Romania will today hold a congressional meeting to mark the merger of the Save Romania Union (USR) and the Freedom, Unity and Solidarity Party (PLUS).
The historic convergence of the centre-right USR and centrist PLUS will see the candidates of two established parties permeate all administrative-territorial units (UATs) and municipalities under a single banner. The allies previously cooperated during the 2019 parliamentary elections, which doubled the USR’s 2016 voting share and established the “hipster” and youth-oriented PLUS as a legitimate player on the national stage.
Both parties currently back the largest opposition party in the nation—the National Liberal Party (PNL)—which is set to battle the former ruling Social Democrats (PSD) in the upcoming local elections this September. Although it remains the largest party in parliament, the PSD was ousted from office last year due to controversial adjustments to Romania’s judiciary.
Expect the merger to boost the prospects for opposition candidates across the board come September, as rampant anti-PSD sentiment has all but precluded a continuation of governance. However, the re-emergence of former president Traian Băsescu in Bucharest’s mayoral race could split the opposition vote and risk a second term for incumbent PSD mayor Gabriela Firea. This could have major implications for Romania’s political trajectory in the medium-term, as the outcome of the capital’s contest will likely set the tone for Romania’s parliamentary elections later this calendar year. While a PSD resurgence could cement its Eurosceptic erosion of Romanian law, PNL victories could prompt a liberal shift reflected in neighboring post-communist economies—specifically, economic de-nationalisation, private sector expansion and political decentralisation towards Romania’s eight peripheral development regions.
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Daniel is an analyst and editor on the Current Developments team. He contributes regularly to the Daily Brief, focusing primarily on European, Middle Eastern and sub-Saharan politics.