Romania's 2024 elections: The candidates for the Bucharest mayor seat

25 March 2024

As the governing coalition's candidate was finally announced, the race is on to convince voters of who is the best fit to be in charge of Bucharest for the next four years. 

After announcing they would run together in the EU Parliament elections, the governing coalition, made up of the Social Democrat Party (PSD) and the National Liberal Party (PNL), decided on a common candidate for the Bucharest elections as well, another test of their project bringing together voters who were apart on the political spectrum only four years ago. It took its time to select the candidate to represent it in the mayoral race in Bucharest and stand against incumbent mayor Nicușor Dan.

The polls released since the start of the year showed Dan leading in the voting intentions, followed closely by former Bucharest mayor and Family and Youth minister Gabriela Firea, a PSD senator. After resigning her minister post following last year's scandal related to abuses in several elderly care homes, Firea signaled her availability to return to the mayor seat she lost to Dan in 2020. On the side of PNL, Sebastian Burduja, currently the energy minister, also signaled his interest in the job.

Still, by mid-March, PSD and PNL were still polling potential candidates and adding independent names to the list. They finally decided to nominate doctor Cătălin Cîrstoiu, who runs the Bucharest University Hospital (SUUB). The job of manager of one the city's largest medical institutions has been a launch pad for the mayor career of former Bucharest mayor Sorin Oprescu, who held the same position as manager of SUUB when he was elected to the job in 2008. Cîrstoiu's nomination invited numerous comparisons with Oprescu, who is in Greece after fleeing a prison sentence in a corruption case in which he was charged with bribery, setting up an organized criminal group, and abuse of office. Unlike Oprescu, who had been a PSD senator before being elected mayor, Cîrstoiu hasn't been involved in politics before running for office but comes from a family where his father and wedding godfather have. He has the next two months to make himself known with the help of former contenders Firea and Burduja, who have been appointed coordinators of his campaign.

The alliance between PSD and PNL is already in place in Bucharest's General Council, where the mayor needs to be supported by a majority to pass projects. Dan, who was endorsed by PNL and USR when he was elected, lost the support of the former as the party entered an alliance with PSD, and had difficulties in passing this year's budget for the city. The budget of the capital was rejected three times, leaving the municipality in danger of not being able to pay salaries and bills, until it finally passed on the fourth try on March 22.

Shown in several polls as the main contender against Dan, District 5 mayor Cristian Popescu Piedone is the candidate of the Social Liberal Humanist Party (PUSL). Before announcing he was running for mayor of Bucharest, Piedone sent a letter to PSD and PNL leaders proposing they support him in his bid. He didn't get an answer so he decided to run without their support, he told Digi24. He is also a popular politician on social media, thanks to a consistent marketing strategy, more specifically videos of his daily activities showing him as a man of the people, an analysis by Expert Forum shows.

More on who is in the race for the top job in Bucharest below.

Nicușor Dan

independent, supported by the United Right Alliance (ADU)

.
Photo: George Calin/ Inquam Photos

The incumbent mayor enters the race as a difficult opponent to match. Dan was elected mayor of Bucharest in September 2020, having run as an independent supported by the center-right coalition made up of the National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Save Romania Union USR-PLUS Alliance. This year, he is running again as an independent, this time with the support of the United Right Alliance (ADU), consisting of USR, the People's Movement Party (PMP), and Forța Dreptei.

A mathematician who earned his Ph.D. at Université Paris 13 (Sorbonne Paris North University) and later went on to work as a researcher at the Romanian Academy's Simion Stoilow Mathematics Institute, Dan made a name for himself as a civic activist before running for public office. He founded in 2006 Asociația Salvați Bucureștiul (Save Bucharest Association), an NGO working to preserve the city's architectural heritage and green areas from chaotic development. In 2015, he launched the political platform Uniunea Salvați Bucureștiul (Save Bucharest Union), the precursor of Save Romania Union (USR), currently the main opposition party. Dan resigned from the party he founded and was heading in the summer of 2017, after a the party decided to take an official stand on the definition of family in the Constitution.

This year's elections mark the fourth time that Dan runs for the job of Bucharest mayor, having entered the race in 2012 - when he managed to gather the support of 9% of the voters, 2016 - when he came in second after Gabriela Firea with some 30% of the votes, and 2020 - when he was elected mayor after defeating Firea 42.81% to 37.97%.

Among the projects Dan started as mayor was the repair of the city's central heating system, neglected for years and in dire need of modernization and investments. The city hall he runs also awarded the bids to modernize some 50 km of tram lines in an advanced state of degradation and to purchase new trams, electric buses, and trolleybuses. He also decided to suspend the district urban zonal development plans (PUZ). He explained at the time he wanted to stop developers from building on green areas under non-transparent arrangements with district mayors. He insisted that construction and development can continue, but based on the general urban plan (PUG), which takes into account both the need for green areas and the "natural urban development of a European capital." The PUZs of districts 1, 3, 5 and 6 were annulled, while for districts 2 and 4 the Bucharest Court decided to reject the annulment issued by the mayor, although the Bucharest Court of Appeal previously decided these are suspended.

