvania is to mirror the success of the famous Bran Castle, which is by far and away the most popular in the region due to its claimed connection with Dracula.

While Irish writer Bram Stoker never visited Transylvania, the inspiration for the character Dracula is said to have been 15th Century Wallachian leader Vlad the Impaler.

Also know as Vlad Dracula, legend has it that he was imprisoned for a few months at Bran Castle.

As a result, Bran Castle gets half a million visitors every year.

Another castle now back in the hands of its original family owners, last year its revenues totalled 2.4m euros. And this year it was reportedly put up for sale for 64m euros.

Mr Roy Chowdhury describes Bran Castle's money-making success as "the big exception".

Meanwhile, Mr Teleki says it tends to unfairly overshadow all the other castles.

"I'm a little upset with this whole Dracula promotion," he says. "Transylvania cannot be reduced to Dracula.

"It is a good story, but there are more interesting things to see."

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Romania's next president eyes power shift within weeks

BY MATTHIAS WILLIAMS AND RADU-SORIN MARINAS

(Reuters) - Romania's new president-elect Klaus Iohannis predicted on Tuesday that enough lawmakers could start abandoning Prime Minister Victor Ponta's ruling coalition in the coming weeks to bring down the government next year.

Iohannis, 55, an ethnic German from Transylvania who campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, defeated 42-year-old Ponta in a shock victory in a presidential election earlier this month.

In an interview with Reuters, Iohannis predicted that the presidential vote would erode the 65 percent majority controlled by Ponta's Social Democrats and their allies.

"Everybody wants to be on the winning side. So, it is possible that during the next weeks or months we will have changes in the parliament," Iohannis said at the headquarters of his National Liberal Party in Bucharest.

"So it's possible that during the year 2015 we will have this shifting which could give the National Liberal Party a majority, which then it would use to change the government."

Iohannis, whose promise to fight corruption helped make him Europe's most popular political leader on Facebook, has pledged to topple Ponta's government.

The presidency gives Iohannis the power to select a new prime minister if Ponta falls in a no-confidence vote, but that would require dozens of lawmakers to abandon the ruling coalition ahead of a general election due in 2016. Ponta's Social Democrats rely on two medium sized parties and several smaller groups for their large majority.

Ponta has said since the election that his coalition is stable and has ruled out resigning.

REPAIRING THE DAMAGE

Iohannis is a descendant of Saxons who have settled in Romania since the Middle Ages, and says he can trace his own family's roots to 16th century church records. Unlike thousands of ethnic Germans who moved to Germany after the fall of Communism in 1989, including his parents and sister, Iohannis stayed on.

A former physics teacher and schools inspector, Iohannis became mayor of Sibiu, also known by its German name of Hermannstadt, in 2000 and helped transform what was once a picturesque but dilapidated city into a tourist hub.

During a campaign which most expected him to lose, Iohannis made a point of not reacting to personal attacks. Opponents mocked his slow way of speaking and even his lack of children.

As president, Iohannis has pledged a more conciliatory approach than that taken by outgoing President Traian Basescu, who often feuded with Ponta over policy.

"I have to be very clear here, it's obvious that the prime minister and me had a competition and a lot of damage has been done," Iohannis said. "But, the competition is finished: we have a winner and we have a country to run."

An early flashpoint could be the 2015 budget, in which Ponta will have to balance sticking to a tight fiscal deficit target of 1.4 percent with honoring spending pledges, such as pension hikes, that he made during his campaign.

Iohannis will have the power to send government policies back to parliament once. During the interview, he refused to be drawn on what proposals he may veto, and on whether Romania should sign up to another aid deal with the International Monetary Fund after the current one expires next year.

"It is obviously very difficult to construct the budget with a deficit of 1.4 percent, which is the aim," he said. "On the other hand, I am not in favor of new taxes, so the government has difficult task and I can only hope that they'll come up with a decent draft."

Iohannis scored an early victory after the election by nudging parliament to scrap a controversial bill granting amnesty to politicians headed to jail on corruption charges.

He will follow that by pushing to cut the size of Romania's parliament and making party financing more transparent - changes he hopes will make Romania more attractive to investors.

Romania is emerging from painful budget cuts imposed during the global slowdown. Growth rebounded to more than 3 percent in the third quarter of 2014, but corruption and tax evasion are rife."I want to change the way politics is done in Romania: that means less show, more solutions for Romania," Iohannis said. "But we'll take it step by step. It is not possible to change the political class or the way the country runs overnight or within a week or a year."

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Romania’s Underdog of Hope

NORMAN MANEA
http://www.project-syndicate.org/

NEW YORK – The results of the recent Romanian presidential election were a happy surprise. Despite mounting a well-funded and ruthless campaign based on nationalism and religious devotion, Victor Ponta, the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) and current prime minister, lost to Klaus Werner Iohannis, the first Romanian president to come from an ethnic minority.

The outcome is as significant as it was shocking. With a huge political apparatus, the support of the Orthodox Church, the revival of the levers of corruption so often used in Romanian politics, and a victory in the first round, Ponta’s triumph seemed all but certain. Yet the underdog won by a comfortable margin. What does this mean for Romanian democracy?

Iohannis’s victory may well be as important a milestone for Romanian democracy as the bloody 1989 revolution that led to the overthrow and execution of the communist leader Nicolae Ceaușescu. The difference, of course, is that Romanians had to launch violent protests to escape the communist dictatorship that had brought them 42 years of suffering; today, they are working within a peaceful political process. But, then and now, Romania’s government pushed people beyond their limit.

Indeed, the election result was less a vote for Iohannis’s Christian Liberal Alliance than a vote against the “leftist” PSD, with its unenviable record in office, and the PSD’s political enemy on the right, the Democratic Party, led by Romania’s autocratic and unpopular outgoing president Traian Băsescu. The electorate seemed tired of the persistent confrontation between Băsescu and Ponta, and, more generally, of the noisy, ugly, and treacherous burlesque that their country’s political scene has become.

In his many successful years as mayor of Sibiu, Iohannis distinguished himself from the charismatic and shrewd politicians to whom Romanians are accustomed, proving to be a sober, laconic, and pragmatic administrator. This demeanor is part of what made it so difficult to predict his victory over the more talkative Ponta.

But Iohannis is different not only in his political approach; he is an Evangelical Lutheran in a largely Orthodox country. The vigorous religious attacks mounted against him during the campaign highlighted that fact’s salience for the establishment – though the Orthodox leaders who backed Ponta have rapidly adjusted their rhetoric to promote tolerance and cooperation.

Iohannis represents the ethnic German minority in Transylvania, a community that, despite having an 800-year history in Romania, has now almost entirely emigrated to Germany. It is no coincidence that the PSD allied itself with the xenophobic Greater Romania Party during the campaign. Ultranationalism lacks much relevance nowadays, and the party’s loud and vulgar former leader, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, is now but a defeated dreamer. That, however, did not stop the PSD from mobilizing chauvinists against Ponta’s not quite “Romanian” opponent.

But typical nationalistic slogans were not enough this time. Romanians viewed the government’s annulment of prison sentences for corrupt parliamentarians and some members of the financial elite as a clear sign of complicity. And the activist Andrei Ursu’s recent 17-day hunger strike – a protest against official manipulation and impunity regarding the death of his father during a brutal interrogation by the communist police in 1985 – reminded Romanians of their own experiences with government cover-ups of official criminality.

As if that were not enough, the government’s chronic duplicity was highlighted during the first round of the election, when a large number of Romanians living abroad were blocked from voting. Protests erupted not only in Bucharest, but also in Paris, London, Brussels, and Rome. Romania’s foreign minister, Titus Corlățean, was forced to resign and, in the runoff, the number of Romanians voting abroad doubled.

