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Elections

Romania's conservatives pull together

In Romania, an alliance organized by leftist Prime Minister Victor Ponta won local elections in a landslide. Now it's time for the conservatives - who have announced a grouping of their own.

In Romanian elections due on December 9, according to current polls, the tripartite alliance "Social Liberal Union" (USL) has emerged as the clear favorite. This ostensibly Social Democratic and pro-market group, led by Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta, among others, is an alliance of parties that brings together many of the country's corrupt networks. It caused the three-month political crisis that paralyzed Romania this summer and brought the country into international disrepute because of its "coup-like" behavior.

But the predictable success of the alliance, which already won a landslide victory in local elections in early June, is based primarily on the fact that a very large majority of the voters have grown weary of the policies of conservative President Traian Basescu and the Liberal Democratic Party, which supports him. They blame the president and the Liberal Democrats for austerity policies, an authoritarian leadership style and inaction on corruption in their own ranks.

Political reformers of the right

Blick über einen Teil der rumänischen Hauptstadt Bukarest (Archivfoto vom 28.04.2004). Für den 1. Januar 2007 ist der EU-Beitritt Rumäniens geplant. Mehr als 80 Prozent der Rumänen sind laut Umfragen für den Beitritt. Der Vertrag soll am 25. April 2005 unterzeichnet werden. Foto: Bernd Weißbrod dpa (Zu dpa Korr.-Bericht Korruption ist Rumäniens Stolperstein auf dem Wegin die EU vom 21.04.2005) +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

Bucharest needs to meet European standards

Now, only two months before the elections, the conservative camp is attempting to pull off a major feat: Last weekend (29.9.2012), the Liberal Democrats combined with several other conservative and pro-market parties to form the "Right Romania Alliance" (ARD).

This is not just an attempt to stem the ongoing phenomenon of disintegration and dissolution in their own ranks and to do something at the last moment to prevent the seemingly certain absolute majority for the USL. Instead, the ARD is presenting itself as a radical political reform force that wants to bring about a fundamental shift in Romania: away from corruption, nepotism and informal, obscure power structures toward a modern European state characterized by the rule of law, transparency and openness.

One of the leaders and co-organizers of the ARD is Mihai Razvan Ungureanu, who was foreign minister from 2004 to 2007, head of the YOU foreign intelligence service from 2007 to 2012 and prime minister from February to April. Currently, the 44-year-old is serving as the chairman of the small breakaway party "Civilian Power" (PFC). He is said to have ambitions to run for president in 2014.

The youthful Ungureanu, whose personal integrity hardly an independent observer in Romania doubts, knows that in the past two decades fundamental change in Romania was often announced, but at best was only implemented in a piecemeal fashion, if at all. "We do not promise miracles," Ungureanu said in an interview with DW, "we promise that we will be consistent in our actions, honor our principles and pursue our goals, regardless of election dates. The politicians on our electoral lists should be like the Romania we want to build. "

Fight against corruption

Romanian prime minister Victor Ponta addresses the media during a common press conference held together with his polish counterpart Donald Tusk, not pictured, at the end of the EU summit named ''EU Friends of Cohesion, at Parliament Palace in Bucharest, Romania, 01 June 2012. The European UnionOs cohesion policy is focused on reducing the economic and social disparities between regions through the use of financial instruments that would help implement development goals. Prime ministers and high level representatives from siixteen EU member states attend the meeting to discuss the situation in Greece as well as future fiscal and economic policies. EPA/ROBERT GHEMENT +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

Prime Minister Ponta was at the center of a political scandal to oust the president

An ethics committee within the party is meant to guarantee this propriety. It would prevent politicians from running for office if criminal investigations are pending against them, if they have been convicted of an offense, or if there is some conflict of interest.

Chairing the ARD ethics committee is Monica Macovei, justice minister of Romania from 2004 to 2007, who is currently a member of the European Parliament and one of the most indefatigable Romanian fighters against corruption. Macovei is unlikely to have big problems at work: Many suspected corrupt PDL parliamentarians have changed sides in recent months to join the USL.

Mihai Razvan Ungureanu says the cornerstones of a program the ARD intends to present include major constitutional reform, a reform of administrative competencies, a revamping of the civil service and changes to the tax and welfare system. And, of course, the priorities of an ARD government would be to continue the current judicial reforms and the fight against corruption initiated by President Traian Basescu.

So, what makes Ungureanu so sure that his Right Romania Alliance will succeed where others have failed - namely, to bring about change in Romania?

"I think that in Romania, good is in the majority," Ungureanu said. "A majority of citizens in Romania want to live in a country where there is the rule of law, in which order and integrity prevail. But the question is how to bring about this majority and give it legitimacy."