Electoral earthquake: Drulă resigns from the head of the USR

George Marinescu
English Section / 11 iunie

Photo source: facebook / Cătălin Drulă

Photo source: facebook / Cătălin Drulă

Versiunea în limba română

The results of Sunday's elections left deep traces both among the losers and among the winners, if we take into account the latest moves on the Romanian political scene. After the USR candidates lost the renewal of the mayoral mandate in Braşov and Bucharest - Sector 1 and Sector 2, Cătălin Drulă resigned from the position of president of the respective political formation and called internal elections to appoint another leader.

Cătălin Drulă declared: "The election result is below our expectations. (...) For me, throughout my life, the assumption has been a basic principle. I assume this result. I will call elections for a new president in the USR as soon as possible. We have strong people and leaders who can take this construction forward. I am thinking here of Dominic Fritz, a man who decisively won the vote in Timisoara and showed that PSD and PNL can be defeated. It is very important that the USR continues, because in this movement the hopes for the modernization of Romania have been placed".

Drulă's gesture upset USR considering that he was the party's candidate for the presidential elections that would take place in September. In fact, when asked if he will run for the presidential elections this year, Drula replied that "this year, no".

Interim President Dominic Fritz, who on Sunday renewed his mandate as general mayor of Timişoara, will have to organize the internal elections and quickly convene the USR congress for the nomination of the presidential candidate. Fritz stated yesterday that he is ready to take over the leadership of USR, but he does not want to run in this year's presidential elections, preferring to finish his mandate entrusted to him by the people of Timisoara on Sunday.

Only one evening before his resignation, Cătălin Drula triumphantly declared that the United Right Alliance (USR-FD-PMP) won the political vote in Bucharest, that some of the USR councilors renewed their mandates (Dominic Fritz, Elena Lasconi), that he will continue the partnership with the independent Nicuşor Dan that he supported for the renewal of the mandate of the general mayor of the Capital and that the poor result recorded in the European parliamentary elections, 10-11%, does not represent the end of the country in the conditions of the electoral campaign in which there was only talk about local elections.

Overnight, following the loss of the mayor's offices from Sector 1 and Sector 2 in Bucharest, as well as the loss of the Braşov mayor's office, but also following some voices from the USR who criticized the decisions taken in the last year by the party president, Cătălin Drula submitted his resignation.

After the announcement of Drula's resignation, his main party critics recalled how the former USR leader removed some of his party colleagues, including Mihai Poliţeanu, who on Sunday won the elections as an independent candidate for the position of mayor of the municipality of Ploieşti. Cătălin Drula was also criticized for the way he behaved with Elena Lasconi, in the scandal in which she stated that she would have voted for the traditional family in the 2018 referendum, practically removing her from the foreground of the internal race for her appointment as a candidate in the presidential elections of 2024 and for her appointment as head of the list for the European parliamentary elections on June 9.

The criticism of Drulă towards his behavior related to Elena Lasconi became viral especially after she managed on Sunday, in a county dominated by the pressure exerted by the PNL led by Aliuna Gorghiu, the Minister of Justice, to renew her mandate of mayor of Campulung Muscel.

Unlike the chaos that engulfed USR yesterday, the other two political formations in the United Right Alliance - Forţa Dreptei and PMP - did not file charges against leaders Ludovic Orban and Eugen Tomac. Due to the minuscule percentages they would have obtained if they had run alone in the local and European elections, the score recorded on Sunday by the two leaders in the alliance with the USR was counted as a success by Orban and Tomac, who are now waiting for the waters to clear from USR.

PNL loses in Suceava, PSD loses in Slatina

Even though they won the European parliamentary and presidential elections together with the PSD, the PNL leaders are not resting quietly after losing several important fiefdoms to the liberals. If at the Prahova County Council, after the criminal investigation of the former president Iulian Dumitrescu by the DNA, there were expectations that he would lose the elections on Sunday for the renewal of the mandate, which happened in front of the PSD candidate, with the stinging failure of Gheorghe Flutur, one of the most influential liberal leaders, no one expected.

Although, the first vice-president of the PNL, Rareş Bogdan tried to sweeten the failure of Gheorghe Flutur to renew the mandate of the president of the Suceava County Council, saying that he lose with 40% of the votes, unlike the USR leader who took his political formation from 20% to 8.5% of the votes cast, the blow received by the liberals is a strong one. Even though the PNL managed to win for the first time in Botoşani, thanks to the support enjoyed among the citizens by the businessman Valeriu Iftime, the patron of the football team FC Botoşani, and in Slatina, through Mario de Mezzo, who came out on top in the elections for the position of mayor, to the detriment of the social democrat Emil Moţ, the incumbent mayor. However, according to the data from the media, by the time he takes office on November 1, Mario de Mezzo will also have to face a criminal investigation started by the police in Olt because he would be at the center of a scandal of sexual corruption of a minor, a scandal about which the liberal claims was fabricated by those from the PSD to prevent him from becoming mayor of the municipality of Slatina.

Regarding the lost elections in Slatina, they represent a minus point for the PSD, although the social democrats won the local elections at the national level with 33%, followed by the PNL with 28%. The minus point in Slatina is registered precisely in the county led by the second man from the PSD, the general secretary Paul Stănescu, the vice-president of the Senate, who would have imposed, according to some sources from the party, the mode of action of the respective political formation in recent years.

Practically, after Sunday's elections, Marcel Ciolacu not only gets rid of Gabriela Firea, whom he sends to Strasbourg in the European Parliament, but also the almost total influence that Paul Stănescu has had so far in the party, given the minus recorded by him in Slatina. Under these conditions, it is easy to understand why the PSD president claims that his political formation will have its own presidential candidate and why Stănescu stated that the name of this candidate will be known after the party Congress takes place next week.