The final factor driving Iohannis’s victory was the younger generation, in whom connections with the Western world have imbued an eagerness to see real democratic progress in Romania. When the results were announced, their euphoria was overwhelming. In Bucharest’s University Square, the celebration recalled the energy of 1989; it was the sound of an awakened electorate, aware of its previous mistakes and ready for a fresh start.

Iohannis may also have benefited, to some extent, from an association in voters’ minds with the German Hohenzollern kings who ruled Romania wisely and with dedication for more than 80 years. And, indeed, upon learning of his victory, Iohannis immediately paid a visit to King Michael I (a Hohenzollern prince until he renounced the title in 2011).

Bolstering Romania’s prospects further, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has pledged to support Romania’s new government with both advice and action. Given the challenges ahead, such support will be sorely needed.

First, in order to enhance Romania’s stability in a tumultuous context, Iohannis must deepen the country’s alliance with the West. Second, he must fight for a radical political shift at home, from long-prevailing corruption to responsible governance, underpinned by an effective and transparent judicial system. Iohannis acknowledged both imperatives in his first public declaration.

It is not unreasonable to hope that Iohannis will advance Romania’s political development. That would be good news not only for the country, but also for an international community beleaguered by instability and conflict. After all, the more countries that have effective governments and fair political systems, uphold human rights and the rule of law, and create opportunities for their citizens, the better off the world will be. One hopes that, with Iohannis in charge, Romania will become one of them.


Read more at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/romania-presidential-election-klaus-iohannis-by-norman-manea-2014-11#JxZkT503I0KZoDvH.99

The Telegraph: Romanian presidential election: does Klaus Iohannis's victory prove social media can win an election?

By Ria Ivandic, King's College London
24 Nov 2014


Elections tend to be unpredictable until the very end, but very few people anticipated the win of Klaus Iohannis in the second round of Romanian presidential elections held on November 16th, after the first round of results and polls were consistently in favour of the centre-left prime minister Victor Ponta.

Two crucial components played off each other: a strong voice of Romanian expatriates amplified by social media.

For a country with a population of 20 million, a peculiar characteristic of the Romanian electorate is its numerous diaspora of four million people, a group that proved to be crucial during these elections.

In the first round of elections held on November 2nd, Mr Ponta took 40.4 per cent of votes overall, while Mr Iohannis came second with 30.4 per cent.

However, the first round of elections was accompanied by unrest across European capitals as many Romanian expats who turned out to vote were left waiting outside polling stations for several hours. Romanians in Munich flashed toothbrushes to the cameras to show how long they were prepared to wait to vote. Many were later turned away, unable to cast their ballot, after polls closed and Romanian authorities refused to exend the deadline.

This was seen as a strategic move from Mr Ponta’s camp as the expatriate community was largely made up of Mr Iohannis' supporters, who voted 74 per cent for Mr Iohannis against just 25 per cent for Mr Ponta in the first round.

However, this quickly backfired against Mr Ponta. An apparent discrepancy between the number of polling stations and the estimated voters in most European countries (in Germany only five stations were open for more than 200,000 expats), voters saw this as an ideologically selective denial of exercising the right to vote.

What followed was a series of solidarity protests as a sign of support for the diaspora that led the Foreign Minister Titus Corlățean to resign.

A strong social media campaign was led by young, urban voters and soon hashtags such as #yeslavot , #alegeri2014 and #diasporavoteaza (meaning “I’m going to vote”, “elections 2014” and “diasporavoting”) sprang up across several social platforms raising awareness of the importance of going out to vote.

The social campaign proved to be successful as voter turnout rose from 53 per cent in the first round to 64 per cent in the second round, and more importantly, expat turnout more than doubled to an estimated 379,000 people.

The second round of elections did not see an improvement in bureaucracy as the new foreign minister Teodor Melescanu, a former presidential candidate who gave his support to Ponta, did not allow additional polling stations to open and many voters were still unable to cast their ballot.

This led to violence in cities including Paris, where police used tear gas to disperse voters left outside the embassy. Using smartphones and social media, these actions were shared online, incentivising even higher voter participation. Subsequently suggesting that voters should travel from Paris to Nancy to vote, Melescanu became the second Foreign Minister in 10 days to resign.

On the morning of November 17 it was confirmed that Klaus Iohannis had been elected as the next president of Romania, winning 54.5 per cent of the vote.

Remarkably, he also reached one million followers on Facebook, by this measure becoming the most popular European politician. By comparison, British prime minister David Cameron has just over 400,000 followers on Facebook, while German chancellor Angela Merkel has 908,000.

Moreover, in a Europe where extreme nationalism has been on the rise in recent elections, the Romanian electorate has looked beyond religion and ethnicity.

Mr Iohannis is a protestant and descendent of Saxons who settled in Romania in medieval times, becoming the country's first president from an ethnic minority. He is a former high­school physics teacher that rose in political circles after successfully running the Transylvanian town of Sibiu.

Mr Iohannis has announced plans to safeguard the independence of Romania's judicial system and tackle corruption, key issues in his election campaign.

More than 80 per cent of Romanians believe that their elected president will make good on his promises, according to a study conducted by IRES.

However, the dramatic turnaround in his popular support during the voting process show that none of this would have been possible without the combined efforts of overseas voters and an effective social media campaign.

Bloomberg News Romania Has ‘Leeway’ for Interest-Rate Cut, Central Banker Says

By Agnes Lovasz and Andra Timu 
November 24, 2014

Romania Central bank may cut its benchmark interest rate to a record as inflation slows, while “dramatic” moves aren’t planned, Board Member Daniel Daianu said.

The central bank still has room to ease until inflation starts to accelerate in the second half of next year, Daianu said in an interview today. The bank, which cut its main rate by a quarter point to 2.75 percent on Nov. 4, has an inflation target of 1.5 percent to 3.5 percent for this year and next.

“There’s leeway to continue lowering the policy rate, but we’re not going to do it in a dramatic way,” Daianu said in Vienna, adding that this is his personal view. “It’s common sense to believe that there’s room. Not moving by 50 basis points was prompted by the belief that we should allow more room down the road. So I’m not a lone voice.”

With economic growth exceeding estimates and the central bank forecasting inflation to end the year at 1.5 percent on lower oil prices and cheaper food, policy makers will hold a rate-setting meeting on Jan. 7. Governor Mugur Isarescu said the bank’s policy stance was influenced by the Polish central bank’s decision to keep rates on hold on Nov. 5.

“The good news is that the low inflation environment allows us to continue our monetary easing plan. Even if we don’t cut rates anymore, we still have minimum reserve requirements,” Isarescu said on Nov. 6. “We still have room for maneuvering the policy, and we are not stuck like other central banks.”
Surprising Growth

The bank trimmed reserve requirements for foreign currency deposits of commercial banks to 14 percent from 16 percent, leaving them unchanged at 10 percent for leu accounts on Nov. 4.

The leu gained 0.1 percent to 4.4325 per euro at 4:41 p.m. in Bucharest, strengthening for a third day, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Yields on 2024 euro-denominated bonds declined one basis point, or 0.01 percentage point, to 2.62 percent, the lowest since the bonds started trading on Oct. 23.

Gross domestic product advanced 3.2 percent last quarter of this year compared with 1.4 percent in the previous three months, while the average estimate of nine economists in a Bloomberg survey was for 1 percent growth from a year earlier.

“We were also surprised, but agriculture played a significantly larger role than some of us believed,” said Daianu, who estimates next year’s growth at 2.5 percent.

To contact the reporters on this story: Agnes Lovasz in London at alovasz@bloomberg.net; Andra Timu in Bucharest at atimu@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net Michael Winfrey, Paul Abelsky

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Economist: A commonsense victory

A surprise winner may mark a welcome shift to pragmatic policies
Nov 22nd 2014

AS VICTORY speeches go, it was the least bombastic that Romanians had heard in a long time. “The campaign is over, we made our choice. Now let’s get to work. I am very serious and determined,” said Klaus Iohannis, the liberal mayor of Sibiu, in Transylvania. He is the first Romanian from the country’s ethnic German Protestant minority to be elected president. That is quite a shock for such a conservative, majority-Orthodox country.

