Improved EU relations hinge on second round of Romanian presidential elections

Romanians go to the polls today to vote in the second round of presidential elections, which pits centre-right incumbent Klaus

Klaus Iohannis

Photo: Tatyana Zenkovich

Romanians go to the polls today to vote in the second round of presidential elections, which pits centre-right incumbent Klaus Iohannis against former Social Democratic prime minister Viorica Dancila.

Iohannis won the lion’s share of first-round voting on November 10 with 37%, ahead of Dancila’s 22%. Third-placed Dan Barna dropped out of the race with only 15% of the vote and swung support behind Iohannis, making the incumbent the overwhelming favourite to retain office.

A second Iohannis term will likely focus on restoring relations with the EU, which were damaged by the passage of laws—many while Dancila was PM—that toughened the burden of proof for corrupt practices, favouring the ruling Social Democrat politicians. Alongside Poland and Hungary, this placed Romania at risk of EU sanctions.

If Iohannis wins today, he will be working with a pro-EU liberal government led by Prime Minister Ludovic Orban. Romania has repeatedly but unsuccessfully sought entry into the Schengen Area and the Eurozone. Expect Iohannis to authorise rapid strengthening of judicial institutions at home in a bid to improve relations with Brussels and to boost Bucharest’s Schengen and Eurozone chances. This focus will swing Romania away from nationalist issues, such as border security and migration, that most concern Poland and Hungary.