Romania’s liberal party throws former justice minister in the race for Bucharest mayor

Romania’s National Liberal Party (PNL) decided to replace its candidate for the Bucharest mayor position one week after nominating him, amid extremism allegations. The party decided to throw former justice minister Catalin Predoiu in the race for Bucharest. Predoiu is the party’s fourth candidate for one of the highest position in the local administration.

The liberal party has had great difficulties in finding a suitable candidate for the Bucharest mayor position. The party initially announced that young MEP Cristian Busoi, a former president of the National Health Insurance House – CNAS, would run for mayor of Bucharest. Busoi also had President Klaus Iohannis’ support.

In February, however, the party changed its candidate, throwing its first vice president Ludovic Orban, a former transport minister, in the race. Orban, an experienced politician and a senior member of the liberal party, had more chances to emerge victorious in the elections, according to PNL’s internal polls.

The bomb fell on PNL on April 11, when the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) started an investigation on Ludovic Orban and accused him of allegedly trying to get illegal financing for his electoral campaign. Local businessman Tiberiu Urdareanu allegedly denounced Orban to DNA and helped the prosecutors gather evidence on him, according to judicial sources quoted by Mediafax.

Orban apparently asked Urdareanu, who is also investigated by DNA in another corruption case, to give him EUR 50,000, which he then wanted to pass to two local television owners. Comsin Gusa, the owner of Realitatea TV, and Sorin Oancea, one of the shareholders of B1 TV have also been questioned in this case.

Orban withdrew from the race for Bucharest and resigned as vice president of the Chamber of Deputies immediately after being questioned by the prosecutors.

After Orban’s withdrawal, the liberal party’s leaders apparently asked Catalin Predoiu, the leader of the party’ Bucharest organization, to enter the race, but Predoiu declined. Catalin Predoiu, a former justice minister from February 2008 until May 2012, has been presented as PNL’s proposal for Prime Minister.

Desperate to get a candidate, PNL started looking outside the party and finally came up with Marian Munteanu, a former leader of the anti-government protests that took place in 1990 in Romania. Munteanu, who became famous after being brutally beaten by the miners in Bucharest’s University Square, on June 14, 1990. His nomination has determined a wave of criticism, as many NGOs accused Munteanu of supporting extremist views and embracing the legacy of the legionnaire movement.

Even some of PNL’s other candidates in the local elections have contested Munteanu’s nomination and President Klaus Iohannis issued a public message saying that he hadn’t “proposed, supported, or got involved in any way in this proposal,” clearly distancing himself from the liberal party’s decision.

As controversies surrounding Munteanu only got bigger, PNL’s leaders Alina Gorghiu and Vasile Blaga announced on Wednesday that the party decided to pull him from the competition. Former justice minister Catalin Predoiu was announced as the party’s new candidate for Bucharest mayor.

Predoiu, 47, announced that he would make a team with Ciprian Ciucu, an independent candidate for Bucharest mayor, who had been supported by the M10 party founded by former justice minister Monica Macovei. M10 announced that they would no longer support Ciucu because he negotiated with PNL.

Predoiu’s main opponents for the Bucharest mayor seat are the Social Democrat Party – PSD’s Gabriela Firea and independent candidate Nicusor Dan. Unconfirmed rumors also point that Romania’s former President Traian Basescu is also considering entering the race. The General Prosecutor’s office recently restarted an investigation on Basescu for alleged tax evasion.

Local elections 2016: Most Romanians wouldn’t vote for a candidate investigated for corruption

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