That Mr Iohannis won on November 16th was thanks largely to a turnout of 62%, the highest in 14 years. This reflected a protest vote against Victor Ponta, the Socialist prime minister who was the front-runner in all the opinion polls and ran a fiercely nationalist campaign. Another factor was the sight of thousands of Romanians abroad (mainly Iohannis voters) queuing for hours at overcrowded embassies and unable to cast their votes, which encouraged more voters at home. Despite protesters against Mr Ponta claiming electoral fraud, Mr Iohannis emerged as a big winner, with 54.5% of the vote.

“Mr Iohannis’s German ethnicity proved an asset not a burden. Germany has not ceased to be admired as a modernising force in this part of Europe,” says Tom Gallagher, an Edinburgh-based political analyst. He adds that Mr Iohannis’s record in Sibiu eclipses anything that Mr Ponta managed as prime minister. Mr Iohannis promises to “change the way we make politics,” with a focus on the rule of law and safeguarding the independence of the judiciary, perceived as vulnerable had Mr Ponta won. He wants to stick to a strongly pro-Western foreign policy, after attempts by Mr Ponta at opening up to China, and to a lesser extent, Russia.

With a general election due only in late 2016, the new president must now work with a Ponta-led government. The first signs are encouraging: Mr Ponta was gracious in defeat. One of the president’s promises has already been fulfilled with the withdrawal of a draft bill that would have freed convicted criminals, including high-level politicians jailed for corruption. The Romanian parliament has also lifted the immunity of several MPs under investigation for corruption.

Mr Ponta has vowed to work with Mr Iohannis. He sees no reason to resign. He has told party rebels to “have the wisdom to shut up” and insists that, as long as he has a big parliamentary majority, he will carry on as prime minister. But he has taken a one-week holiday, citing his sadness after losing the presidential election.

“The main goal of these elections has been fulfilled: not to give the entire power to Mr Ponta…what comes next is a cohabitation which is likely to run more smoothly than with the outgoing president, Traian Basescu,” says Cristian Ghinea from the Romanian Centre for European Policies, a Bucharest think-tank. He says the most pressing challenge for the government is the budget for 2015, since the figures for this year were massaged to look good for the election. “They managed to hide the budget deficit this time, but they won’t be able to do so next year,” says Mr Ghinea.

The economy was a big election issue. Mr Iohannis accused Mr Ponta of driving Romania into recession. Mr Ponta riposted with figures from the statistical office (ahead of publication) showing that GDP rose by 1.9% in the third quarter over the previous one. The IMF, whose precautionary loan programme with Romania is due to expire next year, is urging the government to keep a tight lid on spending. In the campaign Mr Ponta promised an increase in pensions next year and accused Mr Iohannis of wanting to slash them. Ironically, it may now fall to him as prime minister to push through more cuts in 2015.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

FT: Romania’s presidential poll offers hope for more tolerant future

Tony Barber

The result of Romania’s presidential election may turn out to be the most positive political event in Europe this year.

It is encouraging for what it says about three things in central and eastern Europe: its troublesome ethnic politics, the never ending struggle against corruption and the unfolding contest between the Euro-Atlantic alliance and Russia.

The election winner was Klaus Iohannis, the centre-right mayor of the city of Sibiu, who defeated Victor Ponta, the centre-left prime minister. What makes Mr Iohannis’s victory special is that he comes from Romania’s ethnic German minority.

After waves of emigration in the communist and post-communist eras, ethnic Germans account these days for well under 1 per cent of Romania’s 20m people. But the acrid aroma of menacing nationalism has often permeated Romanian politics, as the country’s Hungarian and Jewish minorities can testify.

Romanians showed exceptional maturity on Sunday by electing an ethnic minority candidate as their head of state. For many voters, the political programmes and personal appeal of the two candidates evidently mattered more than their respective ethnic backgrounds. It seems that this was especially true for Romanian voters who live in western European cities. They voted heavily for Mr Iohannis.

Few European countries, east or west, can say the same. Has Bulgaria had an ethnic Turkish president? Has Italy had a prime minister from its ethnic German region of South Tyrol? Has Britain had a premier of Afro-Caribbean origin?

In a region whose history is riddled with ethnically inspired political tensions, Romania’s election result gives hope for a future of tolerance.

The fact that Mr Iohannis was elected on what was perhaps the most explicitly anti-corruption programme of any Romanian presidential or prime ministerial candidate of the 24-year post-communist era, indicates Romanian voters are no less sick than the nation’s western allies of pervasive corruption in Romanian politics, business circles and public administration.

In early October Victoria Nuland, the US assistant secretary of state for European affairs, warned in a hard-hitting speech: “In central Europe today . . . the twin cancers of democratic backsliding and corruption are threatening the dream so many have worked for since 1989” – the year the region’s peoples overthrew communism.
As a centre-right ethnic German politician, Klaus Iohannis has excellent relations with Angela Merkel, Germany’s Christian Democrat chancellor

Official corruption is a deep-seated problem in Romania. One former prime minister, Adrian Nastase, has been convicted twice on corruption charges (after his first prison sentence, he shot himself in a failed suicide bid). The recent election campaign took place against the backdrop of an alleged bribery scandal involving top-ranking politicians and the sale of software technology licences for Romanian schools.

Mr Iohannis cannot change everything overnight, but his ascent to the presidency is a sign that the political classes are less likely to escape unpunished for flagrant abuse of public office.

His election victory should also stiffen the resolve of Nato and the EU to stand firm against Russia’s efforts to expand its political, military and economic influence in the Balkans and Black Sea area.

In some respects, Romania is less susceptible than its neighbours to Russian pressure. It relies less on Russian energy. As a non-Slav nation that once lost territory to the Soviet Union, it is immune to pan-Slavism and has few illusions about how the Kremlin deploys power. Yet from time to time one hears that high-level Romanian politicians have privately aired the idea of doing a deal with President Vladimir Putin that would concede to Russia permanent dominance over south-eastern Ukraine.

Mr Iohannis is unlikely to toy with such notions. As a centre-right ethnic German politician, he has excellent relations with Angela Merkel, Germany’s Christian Democrat chancellor. He sees eye to eye with her on the danger posed not only by Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, but by its support of the breakaway Moldovan region of Transnistria. Under Mr Iohannis, Romania can be expected to contribute to a more coherent, united EU stance towards Russia.

EurActiv: Incoming Romanian president plans to topple cabinet in 2015

Romania's incoming president Klaus Iohannis said yesterday (18 November) his party might try to topple Prime Minister Victor Ponta's government next year, an early sign of the instability that might follow his surprise victory.

A national vote is not due until 2016, but Iohannis, speaking in his capacity as leader of the centre-right opposition National Liberal Party, said his party might look to forge new alliances to unseat Ponta as early as next year.

Iohannis beat frontrunner Ponta in the weekend's presidential election, promising in his campaign to step up Romania's fight against corruption and make it a more attractive place for foreign investors.

He scored an early victory on Tuesday when parliament bowed to his calls to scrap legislation aimed at keeping politicians out of jail, which was introduced last year to relieve pressure on overcrowded prisons but sparked outrage.

While a Ponta presidency may have brought stability to one of Europe's poorest countries, a win for Iohannis means that executive powers remain split between rival political camps and could also pressure Ponta's government to bow out.

"We, the Liberal Party [his National Liberal Party is affiliated to the centre-right EPP political family], want to take over power. This will happen in 2015, or at the 2016 parliamentary election at the latest," Iohannis told reporters after a party meeting. "Now there is an urgent need for the 2015 budget because ... Romanians need to know what is going on."

