Race for Bucharest heats up as former PM will run against former president and incumbent mayor
The race for the mayor seat in Romania’s capital Bucharest could turn out to be the tightest in the last 30 years as former president Traian Basescu and former prime minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu have both announced their candidacies.
They will run against incumbent mayor Gabriela Firea, supported by the Social Democratic Party (PSD), and activist Nicusor Dan, supported by the ruling Liberal Party (PNL) and by the alliance of progressist parties Save Romania Union (USR) and PLUS.
Former prime minister Victor Ponta and his PRO Romania party also have a candidate for Bucharest mayor, a general who managed the Military Hospital in Bucharest in the past.
Incumbent mayor Gabriela Firea and Nicusor Dan, who was the runner-up in the 2016 local elections, are the clear favorites for running the Bucharest City Hall in the next four years. However, the candidacies of Traian Basescu and Calin Popescu Tariceanu are likely to make the election result more unpredictable as both will likely “steal” votes from Firea and Dan.
Traian Basescu’s Popular Movement Party (PMP) wanted to join the alliance of center-right parties that support Nicusor Dan, but USR and PLUS opposed this. Thus, Basescu said he would run to help his party, the goal being mainly to help PMP candidates to get into the Bucharest General Council and the district councils. Basescu, 68, was mayor of Bucharest between 2000 and 2004 when he was elected president of Romania, a position he held for ten years. However, he is now nearing the end of his career and doesn’t enjoy the strong popular support he had 15 years ago. His party barely passed the 5% threshold in last year’s European elections, bringing Basescu an MEP mandate. Thus, the best that Basescu can hope for is third place in the race for Bucharest.
Calin Popescu Tariceanu, a former leader of the National Liberal Party (PNL) and prime minister between 2004 and 2008, also decided to run for Bucharest mayor after his party ALDE failed to reach an agreement with the Social Democratic Party (PSD) for joint candidates in the local elections, according to G4Media.ro. Thus, Tariceanu’s candidacy could further weaken the support for PSD’s candidate Gabriela Firea. However, he is not likely to get a significant score. Last year, his party ALDE failed to reach the 5% threshold in the European elections.
The candidate sent into the race by PRO Romania, the party of former PM and PSD leader Victor Ponta, is also likely to steal votes from Gabriela Firea. Ponta has made an alliance for the local elections with District 3 mayor Robert Negoita, who recently left PSD. Negoita enjoys strong support in District 3.
(Photo source: Inquam Photos / Octav Ganea)