By Marcel Gascón Barberá
Romanian opposition Social Democratic Party, PSD, scored a narrow victory in Sunday’s general elections, according to exit polls local news channels report.
According to the polls, PSD clinched 30.5 per cent of the vote, and is closely followed by the ruling, centre-right National Liberal Party, PNL, who earned 29 per cent of ballots. The centrist alliance USR PLUS came in third with some 5.9 per cent of the vote.
Exit polls, however, do not include the votes of hundred of thousands of Romanians living abroad who also sent in their ballots for today’s vote. This electoral body is known for its hostility towards PSD and usually sides overwhelmingly with centre and centre-rights parties.
Right after the polling stations closed at 9 pm, Romania’s Prime Minister and leader of PNL, Ludovic Orban, said, “PNL considers itself the winner of this election”, adding that the party is confident that the official recount will give them a clear victory over PSD.
Meanwhile, PSD leader Marcel Ciolacu said exit polls show that “a change is needed”, and added that Romanians have voted against “the closure of schools, the closure of markets, the closure of churches and the bankruptcy of thousands of companies in the Romanian capital and of hundred of thousands of unemployed [residents] in the last six months”.
The election was marked by a historically low turnout in which only 31.84 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballots one hour before polling stations closed. This is 7.6 percentage point drop from the December 2016 general election which had previously set a record for electoral absenteeism in post-Communist Romania.
Political parties and electoral analysts had predicted a low turnout due to remaining fears amid the coronavirus pandemic, but today’s turnout exceeded even the most pessimistic predictions.
The dramatically low turnout seems to have benefitted the Social Democrats, as the counties with higher voting rates are those in southern and southwestern Romania that traditionally vote in favour of PSD.
The most likely outcome of today’s election is that PNL will forms a ruling, coalition government with USR PLUS.
President Klaus Iohannis, an ally of the PNL who has openly campaigned for the centre-right party, has told political leader to prepare to build this coalition government. Both PNL and USR PLUS leadership had accepted the President’s demand.