The former communist state of 20 million is emerging from painful budget cuts imposed during the global slowdown. Growth rebounded to more than 3% in the third quarter of 2014, but corruption and tax evasion are rife. Progress to implement reforms and overhaul a bloated state sector is mixed.

Political squabbles have often hampered Romania's progress in its 25 years of democracy. Prime minister since 2012, Ponta often feuded with the outgoing president Traian Băsescu, which stymied policymaking and caused a constitutional crisis.

Ponta's Social Democrats and his coalition partners still have a comfortable-looking majority of nearly 60% in parliament. But Romania has a long history of defections and Iohannis' own party split from the government in February.

To contain the fallout from his defeat, Ponta on Tuesday replaced his foreign minister for the second time in just over a week, after voting problems for Romanians overseas triggered huge protests and helped turn the tide in Iohannis' favour.

Ponta nominated Mihnea Motoc, Romania's ambassador to Brussels for the last six years, to take charge.

Positive signal

Echoing several analysts' assessments, a note from Nomura on Monday said Iohannis' election was more risky for Romania in the short term. It heightened the chance of early elections and complicated talks for an ongoing aid deal with the International Monetary Fund.

"However, in the medium and long run, we believe there is a chance of a stronger credit story, while the government may actively tackle corruption and promote independence of the judiciary," it said.

The Social Democrats were dogged by several high-profile corruption scandals in the final weeks of Ponta's presidential campaign. Following his defeat, Ponta said voters had sent a clear anti-graft message and urged his MPs to reject the amnesty bill, which was originally proposed by a member of his party.

About 6% of all deputies and senators are either under investigation, on trial or already sentenced on graft charges, data from anti-corruption prosecutors showed. But on Tuesday, the lower house rejected the bill almost unanimously.

The decision might send a positive signal to the European Union, which keeps Romania's justice system under special supervision and out of the passport-free Schengen zone until its performance improves.

Romania: Last minute mobilisation makes Iohannis president

openDemocracy
CLAUDIA CIOBANU 18 November 2014

According to official results announced Monday morning, Iohannis managed to get 54 percent of votes while his main opponent, current prime minister and Social-Democratic leader Victor Ponta, got 45 percent. The counting of votes is still to be finalised, but Iohannis is expected to be confirmed as president on Tuesday. Ponta already conceded defeat Sunday night, saying that “the nation is always right”.

Iohannis’ victory was somewhat unexpected. In the first round of elections on 3 November, he had gotten around 30 percent of votes while Ponta scored 40 percent. Yet in the two weeks between the two rounds, Ponta’s opponents mobilised in an exemplary way both on the streets and on social media, leading to an increase in turnout from 50 percent to over 60 percent and in the reversal of scores.

In Romania, Ponta and his Social-Democratic party are seen by many as the epitome of corruption and inefficiency. Ponta has been a prime minister since 2012, a period in which his party peers supported legislation that would give immunity to corrupted politicians, criminalise investigative journalism, or give extraordinary powers to corporations in the extractive sector. The government also enforced a “special security zone” at Pungesti in eastern Romania where Chevron was doing exploratory work for shale gas allowing police to crush anti-Chevron protesters.

Ponta is also notorious for his lack of reliability: while in opposition, he criticised austerity only to implement IMF-dictated austerity measures once in power; before taking office, he opposed the Rosia Montana gold mining project that brought tens of thousands to the streets in 2013, only to get behind it as soon as he became a prime minister.

Yet the strong passions around these elections were not caused only by Ponta and the Socialists’ faults. There are two more factors to be taken into account.

For one, at the end of ten years with centre-right strongman Traian Basescu as head of state, the center-right electorate in Romania could look to new candidates and renew their hopes. The most promising of them was Klaus Iohannis, a Romanian of German ethnic origin credited with having done a stellar job as mayor of the city of Sibiu and representing an alliance made up of Romania’s two main centre-right parties.

Most importantly, Romanian society had changed in an important way during 2013. Last year, some of the strongest protests in Romania’s post-socialist history rocked the country and led to the indefinite postponement of a project to build a gold mine at Rosia Montana in Apuseni Mountains. During those demonstrations, many felt for the first time that they can and should make a difference to political life in their country. For some, the presidential elections this year constituted a major opportunity to see an electoral expression to the street movement.

On top of this, Ponta’s government made a serious mistake. During the first round of elections on 3 November, thousands of Romanians living abroad in Western Europe did not manage to vote despite sitting for hours in line in front of embassies, because of administrative problems. Because Romanians in Western Europe voted overwhelmingly for Iohannis, many thought their exclusion was a tactical move by Ponta’s government. Solidarity protests ensued in various Romanian cities, particularly in western Cluj, where more than ten thousands took to the streets one week after the first round.

Ponta’s government, however, did little to ensure the exclusion of Romanians abroad would not repeat in the second round. While more Romanians did get to vote in the second round (close to 400,000 compared to the first round’s approximately 200,000), images of people sitting in kilometre-long lines in front of embassies still circulated all over Romanian traditional and social media, stimulating those at home to get out and vote against Ponta.

Spirits have been very high in Romania over the past weeks. Ponta’s opponents, many of them important journalists and commentators who have the power to shape public discourse, depicted these elections as a fight of democrats vs. Ponta’s "communists", of good vs. evil, of a European future for Romania vs. getting stuck in the past.

This gloom and doom rhethoric was very much embraced by people active on social media and taking to the streets in various citites between the two rounds of elections. People felt the stakes of these elections were very high and that those supporting Ponta (traditionally thought to be the poor and less educated from rural areas or smaller towns) were dragging the country behind out of ignorance or out of short-sighted personal interest, because they accepted the Socialists’ electoral bribes.

Sunday’s results brought tens of thousands to the streets again across Romania. Among them, there are both people who voted for Iohannis as "the lesser evil" and those who are conviced that Iohannis is the way forward for Romania. While some of the protesters would have wanted them to stay focused on an anti-Ponta message, in most places people ended up chanting pro-Iohannis slogans. In Bucharest University square, Iohannis joined the crowds on Sunday night.

Excitement is high in Romania. But whether these elections are as miraculous as many Romanians taking to the streets these days think is doubtful.

For one, the president in Romania does not hold enormous executive power. The head of state can veto legislation approved by the parliament, is a guarantor of the Constitution, deals with foreign policy and can make some judicial and security services appointments. Iohannis will become a president, but Ponta will remain a prime minister (despite calls for him to resign heard on the streets Sunday night) and for now the parliament is still dominated by Socialists.

While Iohannis is seen as diametrally opposed to Ponta, the two were political allies in 2009 and 2012. The Social-Democrats may be corrupted, but neither do Iohannis’ Liberals have a spotless record.

Importantly, Romania has lived such "revolutionary" electoral moments before, when Traian Basescu was elected president in 2004 and when the first post-socialist centre-right candidate, Emil Constantinescu, became president in 1996. Yet the country has done little more than muddle through the post-socialist transition.

Iohannis’ political programme is a straightforward liberal proposition, putting forward the need to make the economy more liberalised and competitive, to support the business sector, maintain a flat tax, stick to European fiscal discipline. It proposes a strengthening of alliances with the EU, the US, and NATO. Iohannis may be credible when he proposes these things, but his proposals are nothing new to Romania. Nor is a simple pro-liberalisation line necessarily the most suitable for a country where 40 percent of the population is on the brink of poverty.

Just like other election rounds in Romania, this ballot too has hardly sparked any original thought on what the Romanian society really needs and whether this is all covered by the EU recipe. Most of the campaign has been fought in symbolisms.

What was positive in these elections was the strong mobilisation by people and the sense they had that they want to be involved in politics. Not having Ponta as a president is nothing to feel sorry for.

