Romanian Cabinet Gets Pre-Election Boost With Bucharest Win

Romania’s minority government dislodged the opposition mayor of Bucharest, giving it a boost before national elections in December at which it’s seeking to win control of parliament.

Activist Nicusor Dan defeated Social Democrat incumbent Gabriela Firea in a ballot on Sunday, pledging to fight corruption that’s delayed reforms and city upgrades. Turnout in Bucharest was slightly higher than in previous ballots despite a worsening Covid-19 pandemic that’s left the Black Sea nation with the worst death toll among the European Union’s east.

Romanian Cabinet Gets Pre-Election Boost With Bucharest Win

Dan, a mathematicianwho ran as an independent backed by the Liberals and the newly formed anti-corruption party Save Romania Union, pledged to raise transparency within the Bucharest administration after years of questionable acquisitions and contracts. He also vowed to attract European Union funds for urban development, and to improve public transport and reduce traffic in one of Europe’s most congested cities.

Nationwide, the ruling Liberal Party said it won the most mandates in its history and now controls about half of Romania’s local-county heads as well of the mayors of the largest cities, which also include Cluj-Napoca and Iasi.

Save Romania Union also managed to significantly increase its presence across the country by winning the mayor’s office in the western city of Timisoara and the eastern town of Bacau.

Despite the setbacks, the Social Democrats said they managed to increase their party’s score from last year’s record low in European elections.

“The mayoral elections in Bucharest have always had a symbolic relevance for the general elections and even more so now, when they’re just three months away,” Dan said in an interview before Sunday’s vote. “I’m optimistic that the alliance between the Liberals and the Save Romania Union party that supported me will govern for the next four years.”

The Liberals lead in polls before the general election on Dec. 6, where they’re desperate to lock in a majority that enables them to rule more effectively through the worst economic slump since communism and a budget that was stretched even before the coronavirus struck. But the Social Democrats are seeking to mount a comeback through populist measures that include a 40% hike in pensions.

Read more: Romanian Opposition Revives Pension Hike, Risking Rating Cut

Dan’s win “is a very good signal for the Liberal Party,” said political consultant Radu Magdin. “It’s the first sign they’re headed toward a landslide victory in the general election.”

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