President Klaus Iohannis on Sunday vowed to create what he called “a normal Romania” based on the rule of law and democracy with strong partnerships with the U.S. and the European Union, as he launched his bid for re-election.
Iohannis is running for a second five-year term for the center-right Liberal Party against 13 other candidates and is considered the forerunner for the Nov. 10 vote.
The 60-year-old former physics teacher railed against the Social Democrats who were ousted in a vote of no-confidence this month, saying they had perpetuated “a communist inheritance… with incompetence, corruption, an anti-democratic and” an anti-European spirit.
“We are in a war against the Social Democrats who tried to take over the whole state…. The party didn’t just attack the big public systems. The party didn’t just attack democracy. The party attacked Romanians, and for that someone has to stand up for Romanians,” he said.
No candidate is expected to win more than 50 percent of the vote leading to a runoff two weeks later between the top two vote winners.
Other candidates that are expected to poll well are the outgoing Social Democrat Prime Minister Viorica Dancila who promises “dignity” for Romanians and Dan Barna, a relative newcomer, who is running for the centrist Union to Save Romania.
The president named Liberal Party leader Ludovic Orban as prime minister-designate after the government fell. Orban has picked a cabinet and presented his governing program, but the minority government has a slim chance of winning parliamentary approval which would prolong political uncertainty. Romania holds parliamentary elections at the end of 2020.
Iohannis, who was formerly mayor of the picturesque city of Sibiu, has consistently pit himself against the Social Democrats, Romania’s biggest party, since he took office in 2014.
The president has limited powers but represents Romania abroad, is in charge of foreign and defense policy and names intelligence chiefs. Although the president has limited executive powers, the position confers influence and prestige.
Criticizing the outgoing Social Democrats whose contentious judicial overhaul drew rebuke from the EU and US officials, he cited an EU report this week which said the country has moved away from the rule of law and an independent justice system and needs to stay under special monitoring.
As president, he said, Romania’s “foreign policy is based on a strategic partnership with the U.S., increasing Romania’s presence in the European Union and NATO.”
“It is an non-negotiable direction for the future of Romania.”