What is more problematic is that Iohannis represents a vision of politics that speaks only to those who are managing fine during the transition. Protesters, though many, were mostly representing this part of the population.

What is important right now is that Romanians continue to stay alert and keep an eye on power. And also that those who support Iohannis - and Iohannis himself - find ways to connect to the other part of Romania, the one that was not in the streets or on the internet, and who may have voted for Ponta out of fear of what the future may bring.

Bloomberg News: Romania Bucks Nationalist Wave With Election Shock

By Edith Balazs and Andra Timu 
November 18, 2014


When Romanians picked an ethnic German leader for the first time in 133 years, they did more than shock the frontrunner, Prime Minister Victor Ponta. They ran counter to a Europe-wide trend of rising nationalism.

The choice in 1881 was Carol I of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, the first German king of Romania. On Nov. 16, voters picked Klaus Iohannis as their new president, giving the mayor of the Transylvanian city of Sibiu a surprise victory over Ponta. The leader of the opposition Liberal Party erased a 10-point deficit in the first round two weeks earlier.

Iohannis, 55, will be the first member of an ethnic minority to be president in Romania, where relations with ethnic groups including Hungarians are often strained. His victory, driven by discontent with the government and a campaign focused on battling corruption, is a sign “that nationalistic tensions in Romania and the region may be overcome one day,” according to Otilia Dhand, an analyst at Teneo Intelligence in London.

“This is more dramatic than Americans electing Barack Obama,” said Charlie Robertson, global chief economist at Renaissance Capital Ltd. in London. “Electing someone belonging to 1 percent of a country’s minority is a sign of political maturity.”

Voters were driven by anger at thousands of their compatriots living abroad being unable to cast their ballots and the government’s “arrogant” response, Dhand said.

This “prompted Romanians to look beyond nationalistic lines and support Iohannis,” she said.

Ukraine Conflict

Iohannis triumphed as the conflict in neighboring Ukraine threatens to plunge back into open warfare and unleash a new wave of nationalism and separatism across the region.

Extremist and anti-EU parties gained ground at this year’s European Parliament elections. Radical groups made gains in countries including England, France, Denmark and Hungary, boosting their presence in the 28-nation bloc’s assembly.

In eastern Europe, a region peppered with minorities and criss-crossed by borders cutting through nationality lines, the proximity of the Ukraine crisis and the memory of the violent dissolution of Yugoslavia give an edge to ethnic tensions.

Hungary, Bulgaria and Slovakia are among the countries that have witnessed violent incidents involving local Roma, or Gypsy, communities in recent years along with a rise in the popularity of radical political groups.
Hungarian Minority

In Romania, tensions between the majority and ethnic Hungarians of more than 1 million run deep, often spilling into violence at sports events. Soccer fans regularly clash when the two nations play each other, such as at a Euro 2016 qualifier on Oct. 14, when almost 50 people requested medical care and 12 were hospitalized.

The Hungarian minority is pushing for autonomy in Transylvania, which the government in Bucharest rejects. Hungarians have gained some concessions in the past decade, including better access to education and some judicial procedures in their native language.

UDMR, their largest political group, has been in coalitions with parties across the political spectrum since the collapse of Communism in 1989. Currently part of Ponta’s alliance, Chairman Hunor Kelemen brushed aside expectations that Iohannis will be a “champion of minority rights,” even if a majority of Hungarians voted for him. Iohannis’s victory raises the risk that they will be seen as having unreasonable demands about minority rights, Kelemen said.

No ‘Paradise’

“It would be hasty to assume that his victory will bring on paradise in terms of minority rights,” Kelemen told the regional radio station Radio Marosvasarhely. “I wouldn’t have high hopes that Klaus Iohannis will solve minority problems.”

Iohannis promised “deep changes” in Romanian politics and pledged to preserve the country’s relationship with the U.S., the European Union and NATO.

He also called on the government to dismiss those responsible for the botched ballot abroad and asked outgoing President Traian Basescu to recall diplomats involved in the diaspora vote.

“Even though Romanians haven’t voted Iohannis for his nationality, but because of hatred for the government, he can still use his ties with Germany to his advantage,” said Alexandru Cumpanasu, an analyst at the Association for Implementing Democracy in Bucharest. “He must be wise though, because foreign politics have changed and he cannot just count on blood ties like Carol I.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Edith Balazs in Budapest at ebalazs1@bloomberg.net; Andra Timu in Bucharest at atimu@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: James M. Gomez at jagomez@bloomberg.net Balazs Penz, Kevin Costelloe

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Romanian president-elect: Deep change coming

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — An ethnic German mayor who defeated the prime minister in a runoff to become Romania's president said Monday his victory signals stronger relations with the West and greater stability for Eastern Europe.

Thousands of Romanians celebrated the surprise victory of Klaus Iohannis over Victor Ponta, which the mayor of Sibiu said would lead to "deep change" in Romania.

The victory of the slow-talking physics teacher represents a victory for a young, post-communist, well-traveled generation who get their news and views from social media, where Iohannis was widely favored, and not from the mostly pro-government traditional media.

It also reflected the anger that people felt over the problems that Romanians living abroad had in voting in the first round. The sight of thousands of Romanians, many forced to move away to find decent pay, lining up for hours to vote and being unable to do so, struck a deep chord. The turnout of 64 percent for the runoff was well above that in the first round.

Two hours after polls closed, an ashen-faced Ponta conceded defeat. A mass protest transformed into a celebration as Iohannis waded through thousands gathered in a square where many were shot dead during the 1989 anti-communist revolt.

"It should never be allowed again that Romanian citizens are humiliated when they want to vote," Iohannis told The Associated Press on Monday.

German President Joachim Gauck congratulated Iohannis, assuring him of Germany's support for "the implementation of important reforms your country faces — especially" in tackling corruption.

Iohannis tapped into Romanians' desire for a quiet life and an end to bitter conflicts between outgoing President Traian Basescu and Ponta, promising to be a "mediator president." Basescu also congratulated Iohannis.

His win was also the failure of the nationalist card played by Ponta, who mocked his rival's minority German ethnicity and the fact that he is a Lutheran and not a member of the powerful Orthodox Church.

Challenged to sing the national anthem at a news conference, Iohannis gave a tenor rendering of the first verse on Friday, to applause.

Ethnic Germans who moved to Transylvania 800 years ago enjoy a good reputation in Romania and Romanians are generally not bothered by religious affiliation.


Iohannis, a teacher, has been the successful mayor of Sibiu, a city of 155,000, since 2000.

In the interview, Iohannis said he would "definitely bring more assurances and stability to this region."

He promised to crack down on endemic corruption and guarantee an independent justice system and said Parliament must not pass a law that would grant amnesties to people serving prison sentences for corruption.

"All this needs to be done as soon as possible," he said.

Ponta later said that he would propose a law to Parliament that would not allow amnesties for corruption convictions, adding that he also supported changing rules for Romanians voting abroad.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Transylvanian surprise

The Economist

IN A world where politics often seem locked down by political scientists and campaign consultants, it is nice to be surprised once in a while. Opinion polls leading up to Romania's presidential elections on Sunday all predicted a clear victory for Victor Ponta, the Socialist prime minister, whose massive billboards and broadcast-media appearances had dominated the campaign. The polls were wrong. Romanians voted solidly for Klaus Iohannis (pictured), the no-nonsense mayor of Sibiu, a town in Transylvania.

Early results on Monday showed Mr Iohannis, an ethnic German who belongs to a Lutheran church, scooping up 54.5% of the vote. At a post-election victory party, supporters greeted him with cries of "Dankeschön". He will become the first member of an ethnic minority, and the first non-Orthodox Christian, to serve as president in Romania's post-communist history.

