Romania’s local election campaign officially kicked off Friday, with hundreds of candidates vying for posts of mayors and local councilors across the country of 19 million which is grappling with the coronavirus pandemic.
Posters have been up around cities and towns for weeks, although the one-month campaign only formally started on Friday ahead of the September 27 ballot.
The Liberal Party which has a minority government is hoping to build on its handling of the health crisis and the unpopularity of the Social Democratic Party, Romania’s biggest political party.
The Social Democrats, a numerous and well-organized group, are hoping to make a comeback in some cities and in rural areas which they have traditionally controlled.
However, the election campaign will be restricted because of the coronavirus pandemic. Romania is scheduled to hold parliamentary elections at the end of the year.
Romania has reported high numbers of new Covid-19 cases in the past month, with 1,318 infections confirmed on Friday.
Romania’s Liberal government published a set of rules late Thursday ahead of the campaign which formally began at midnight.
Rallies will be smaller than usual and voters and electoral officials will be required to wear face coverings and respect social distancing rules in polling stations.
A maximum of 50 people can take part in indoor rallies which can’t go on longer than two hours. The virus spreads much more easily in poorly ventilated indoor spaces.
Rules are laxer for outdoor rallies. Up to 100 people can participate and no more than four people per square meter.
Social distancing rules will apply to rallies and other electoral events, such as door-to-door campaigning in order to limit the spread of SARS CoV-2.
People who distribute flyers and other electoral ads will have to disinfect their hands before handing out publicity material.
Eighteen candidates are running for mayor of Bucharest including the incumbent, Gabriela Firea of the Social Democratic Party, and the main challenger, Nicusor Dan. It is the third time Dan has run for mayor, and he’s supported by the Liberal Party and the Save Romania Union which he founded.
Former President Traian Basescu is also running. He was Bucharest mayor before he was elected president in 2004. Former Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu is also a candidate.