Cristian Popescu Piedone

Social Liberal Humanist Party (PUSL)

.
Photo: Octav Ganea/ Inquam Photos

A two-time district mayor, Cristian Popescu Piedone is running for the Bucharest mayor seat on behalf of the Social Liberal Humanist Party of former senator Dan Voiculescu, the founder of media group Intact. In 2008, he was elected mayor of District 4 on behalf of the Conservative Party, another political vehicle founded by Voiculescu, and as mayor of District 5 in 2020, on behalf of the former Humanist Power Party (Social-Liberal), today the Social Liberal Humanist Party.

He joined the local administration in the 1990s and served as a local councilor with the District 5 City Hall between 1996 and 2000. He later was a general councilor with the Bucharest City Hall and president of the Trade and Consumer Protection Commission of the District 6 City Hall, a period when he would inspect markets with media outlets in tow to check that sellers had proper paperwork or that the merchandise was sold in appropriate places.

Piedone was the mayor of Bucharest's District 4 from 2008 until November 2015, when he resigned due to public pressure following the Colectiv club fire, which left sixty-four people dead. Colectiv, the District 4 club where the fire took place, was running without having all the legal permits and didn't comply with the fire safety regulations. Piedone was the first public official to step down after the tragedy, and was followed by the Social Democrat PM Victor Ponta, who resigned after massive anti-corruption protests in Bucharest and across the country. He returned to politics in April 2016, when he registered as a candidate in the elections for mayor of District 4. The Bucharest Court barred his candidacy following protests by the Colectiv victims' families. In 2020, he switched to District 5, where he was elected mayor despite his ongoing trial.

In 2022, after six years of proceedings, the Bucharest Court of Appeal sentenced Piedone to four years in jail for his indirect responsibility in the Colectiv tragedy. In June of last year however the judges scraped the four-year sentence he was serving for abuse of office and ordered his release. The Bucharest Prefecture announced that, following the High Court's decision, he had the right to resume his mandate, without any legal restrictions, which he did.

Cătălin Cîrstoiu

independent, supported by PSD and PNL

.
Photo: PSD Bucuresti Facebook Page

The PSD-PNL coalition took the longest to find and announce its candidate for the Bucharest City Hall. Although both former mayor Gabriela Firea (PSD) and energy minister Sebastian Burduja (PNL) announced their willingness to run for the job, the coalition decided to look for an independent figure and came up with the name of Cătălin Cîrstoiu, the doctor running the Bucharest University Hospital (SUUB), where he is also head of the hospital's Orthopedics and Trauma I department.

Cîrstoiu is also the dean of the Medicine Faculty of the Carol Davila University of Medicine and Pharmacy. He has had no previous political activity and is currently on his second mandate as manager of SUBB. He returned to the job in March 2020, replacing Adriana Nica, dismissed for how the Covid-19 crisis was handled in the institution. He was running the hospital at the time of the Colectiv club fire.

He is the son of Ion Cîrstoiu, who served as a deputy for Argeș county between 1996 and 2004 and was also a mayor of Pitești, and the godson of former president  and Bucharest mayor Traian Băsescu, his wedding godparent. In 2010, Băsescu decorated Cîrstoiu with the Sanitary Merit Order.

At the launch of his bid for mayor, he confessed he was a survivor of cancer and said he would use his experience to fix "a sick city."

Mihai Enache

Alliance for the Union of Romanians (AUR)

.
Photo: Octav Ganea/ Inquam Photos

According to his presentation website, 35-year-old Enache has worked for eight years in public administration in Bucharest. He holds degrees in Public Administration from the National School of Political Sciences and Administration (SNSPA) and Law from the Nicolae Titulescu University. He led the Investment Department of the District 4 City Hall for two years and was a project manager for the Tudor Arghezi subway station, opened in the fall of 2023, and the Carol Davila Multifunctional Medical Center, a dental hospital of the Carol Davila University of Medicine. He has been a member of AUR since the party's establishment.

The local elections are scheduled for June 9. At the local elections, voters decide who the mayors, local councilors, county councilors, and presidents of the county councilors will be. In the case of Bucharest, district mayors are also elected. The mayors and the county council presidents are elected in an uninominal system, while the local and county councilors are elected in a proportional list system. Electors vote for one of several lists of candidates as drafted by the political parties. Each party is granted seats in proportion to the number of votes it receives.