What the polls failed to predict was a massive bump in turnout. Participation was over 64%, far higher than in the first round of the elections two weeks earlier, which had narrowed the contest to a run-off between Mr Ponta and Mr Iohannis. In a press conference in Bucharest on Monday, a triumphant Mr Iohannis called the turnout "the best surprise of the elections”. The 55-year old former physics teacher took particular care to thank Romanians abroad for voting, or trying to: just as in the election's first round, many in Romania's large foreign diaspora queued for hours at polling stations in embassies and consulates, only to be turned away.

“Someone has to bear the consequences of this catastrophic vote organised abroad," Mr Iohannis said. In Italy and France, angry would-be voters clashed with local police, who used tear gas to disperse them. Mr Iohannis urged the outgoing president, Traian Băsescu, to recall Romania's ambassadors to those countries. Perversely, though, the voting problems outside of Romania seemed to have mobilised higher turnout at home. Solidarity protests with voters abroad were held throughout the week before the election, culminating in protests Sunday night in the cities of Bucharest, Cluj and Sibiu. Those protests turned into street parties for Mr Iohannis when Mr Ponta conceded his defeat, two hours after polls closed. Twitter and Facebook threads bearing election-related hashtags beside images of voters abroad clashing with police helped drive people in Romania to the polls.

Voting reform will be high on Mr Iohannis's presidential agenda. He urged the government to introduce legislation to introduce systems for voting electronically or by mail, rather than at polling stations at embassies. Currently, voters must cast their votes on printed paper ballots, which are then marked with an official stamp. Polling stations in London, Paris, Brussels and Rome had between three and seven stamps with which to mark the ballots of tens of thousands of people, restricting the speed of the voting.

Mr Iohannis has vowed to chart a strong Euro-Atlantic course for his country. On Monday he emphasised Romania's strategic partnership with America, and its roles in NATO and the European Union. While Romania's prime minister enjoys broad executive powers, it is the president who has the last say on foreign and security matters. As for Mr Ponta, he said he sees no reason to step down as prime minister, but would do so “in one to two years” if he loses his majority in parliament. But after his unexpected and decisive loss on Sunday, he will face increasing pressure, both from the opposition and from his own party, to resign.

Romania Opposition Chief Johannis Wins Presidency in Upset

Romanian Liberal Party leader Klaus Johannis erased a deficit of 10 percentage points to upset Prime Minister Victor Ponta and win the country’s presidency, a surprise result that threatens to unsettle the ruling coalition.

Johannis, 55, the ethnic German mayor of the Transylvanian city of Sibiu since 2000, got 54.5 percent of the vote to 45.5 percent for Ponta, gaining 2 million votes to reverse the premier’s lead in the first round two weeks ago. Ponta conceded defeat in a televised speech last night, even before partial results were announced. He said he won’t resign from his post.

Johannis is the first member of an ethnic minority to become president in Romania, where the majority’s relations with ethnic groups including Hungarians are often strained. After a campaign focused on a pledge to crack down on corruption and strengthen the rule of law, he rode an increase in voter turnout to victory.

“I will be a free president who will represent all Romanians,” Johannis, a former high school physics teachers who received praise for helping Sibiu became Europe’s capital of culture in 2007 by restoring medieval buildings, said in a televised speech. “The citizens gave a signal for profound change and I got this message loud and clear. I’m ready to start working.”

The leu gained 0.1 percent to 4.4245 per euro at 12:30 p.m. in Bucharest today, while the yields on the government’s euro-denominated bond due in 2024 fell 2 basis points, or 0.02 percentage point, to 2.75 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
‘Unseating Ponta’

About 64 percent of the 18.3 million eligible voters cast their vote, up from 53 percent in the first round, according to the Electoral Bureau. Social Democrat Ponta, 42, who can still lean on the ruling coalition’s parliamentary majority, is defying criticism over voting procedures for Romanians abroad and losing his first-round lead.

“Johannis will likely use the presidency’s influence over the majority in parliament to undermine Ponta’s government,” Tsveta Petrova, an analyst at New York-based Eurasia Group, said in an e-mailed note before the vote. He may seek “a government that is more business-friendly than the current governing coalition, though not necessarily able to change the course in the medium term.”
‘Political Fracas’

Ponta’s coalition, which includes the ethnic Hungarian party, has 358 lawmakers in the 572-seat parliament. It would control 315 votes without the Hungarians and other minority representatives, according to the legislature’s website.

“One shouldn’t rule out a political fracas in the period going forward and, possibly, a readjustment of the leftist parties’ strategies in Parliament,” Radu Craciun, chief economist at Erste Group Bank AG (EBS)’s Romanian unit said in a note.

Johannis urged the government to present a 2015 budget “as soon as possible,” called on parliament to reject an amnesty law and lift the immunity of lawmakers being probed by prosecutors. He also asked the President and Ponta’s cabinet to punish those responsible for the poor management of voting abroad, including the recall of some diplomats.

Several thousand people took to the streets in Bucharest and other cities last night to protest long lines at voting centers abroad and celebrate Johannis’s victory.
‘Will Pay’

“I want to show my children that we still live in a democratic country and that whoever insults our right to vote will pay the price,” said Rebeca Ion, a 40-year-old consultant, marching in Bucharest.

More than 10,000 demonstrators in Bucharest demanded Ponta’s resignation after television images showed thousands lining up for hours to vote in London, Paris, Munich and other cities in Europe. Police fired tear gas in Turin and Paris to disperse Romanians angry they weren’t able to cast their ballots before polls closed there, according to Realitatea TV.

“Ponta was defeated after annoying the urban electorate by failing to organize the voting abroad and showing too much confidence in his victory,” Cristian Ghinea, head of the Romanian Center of European Policies, said today by phone.

With economic growth exceeding estimates and a target to adopt the euro in 2019, Romanians voted to replace outgoing president Traian Basescu, who served the maximum two five-year terms. With Basescu at the helm, the country witnessed growth rates higher than China in 2008 and some of the toughest austerity measures in the European Union two years later in the financial crisis.

Corruption Scandals

In an election campaign that was clouded by corruption scandals and accusations by Basescu that Ponta was a spy before entering politics, which he denied, Ponta tried to boost his popularity by promising higher pensions and salaries. He quarreled with the International Monetary Fund and the EU under a 4-billion euro ($5 billion) bailout accord over a plan to cut social contributions by 5 percentage points.

The lenders put a planned review of the accord on hold in June and said they will resume talks with the government after elections to see the 2015 budget plan and proof that the measure is sustainable.

“There is a high chance that negotiations will prove tight this time,” Irina Cretu, an analyst at NBG Securities SA in Bucharest, said in an e-mailed note before the vote. “The assumed 2015 fiscal gap target stands at 1.4 percent of economic output, whereas the recent European Commission forecast shows Romania’s public budget deficit would increase to 2.8 percent next year.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Andra Timu in Bucharest at atimu@bloomberg.net; Edith Balazs in Budapest at ebalazs1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net Kevin Costelloe

Incoming Romanian president pushes crackdown on corruption

(Reuters) - Romania's president-elect Klaus Iohannis urged parliament on Monday to scrap a corruption amnesty bill, moving swiftly to make good on a campaign promise and allay EU fears over graft in the country.

Iohannis will be sworn in as president in December after he inflicted a surprise defeat on Prime Minister Victor Ponta in polls on Sunday, a result that will maintain a potentially destabilizing split between the country's executive powers.

An ethnic German mayor whose campaign was backed by two center-right parties, Iohannis turned round a 10-point deficit to win the runoff comfortably, as widespread anger at voting problems overseas appeared to galvanize the anti-Ponta camp.

"I will prove Romania is a serious, credible and longterm partner," Iohannis told reporters at a press conference.

