Prime Minister Ludovic Orban said Thursday his minority Liberal government would seek parliamentary support to change the system of voting in local elections, reverting to two rounds of voting which would give mayors greater legitimacy.
Orban said he would seek parliamentary support for his proposal. If parliament rejects two successive proposals from the prime minister within 60 days, it triggers a snap election which the opposition Social Democrats don’t want.
The Social Democrats want to keep the current first past the ballot system. The party called Orban’s plan “undemocratic” and sent a letter of protest to the European Union.
But Orban said “It’s vital that mayors to be elected,” with a majority. “We are passing laws that people want, not what politicians want,” he said Wednesday.
Romania had a two-round system with a runoff two weeks later between the two candidates who scored best until 2016, when the country adopted a first past the post system. Romania holds local elections in the summer.
Bucharest Mayor Gabriela Firea won election in 2016 after winning just 13% of the vote. She says she will run for a second term. The mayor of Iasi, Mihai Chirica, won just 16% of the vote and the mayor of the eastern Danube port of Galati won 9% in the 2016 ballot. Both are Social Democrats.
Romania’s biggest party, the Social Democrats, oppose the move which could see them lose a lot of seats and local councils around the country. The Liberals would benefit, winning hundreds more seats, particularly in smaller towns and villages.
Social Democrat chairman Marcel Ciolacu said the government had “crossed a red line” and called the move “abusive.”
He sent a letter to President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen and other high-level European officials.
He said the move carried “the risk of impairing trust in Romanian democracy and the rule of law.”
President Klaus Iohannis met ministers Wednesday and later said the government would adopt legislation to make it possible to revert to two rounds of voting.
Romania had two rounds of voting until the last elections in 2016, when the Social Democrats changed the legislation.