International news agency Bloomberg published a pre-election analysis Saturday about Romania’s presidential election where it credits President Klaus Iohannis for helping get the once powerful Social Democrat chief Liviu Dragnea sent to prison.
It says Iohannis also guided Romania back into the European Union mainstream.
The agency describes the Romanian president as “a steadying force in a nation where chaos has become the norm,” noting he has seen five prime ministers since his 2014 election. During his mandate, Romania saw the biggest protests since the 1989 collapse of communism.
The upheavals began when the government tried to soften penalties for corrupt officials to keep Dragnea and other senior Social Democrats out of prison, Bloomberg reports.
The article notes that Iohannis pushed back and postponed legislation so that the Social Democrat boss was eventually convicted and put behind bars.
Successor Viorica Dancila stopped the plans to avert EU sanctions, before her government collapsed last month and Iohannis selected Liberal Party head Ludovic Orban to form a new government that took office this week.
Despite his strong lead, Iohannis is unlikely to get the majority votes he needs, the agency says, and will face Dancila, Dan Barna of the anti-graft Save Romania Union or even actor-turned-politician Mircea Diaconu.
While Iohannis is praised, Bloomberg observes that he was unable to dampen government spending that risked exceeding EU limits of 3% and couldn’t prevent the dismissal of anti-graft crusader Laura Codrura Kovesi, who has just been appointed the EU’s first anti-fraud prosecutor.
Romania’s judicial system remains under special EU monitoring that started in 2007 when it joined the bloc which has kept it from joining the Schengen passport-free zone.
His detractors say he is reactive rather than proactive with rival Barna describing him as a “firefighter for when the house is on fire,” saying that if he’d been more engaged in recent years, there may have been fewer “fires.” Iohannis, however, called himself “an atomic firefighter who prevented Romania from collapsing.”
The article notes that graft is not the only concern for Romanians, with poor infrastructure and health care considered below par, and many Romanians are still seeking better-paid jobs abroad.