Romania’s minority Liberal government is trying to force a bill through Parliament to revert to two rounds of voting in local elections, which Prime Minister Ludovic Orban says would give mayors greater legitimacy.
Acting Social Democrat chairman Marcel Ciolacu immediately responded to the move saying his party would submit a motion of no confidence against the government on Thursday. Parliament will likely vote on that next week.
Even if the Social Democrats manage to oust Orban’s government in a no-confidence vote, President Klaus Iohannis says he will propose Orban again for the post. However, if he fails to get parliamentary support a second time, it could trigger a snap election which the Social Democrats don’t want.
The Social Democrats want to keep the current first past the ballot system, and call Orban’s plan “undemocratic”
They have protested to the European Union saying election law shouldn’t be changed in an election year.
Orban defended the move to change the electoral system saying 80% of Romanians were unhappy with their mayors.
“We are passing laws that people want, not what politicians want,” he said earlier, saying the Social Democrats should support his proposal.
The Social Democrats oppose the move because it 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.
The Social Democrats currently have 3,000 mayors while the Liberals have 1,500.
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.