Romania’s ruling coalition followed at a distance by far-right party AUR in new election poll

(Opening photo: Remus Grigore/ Dreamstime)

simona@romania-insider.com

Normal

Romania's 2024 elections: The candidates for the Bucharest mayor seat

25 March 2024

As the governing coalition's candidate was finally announced, the race is on to convince voters of who is the best fit to be in charge of Bucharest for the next four years. 

After announcing they would run together in the EU Parliament elections, the governing coalition, made up of the Social Democrat Party (PSD) and the National Liberal Party (PNL), decided on a common candidate for the Bucharest elections as well, another test of their project bringing together voters who were apart on the political spectrum only four years ago. It took its time to select the candidate to represent it in the mayoral race in Bucharest and stand against incumbent mayor Nicușor Dan.

The polls released since the start of the year showed Dan leading in the voting intentions, followed closely by former Bucharest mayor and Family and Youth minister Gabriela Firea, a PSD senator. After resigning her minister post following last year's scandal related to abuses in several elderly care homes, Firea signaled her availability to return to the mayor seat she lost to Dan in 2020. On the side of PNL, Sebastian Burduja, currently the energy minister, also signaled his interest in the job.

Still, by mid-March, PSD and PNL were still polling potential candidates and adding independent names to the list. They finally decided to nominate doctor Cătălin Cîrstoiu, who runs the Bucharest University Hospital (SUUB). The job of manager of one the city's largest medical institutions has been a launch pad for the mayor career of former Bucharest mayor Sorin Oprescu, who held the same position as manager of SUUB when he was elected to the job in 2008. Cîrstoiu's nomination invited numerous comparisons with Oprescu, who is in Greece after fleeing a prison sentence in a corruption case in which he was charged with bribery, setting up an organized criminal group, and abuse of office. Unlike Oprescu, who had been a PSD senator before being elected mayor, Cîrstoiu hasn't been involved in politics before running for office but comes from a family where his father and wedding godfather have. He has the next two months to make himself known with the help of former contenders Firea and Burduja, who have been appointed coordinators of his campaign.

The alliance between PSD and PNL is already in place in Bucharest's General Council, where the mayor needs to be supported by a majority to pass projects. Dan, who was endorsed by PNL and USR when he was elected, lost the support of the former as the party entered an alliance with PSD, and had difficulties in passing this year's budget for the city. The budget of the capital was rejected three times, leaving the municipality in danger of not being able to pay salaries and bills, until it finally passed on the fourth try on March 22.

Shown in several polls as the main contender against Dan, District 5 mayor Cristian Popescu Piedone is the candidate of the Social Liberal Humanist Party (PUSL). Before announcing he was running for mayor of Bucharest, Piedone sent a letter to PSD and PNL leaders proposing they support him in his bid. He didn't get an answer so he decided to run without their support, he told Digi24. He is also a popular politician on social media, thanks to a consistent marketing strategy, more specifically videos of his daily activities showing him as a man of the people, an analysis by Expert Forum shows.

More on who is in the race for the top job in Bucharest below.

Nicușor Dan

independent, supported by the United Right Alliance (ADU)

.
Photo: George Calin/ Inquam Photos

The incumbent mayor enters the race as a difficult opponent to match. Dan was elected mayor of Bucharest in September 2020, having run as an independent supported by the center-right coalition made up of the National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Save Romania Union USR-PLUS Alliance. This year, he is running again as an independent, this time with the support of the United Right Alliance (ADU), consisting of USR, the People's Movement Party (PMP), and Forța Dreptei.

A mathematician who earned his Ph.D. at Université Paris 13 (Sorbonne Paris North University) and later went on to work as a researcher at the Romanian Academy's Simion Stoilow Mathematics Institute, Dan made a name for himself as a civic activist before running for public office. He founded in 2006 Asociația Salvați Bucureștiul (Save Bucharest Association), an NGO working to preserve the city's architectural heritage and green areas from chaotic development. In 2015, he launched the political platform Uniunea Salvați Bucureștiul (Save Bucharest Union), the precursor of Save Romania Union (USR), currently the main opposition party. Dan resigned from the party he founded and was heading in the summer of 2017, after a the party decided to take an official stand on the definition of family in the Constitution.

This year's elections mark the fourth time that Dan runs for the job of Bucharest mayor, having entered the race in 2012 - when he managed to gather the support of 9% of the voters, 2016 - when he came in second after Gabriela Firea with some 30% of the votes, and 2020 - when he was elected mayor after defeating Firea 42.81% to 37.97%.

Among the projects Dan started as mayor was the repair of the city's central heating system, neglected for years and in dire need of modernization and investments. The city hall he runs also awarded the bids to modernize some 50 km of tram lines in an advanced state of degradation and to purchase new trams, electric buses, and trolleybuses. He also decided to suspend the district urban zonal development plans (PUZ). He explained at the time he wanted to stop developers from building on green areas under non-transparent arrangements with district mayors. He insisted that construction and development can continue, but based on the general urban plan (PUG), which takes into account both the need for green areas and the "natural urban development of a European capital." The PUZs of districts 1, 3, 5 and 6 were annulled, while for districts 2 and 4 the Bucharest Court decided to reject the annulment issued by the mayor, although the Bucharest Court of Appeal previously decided these are suspended.