Analysts had said a victory for Ponta might have helped make Romania more stable, with the main levers of power held by one bloc. By contrast, although he distances himself from the outgoing president's combative style, Iohannis's win may trigger renewed political tensions in one of Europe's poorest states.

"The relationship between Social Democrat PM Ponta and center-right president-elect Klaus Iohannis will likely be strained," said Otilia Dhand at Teneo Intelligence.

However, the leu currency took the surprise result in its stride, edging up 0.1 percent against the euro at 1050 GMT/ 0550 ET, while three-year debt yields fell 3 basis points from Friday, hovering near record lows.

"In the near term, the political situation could be volatile, but in the longer term, a president from a different part of the political spectrum than the government ... could foster the fragile independence of the judicial system," bank UniCredit said in a note on Monday.

SAFEGUARDING JUSTICE

The election result was part of a pattern emerging in ex-Communist eastern Europe for voters to use the ballot box to stop any one group or individual from gaining too much power.

In Slovakia's presidential election in March, Prime Minister and frontrunner Robert Fico was trounced amid fears Fico and his center-left party would amass too much power.

The former Communist state of 20 million is emerging from painful budget cuts imposed during the global slowdown. Growth rebounded to more than 3 percent in the third quarter of 2014, but corruption and tax evasion are rife, and progress to implement reforms and overhaul a bloated state sector is mixed.

Prime minister since 2012, the 42-year-old Ponta often feuded with his rival, outgoing President Traian Basescu, which stymied policymaking and caused a constitutional crisis.

The 55-year-old Iohannis had promised during the campaign to safeguard the independence of Romania's judicial system and the fragile progress made in tackling corruption.

The European Union has raised concerns about a failure to tackle rampant high-level graft in Romania and Bulgaria, its two poorest members. Both have been kept outside the passport-free Schengen Zone since entering the EU in 2007.

During the campaign, Iohannis tapped into popular anger over a 2013 bill that allowed for amnesties in certain criminal cases, providing a judicial shield for some politicians.

He also pledged economic, health and education reforms, and to create an attractive business climate for foreign investors.

But Iohannis as president will, like Basescu, face a hostile parliamentary majority that could cause more policy wrangling.

An early flashpoint could be the 2015 budget, in which Ponta will have to balance spending promises made during the election campaign with an EU commitment to fiscal discipline. His government might also cut loose an ongoing IMF aid agreement that is due to expire next year.

NYT: In a Soft-Spoken Romanian Prosecutor, Some See an ‘Earthquake’

BUCHAREST, Romania — TELEVISION crews are on permanent standby outside the offices of Laura Codruta Kovesi, ready to transmit live images of the next episode of Romania’s most talked about and, for the country’s corruption-addled business and political elite, most terrifying drama in 25 years.

Unless they have jobs inside or another good excuse, nobody in Romania these days wants to be seen entering the wooden door on Stirbei Voda Street that leads to Ms. Kovesi, the soft-spoken 41-year-old who heads Romania’s National Anticorruption Directorate, a once-sleepy agency now leading an unexpectedly vigorous drive against graft-fueled thievery.

“This calm and self-effacing lady has become the most feared and, for some, the most hated person in Romania,” said Vladimir Tismaneanu, a professor of politics at the University of Maryland who headed a commission set up in Romania to examine crimes committed before the 1989 fall of the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Ms. Kovesi, he added, has set off the biggest “political earthquake” to shake Romania since 1989.

THOSE caught in Ms. Kovesi’s sights and their allies take a rather different view. They denounce her as a Stalinist and accuse her agency, which is known by its Romanian initials as D.N.A. and relies heavily on wiretaps, of reviving methods used by Mr. Ceausescu’s feared and omnipresent security service, the Securitate.

Ms. Kovesi, in an interview in her office adorned with religious icons, dismissed the allegation as absurd. She said that she and her team of prosecutors “graduated after 1989, so we have no idea what Securitate methods are.” Wiretapping, she added, was “not invented by D.N.A., but is used all over the world” by democratic countries with no history of Communist repression.

Her critics — notably a media group controlled by Dan Voiculescu, a political and business baron sentenced in August to 10 years in prison for corruption — have waged a relentless campaign to blacken her name and that of her agency.

Jurnalul National, a newspaper controlled by Mr. Voiculescu, called Ms. Kovesi Romania’s “Stalinist prosecutor,” while another of his properties, the Antena 3 television channel, likened her to Hitler as well as Stalin and accused her of taking money from a mobster.

Ms. Kovesi said she had grown accustomed to the slurs, noting that “the most negative attacks, the most defamatory statements, come from people who are being investigated by D.N.A.”

All the same, she filed a defamation lawsuit against Antena 3 in June over the mobster payment report and allegations about her private life as a single, divorced woman.

A tall former basketball player who works out regularly near her home in Bucharest, the capital, Ms. Kovesi shuns round-the-clock bodyguards but is watched over by the Protection and Guard Service, a state body responsible for protecting officials.

“I have a very normal life,” she said, shrugging off the risk. “I go to the cinema. I go to the gym.”

While playing down the fears she has stirred in Romania’s political class, she has decorated her office wall with a picture painted by a niece that features a scarecrow in a field shadowed by black birds. “They say that is me in Bucharest,” she said.

Ms. Kovesi said ordinary people she met never asked her to back off Mr. Voiculescu or others prosecuted by her anticorruption directorate. “Every time I go to the market, to the store or the cinema, I meet friendly people who congratulate me and who encourage the work we do here,” she said. “Not everybody in Romania commits corruption.”

Yet she acknowledged being dismayed that the general public, whatever its stated distaste for corruption, keeps voting for politicians suspected or even convicted of larceny. “It is extremely difficult to explain this contrast,” she said.

SET up in 2003, D.N.A. for years targeted only low-ranking state employees while giving big shots a wide berth.

“They were going after schoolteachers and train conductors. It was a mockery,” said Sorin Ionita, a policy analyst at Expert Forum, a research organization in Bucharest. This began to change a decade ago with the appointment of another woman, Monica Macovei, as justice minister, which was followed by legislation that prevented the agency from pursuing only small fry.

Now, all of the cases it investigates must involve bribes of more than 10,000 euros, around $12,500, and state employees above a certain level.

Romania’s Parliament has repeatedly tried to limit anticorruption efforts, with legislators complaining that they are being targeted for political reasons and proposing an amnesty law, a move Ms. Kovesi said she strongly opposed.

The mingling of politics with both corruption and the fight against it has become a particularly heated issue in recent weeks amid a presidential election, the second round of which will be held on Sunday. The vote will decide who replaces the current center-right president, Traian Basescu, who appointed Ms. Kovesi in May 2013. Mr. Basescu’s opponents saw the appointment as a move to ratchet up pressure on the Social Democratic Party of Victor Ponta, the center-left prime minister and the front-runner in the presidential election.

“Of course, there are lots of statements that we conduct political cases,” Ms. Kovesi said. “My answer is that we don’t open political cases.” She noted that her agency had brought corruption charges against members of many parties, not just Mr. Ponta’s, and had also jailed Mr. Basescu’s brother for taking money from a crime boss.

A CAREER prosecutor whose father was also a prosecutor, Ms. Kovesi studied law in the northwestern city of Cluj. After graduating in 1995, she took the first in a series of jobs in a Romanian justice system that the European Commission has regularly assailed as skewed by political interference and corruption. But despite much digging by her opponents, no solid evidence has come to light of any wrongdoing on her part.

The author of many articles on arcane legal issues and a recipient of commendations from the United States, Ms. Kovesi keeps a wall around her personal political views, avoiding the emotional hyperbole that often dominates public discourse in Romania in favor of clipped legalese.

Since Ms. Kovesi took over D.N.A. last year, what was a trickle of high-profile arrests and prosecutions has become a flood. Nearly all have ended in convictions, with her prosecutors recording a success rate of over 90 percent.

