Monday, 12 December 2016

My analysis of the 2016 Romanian and Macedonian parliamentary elections

Yesterday, two European countries, Macedonia and Romania, held parliamentary elections whose results bucked international trends that have been happening in Europe and elsewhere.

Social democracy as a force is in long-term decline but both social-democratic parties performed well in both Macedonia and Romania. In Macedonia, the ruling nationalist and conservative party, VMRO-DPMNE (which in Macedonian stands for International Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity), which had experienced two major national protests under the tenure of ex-PM Nikola Gruevski, was soundly defeated despite just about retaining its status as the largest party in Macedonia, losing 10 seats and its overall majority in the Assembly. Its one-time allies, the Democratic Union for Integration, lost nearly half of their seats (they were reduced to 10 from 19), whereas the Social Democratic Union boosted their total to 49 seats, giving them potentially strong enough leverage to form the new government. A splinter group of VMRO gained no real traction, polling just 2.12%, not enough to qualify for any seats even though Macedonia does not have a set minimum threshold for representation. The same occurred with The Left, the best 'alternative' party available to vote for in Macedonia in the absence of any Green/Ecologist list standing. At this point, it can only be ascertained that Nikola Gruevski will not continue as Macedonian PM, given that he agreed to stand down in order to negotiate a halt to those protests.

Romania's story in the run-up to their 2016 elections is rather more interesting. Last year it ditched the use of first past the post and returned to party-list proportional representation. Many political parties have endured corruption scandals, especially those on the 'left'. The People's Party-Dan Diaconescu was starting to gain traction from lapsed PSD (Social Democrat) voters, but its leader Dan Diaconescu was later convicted of extortion, leading his party to be absorbed by UNPR. UNPR then ended up joining with former President Traiain Basescu's PMP movement, despite major protests from some UNPR members resulting from corruption scandals Traian was involved in and key differences in UNPR and PMP policy which would normally have ruled out a merger of this nature. Meanwhile, the hardline nationalist Greater Romania Party (PRM) was rapidly losing support, especially after the death of its longtime leader, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, in 2015.

Both the PSD and PNL (National Liberal Party, Romania's main conservative party) suffered some losses, the PNL more so, prompting its leader, Alina Ghorghiu, to resign shortly after the election concluded. The PNL bled some support to a new liberal party, which incidentally has the initials ALDE, the same used for the Europe-wide alliance of liberals. The anti-corruption Save Romania Union proved to be the new rising star (just like ANO in the Czech Republic three years ago), although despite its freshness it could only obtain 8.8% of the vote and third place, not nearly as well as ANO managed in 2013. Neither nationalist right party managed to obtain representation, with the United Romania Party (amazingly founded by an ex-PSD Assembly member!) polling 2.8% and the PRM polling just over 1%. Sadly, this proved to be more than Romania's main green party, the Ecologist Party of Romania, could manage, at 0.91%, which was nevertheless a small improvement on 2012. The other Green Party in Romania could not even manage 1000 votes for either the Chamber of Deputies or the Senate-perhaps it is time that the two parties merged, since green politics needs to remain united over key green issues more than ever, and I do not just mean saving our planet. Green politics is still struggling in Eastern Europe, but it is making progress slowly but surely.

As we near the end of 2016, and the end of the current era in modern human history, I will say that next year's round of legislative elections will be more important than ever, especially those in France and Germany (coupled with the outside chance of a snap general election occurring in the UK).

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