Cristian Popescu Piedone

Social Liberal Humanist Party (PUSL)

.
Photo: Octav Ganea/ Inquam Photos

A two-time district mayor, Cristian Popescu Piedone is running for the Bucharest mayor seat on behalf of the Social Liberal Humanist Party of former senator Dan Voiculescu, the founder of media group Intact. In 2008, he was elected mayor of District 4 on behalf of the Conservative Party, another political vehicle founded by Voiculescu, and as mayor of District 5 in 2020, on behalf of the former Humanist Power Party (Social-Liberal), today the Social Liberal Humanist Party.

He joined the local administration in the 1990s and served as a local councilor with the District 5 City Hall between 1996 and 2000. He later was a general councilor with the Bucharest City Hall and president of the Trade and Consumer Protection Commission of the District 6 City Hall, a period when he would inspect markets with media outlets in tow to check that sellers had proper paperwork or that the merchandise was sold in appropriate places.

Piedone was the mayor of Bucharest's District 4 from 2008 until November 2015, when he resigned due to public pressure following the Colectiv club fire, which left sixty-four people dead. Colectiv, the District 4 club where the fire took place, was running without having all the legal permits and didn't comply with the fire safety regulations. Piedone was the first public official to step down after the tragedy, and was followed by the Social Democrat PM Victor Ponta, who resigned after massive anti-corruption protests in Bucharest and across the country. He returned to politics in April 2016, when he registered as a candidate in the elections for mayor of District 4. The Bucharest Court barred his candidacy following protests by the Colectiv victims' families. In 2020, he switched to District 5, where he was elected mayor despite his ongoing trial.

In 2022, after six years of proceedings, the Bucharest Court of Appeal sentenced Piedone to four years in jail for his indirect responsibility in the Colectiv tragedy. In June of last year however the judges scraped the four-year sentence he was serving for abuse of office and ordered his release. The Bucharest Prefecture announced that, following the High Court's decision, he had the right to resume his mandate, without any legal restrictions, which he did.

Cătălin Cîrstoiu

independent, supported by PSD and PNL

.
Photo: PSD Bucuresti Facebook Page

The PSD-PNL coalition took the longest to find and announce its candidate for the Bucharest City Hall. Although both former mayor Gabriela Firea (PSD) and energy minister Sebastian Burduja (PNL) announced their willingness to run for the job, the coalition decided to look for an independent figure and came up with the name of Cătălin Cîrstoiu, the doctor running the Bucharest University Hospital (SUUB), where he is also head of the hospital's Orthopedics and Trauma I department.

Cîrstoiu is also the dean of the Medicine Faculty of the Carol Davila University of Medicine and Pharmacy. He has had no previous political activity and is currently on his second mandate as manager of SUBB. He returned to the job in March 2020, replacing Adriana Nica, dismissed for how the Covid-19 crisis was handled in the institution. He was running the hospital at the time of the Colectiv club fire.

He is the son of Ion Cîrstoiu, who served as a deputy for Argeș county between 1996 and 2004 and was also a mayor of Pitești, and the godson of former president  and Bucharest mayor Traian Băsescu, his wedding godparent. In 2010, Băsescu decorated Cîrstoiu with the Sanitary Merit Order.

At the launch of his bid for mayor, he confessed he was a survivor of cancer and said he would use his experience to fix "a sick city."

Mihai Enache

Alliance for the Union of Romanians (AUR)

.
Photo: Octav Ganea/ Inquam Photos

According to his presentation website, 35-year-old Enache has worked for eight years in public administration in Bucharest. He holds degrees in Public Administration from the National School of Political Sciences and Administration (SNSPA) and Law from the Nicolae Titulescu University. He led the Investment Department of the District 4 City Hall for two years and was a project manager for the Tudor Arghezi subway station, opened in the fall of 2023, and the Carol Davila Multifunctional Medical Center, a dental hospital of the Carol Davila University of Medicine. He has been a member of AUR since the party's establishment.

The local elections are scheduled for June 9. At the local elections, voters decide who the mayors, local councilors, county councilors, and presidents of the county councilors will be. In the case of Bucharest, district mayors are also elected. The mayors and the county council presidents are elected in an uninominal system, while the local and county councilors are elected in a proportional list system. Electors vote for one of several lists of candidates as drafted by the political parties. Each party is granted seats in proportion to the number of votes it receives.

Romania’s ruling coalition followed at a distance by far-right party AUR in new election poll

(Opening photo: Remus Grigore/ Dreamstime)

simona@romania-insider.com

Normal
 

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