Her agency’s biggest scalp so far has been a former prime minister, Adrian Nastase, sentenced in January to four years in prison for taking bribes. He spent only six months behind bars, securing release for good behavior. But his conviction sent tremors through Romania’s political class, particularly the Social Democratic Party, to which he belonged.

Mr. Nastase’s trial was followed by a series of arrests in connection with the so-called Microsoft Case, a corruption saga involving the sale at inflated prices of Microsoft software licenses for use in Romanian schools. Nine former ministers are under investigation on accusations of taking bribes, though Ms. Kovesi said Microsoft “was not involved in any way” and was helping investigators get to the bottom of the affair.

So far this year, 16 legislators — seven senators and nine members of the lower house of Parliament — have been indicted, along with an army general, four prosecutors and 18 judges. Among those already placed in pretrial detention is Viorel Hrebenciuc, a Social Democratic power broker who was once considered untouchable.

“Nobody expected this to ever happen,” Mr. Ionita, the policy analyst, said. “It is unbelievable to see people like this put in jail.”

MS. KOVESI declined to comment on predictions by Mr. Ponta’s opponents that if, as expected, he wins the presidential race, he will rein in her work or replace her with a more malleable figure.

Mr. Ponta, in an interview, voiced no complaints about Ms. Kovesi’s performance, saying it had been his idea to appoint her in the first place. “She has been appointed on my proposal,” he said. “I see no reason to change anything.”

Ms. Kovesi has no illusions about the future. “It is important that the new president support the anticorruption fight,” she said. As long as this happens, “we have no reason to worry,” she added. “But there are reasons to worry if the president does not support our fight.”

DW: Romanian presidential candidate Klaus Iohannis - a pragmatic go-getter

In the run-off election for president in Romania, one very unusual figure has risen out of Transylvania. In his simple, direct way, Klaus Iohannis seeks to convince his countrymen with his former successes.

"Yes, we can!" was not a call he made to his voters. Rather, Klaus Iohannis' campaign slogans lauded a "Romania of thoroughness"and a "Romania of things well done." These sentiments carried the liberal-conservative to Sunday's run-off election for the highest office in the land.

In the first round of voting on November 2, front-runner Victor Ponta lead Iohannis by almost ten percentage points. In truth, the popular mayor from Transylvania ought to be called Johannis, with a J. Some Romanian functionary was obviously not familiar with the name when he filled out the birth certificate 55 years ago. And so it officially became Iohannis, a more Romanian-looking spelling for the candidate from the country's German minority.

Successful municipal leader

Iohannis' political rise can be attributed to the good reputation that's followed him for years. As mayor of Sibiu, he has already been reelected four times, each time with a comfortable majority of 70 to 80 percent. The former physics teacher is valued for how he fundamentally reformed and renovated the partially dilapidated medieval city. In 2007, Sibiu was recognized as one of the best examples of European integration: the year of Romania's ascension to the European Union, "his" city was chosen - along with Luxembourg - as European Capital of Culture.

The region is also booming economically. Hundreds of foreign investors, mainly from Germany and Austria, have settled there and helped to ensure that unemployment has trended towards zero. To compare: The overall unemployment rate in Romania, according to Eurostat, comes in at just over seven percent.

A self-assured go-getter

After his remarkable success in local politics, the Evangelical Lutheran and Transylvania Saxon now seeks to convince a nationwide majority that he is the right man to lead the political, moral, and economic regeneration of Romania.

"I am running because I wish to establish a new kind of politics on our country. Less show, less noise, and more concrete solutions for citizens, for Romania," Iohannis repeats convincingly in his interviews and at public events. Neither special interest groups nor media empires stand behind him, he stresses, drawing an allusion to his Social Democratic (PSD) opponent Ponta.

But a central question remains, a question Iohannis himself cannot answer. Is Romania ready for a politician who belongs to both ethnic and religious minorities? Today, only 40,000 ethnic Germans live in Romania - in a country of nearly 20 million. They are considered hardworking, trustworthy, honest and upright. Many Romanians appreciate these virtues, especially in the center and west of the country, where the ethnic Germans - also called the Transylvania Saxons and Banat Swabians - reside. This was seen in the first round of elections on November 2, when Iohannis emerged as the winner in these regions. But in the south and east of the nation, voters were clearly in favor of Ponta.

The Iohannis fairytale makes this round of competition all the stronger. People speak of the Iohannis-effect - just like they spoke of an Obama-effect in the US in 2008. "People are tired of the established politicians," Iohannis told an interviewer of his achievements in Sibiu . Whether the self-confident "go-getter" can score at the national level will be seen on Sunday.

NYT: Favorite Concedes Presidency in Romania

BUCHAREST, Romania — In a surprising turnaround, Prime Minister Victor Ponta conceded Romania’spresidential runoff election late Sunday night to the center-right candidate, Klaus Iohannis, the mayor of the Transylvanian city of Sibiu.

When the last votes were cast at 9 p.m., exit polls had the election too close to call, but soon after 11, Mr. Ponta told reporters, “I called Klaus Iohannis to congratulate him for his victory.” He added, “The people are always right.”

Official results were not expected before Monday morning.

Mr. Ponta, 42, had long been the favorite. He led Mr. Iohannis, 40 percent to 30 percent, in the first round, but with no one winning a majority in a field of 14 candidates the race went into a runoff.

The outcome of the runoff seems to have hinged on the large Romanian diaspora, estimated to number four million. In the first round of the election, which took place on Nov. 2, a large number of Romanians living abroad were unable to vote despite waiting in line for hours.

Protests followed, and last Monday the foreign minister, Titus Corlatean, was forced to resign. Yet starting early Sunday morning, long lines formed outside embassies and consulates across Europe. The number of people voting abroad doubled between the two rounds, and some were left waiting for hours and were still unable to vote.

“After nine hours and 10 minutes of waiting I gave up,” Ancuta Iordachescu, a photographer who tried to vote at the embassy in Paris, wrote in an email.

In reaction, thousands of Romanians took to the streets of Bucharest and other cities in protest, blaming Mr. Ponta for the delays and waving banners that read “Let them vote” and shouting “Ponta resign!”

“Ponta is breaking the rules — Romanians outside the country must be allowed to vote,” said Andrea Beltic, who stood outside the main government building.

Mr. Iohannis, 55, an ethnic German, ran what many considered a lackluster campaign. Yet voters seem to have decided that he was the better option.

“Ponta tried to present himself as a progressive leader, but he failed to convince people,” said Cristian Ghinea, director of the Romanian Center for European Policies, a research group.

Mr. Ponta tried to make an issue of his opponent’s religion — Mr. Iohannis is an Evangelical Lutheran in a country that is largely Orthodox — and that he and his wife had decided not to have children.

“Iohannis did a poor job in the two debates, but Ponta mobilized the people against himself,” Mr. Ghinea said. “He ran a dirty campaign which blew up in his face.”

In the first round, 52 percent of the 18 million eligible voters voted. It was estimated that around 62 percent voted this time, which according to Mr. Ghinea was the highest turnout in the last three presidential elections.

Romania’s president is responsible for foreign policy, defense and the naming of key prosecutors. Mr. Iohannis has vowed to make corruption a priority.

The current president, Traian Basescu, appointed Laura Codruta Kovesi to lead Romania’s National Anticorruption Directorate, and her office has successfully prosecuted many luminaries of Romania’s political class, including a former prime minister who had been considered Mr. Ponta’s mentor. Some had feared those efforts would be hindered if Mr. Ponta won.

Mr. Ponta’s party, the Social Democrats, has a working majority in Parliament, and he remains prime minister, so he and Mr. Iohannis will have to try to find a way to work together, probably until the next parliamentary elections in 2016.

“I see a difficult cohabitation between Ponta and Iohannis going forward,” Mr. Ghinea said.