Presidential separately, parliamentary in alliance?

On the other hand, after obtaining 28% in the local elections, although a month or two ago, most opinion polls credited the PNL with a maximum of 14-15% of the voters' options, the liberal leader Nicolae Ciucă claims that his party must have own presidential candidate and that if the party asks him to, he will run for the first office in the state.

Bearing in mind that the presidential elections would take place in September, i.e. only three months from now, with a campaign held somewhere in the middle of the summer season, i.e. starting in August, there is too little time for the other political formations to grow in the eyes of the electorate and it is possible to see in the autumn a 2nd round in the presidential elections between PSD and PNL candidates, i.e. between Marcel Ciolacu and Nicolae Ciucă, if the current scenarios will be confirmed by the extraordinary congresses of the two political parties.

What does the score recorded in Sunday's elections by the two parties tell us? That together they got less votes than separately. Thus, if, according to the partial results in the European Parliament, the PSD-PNL Alliance obtained approximately 53% of the votes, in the local elections the two parties have a total of 61% of the votes (33% - PSD and 28% - PNL). Following these results, Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu and PNL President Nicolae Ciucă stated that the current governing coalition received legitimacy from the citizens. And they let it be understood that they do not rule out that in the parliamentary elections in December they will go together again, on a joint list, to isolate the extremist parties AUR and SOS again, as they did in the European parliamentary elections. In this sense, the general secretary of the PNL, Paul Stănescu, expressed himself yesterday, who said: "We believe that the vote we obtained at the European Parliament in this PSD-PNL coalition is a good signal because it legitimizes the Government in the first place. PSD and PNL can go together. I say it in the current geopolitical context, regardless of what some or others say, because it is very dangerous not to have stability; very dangerous".

What the two do not take into account is that on June 9, the diaspora did not go out to vote, but even so, with a small number of voters, it managed to push SOS into the European Parliament. But even so, it is not excluded that the PSD-PNL alliance will again obtain the necessary majority to continue the government for the next four years, and this was also supported yesterday by the first vice-president of the PNL, Rareş Bogdan.

He said: "We are a responsible party. We will not do it just for some petty electoral calculations, imbalance and chaos in Romania. I fought for Romania to remain stable, for Romania to absorb more than 90% of European money. So the PNL is not leaving the government. To make this extremely clear to everyone. The PNL does not leave the ship of government, but we analyze, together with our leaders in the country, each individual situation and where we lost, and where we won".

He stated that, according to the parallel counting, with a few exceptions where a recount of the votes from certain sections and constituencies took place yesterday, the PNL has over 13,000 local councilors and over 500 county councillors.

UDMR - the best results of the last 20 years

The only political leader who has so far not answered for Sunday's failure is George Simion, the president of AUR. Why are we talking about failure? Because in the European elections, AUR got only 15% of the votes, which represents a decrease of at least 5 percent compared to the elections of December 2020. Despite this failure, George Simion declared himself satisfied that in the local elections they voted for AUR 2 million Romanians. Simion declared, yesterday, that on Saturday, June 15, the AUR Congress will be held to appoint the candidate for the presidential elections that will take place in September.

Also through the lens of analyzing the results recorded after Sunday's elections, we note that, despite the frictions within the Hungarian community, when the political interests of the UDMR demand it, community members unite to pass the electoral threshold established by law. On Sunday, the UDMR counted 6.5% of the votes for the European Parliament, which means that it will also send two deputies to the European Parliament, and in terms of local elections, the Union obtained 200 mayors and four presidents of county councils according to the statements made yesterday, in Cluj, by the president Kelemen Hunor, who specified that they are the best results of the last 20 years.

Local administration divided into large cities

We also show that, at the closing time of the edition, according to the latest partial results, the situation regarding the country's big cities showed a plus for the liberals and social democrats, but also two enormous victories for the candidates supported by the United Right Alliance.

Thus, the PNL was declared the winner in the municipality of Constanţa, where Admiral Vergil Chiţac remained mayor - with almost 30% of the votes, but also in the presidency of the County Council taken over by the former liberal mayor of Valu lui Traian commune, Florin Mitroi, he won the elections in Iasi - where the mayor Mihai Chirica prevailed in the municipality of Iaşi (32.19% of the votes), and the same Costel Alexe as head of the County Council, and in Sector 6 Bucharest through Ciprian Ciucu, who obtained over 72% of the votes cast. PNL could win through George Tuţă and the mayoral mandate of Sector 1 Bucharest, where the liberal candidate had a small lead over Clotilde Armand. Unfortunately, the situation in 2020, with the scandal of recounting the votes from the polling stations in Sector 1 seems to be repeating itself, because Armand believes that she would actually have won the elections on Sunday. Moreover, the USR candidate stated yesterday that she had filed several criminal complaints for abuse against some presidents of some polling stations in Sector 1.

PNL also won in Braşov, where George Scripcaru prevailed with 47.87% in front of Allen Coliban (USR), but also in Cluj, where Emil Boc is unbeatable, but with a smaller percentage this time, of only 42.53% of the votes.

PSD claimed victory in the municipality of Craiova, where Lia Olguţa Vasilescu remained mayor (55.49% of the votes), in the presidency of the Prahova County Council and in Sectors 2, 3 and 4 of the Capital, through Rareş Hopincă, Robert Negoiţă (54.18 % of votes), Daniel Băluţă (60.7% of votes).

The candidates supported by the United Right Alliance who won the elections in the big cities are Dominic Fritz (49.65% of the votes) in Timişoara and Nicuşor Dan, who had almost 47% of the votes cast, i.e. more than the combined votes of the next five ranked in the electoral race: Gabriela Firea, Cristian Popescu Piedone, Sebastian Burduja, Mihai Enache and Diana Şoşoacă.

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