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September 24, 2021

Campaign kicks off with power-opposition clash

PDL criticises Government for taking back municipalities’ money. Interior minister on election fraud: ‘It’s a good idea to keep the lights on while the wallet is still on the table.’

The campaign for the local election due on June 10 is out in force, with tough measures and statements from the new Government and with complaints and accusations from the opposition now represented by the Democrat Liberal Party (PDL) and the Democratic Union of Hungarians of Romania (UDMR). Attending the ceremony for the appointment to office of the new Alba prefect yesterday in Alba Iulia, Interior Minister Ioan Rus, asked if he feared a possible election fraud, answered that ‘forewarned is forearmed’ and that ‘it’s always a good idea to keep the lights on while your wallet is on the table’. ‘Well, our experience and history teach us that forewarned is forearmed or, there is another saying, one involving water melons, can’t remember it. It’s always advisable to be on the safe side. While giving everybody the benefit of the doubt, it’s still a good idea to keep the lights on while your wallet is on the table’, Rus is quoted by Mediafax as having said. Regarding the issues with the organisation of the local election, Rus said something happened every day. ‘We have issues on a daily basis. On May 12, no less than 36 incidents were reported (…). Something happens every day. We receive a daily update from each county and we know how MAI forces have responded,’ the minister said. Asked why the Government was in a hurry to change all county prefects, Ioan Rus answered that was quite a normal thing to do. ‘The Parliament voted to unseat the Government. The prefects are the representatives of the Government in the country. No government can work without also having its own structures across the territory, at least the prefects, because the other ones cannot be replaced right now,’ Rus said.

RON 300 M taken back from PDL municipalities, cutbacks on procurement and travel expenditure

The Government wants to recover RON 250 – 300 M from the PDL municipalities that received funds from the Ungureanu Government and will cut back on procurement and foreign travel expenditure in order to gather the funds it needs for returning the illegally levied health insurance tax to retired people, PM Victor Ponta said on ProTV, yesterday. He pointed out that the Government only had three months worth of money to pay back the health insurance charge illegally taken away from retired persons: June, July and August and that it was approximately RON 400 M short of also meeting the obligations during the remaining four months of the year, the amount being to be produced by correcting the budget in July. ‘At the Wednesday Cabinet meeting, the minister of finance will present a memorandum on reducing expenditures in connection with the procurement of goods and services, as well as travels abroad,’ Ponta also said, noting that he had already discussed that with the finance minister on Friday. It is still to be seen how the Government will retrieve the money already allocated to mayors by the former Ungureanu Cabinet. Many of the mayors have said they had already spent all the money and that they couldn’t give anything back. Other ones have already begun to pay back. Antena 3 TV reports that, by last Thursday, 16 PDL municipalities in Cluj County had given back almost RON 2.5 M allocated to them from the Government’s contingency fund in early April. The total amount which is supposed to be given back to the Executive is over RON 10 M, representing half of the money received. The head of the Cluj Public Finance Directorate General says a total of RON 20.4 M had been allocated from the national contingency fund to 45 municipalities and the Cluj County Council. Also affected by the fund withdrawal are UDMR mayors. Union President Kelemen Hunor said in Bistrita, on Saturday, that he would challenge in the administrative court the emergency ordinance under which the money was being taken back. ‘We will challenge this emergency ordinance in the administrative court, because I think there are budget resources available to also give money to other communities so that they can pay their outstanding arrears and carry on European projects, because those financial resources, budget earmarking, belong to the local communities. They do not belong to the authorities,’ Kelemen said, adding that, back in 2009, when PSD was in the Government, there had been ‘equally substantial’ allocations. ‘I didn’t see them protest in any way. We did not protest either, because we were convinced the money was going to the local communities, not into some mayor’s pockets,’ he added.

Blaga denounces changes

At the launch of the party’s candidates in the local election, in Buzau, on Saturday, PDL campaign chief Vasile Blaga said the current power was putting pressure and making threats against heads of institutions. ‘They are threatening our people in all structures, who were appointed to office after competitions. We will just have to defend our honest people who took up offices following competitions. We will sue them,’ Blaga said. The Democrat Liberals also had a message to the PDL mayors who are now made give back the funds they have not spent already, allocated by the Mihai Razvan Ungureanu Government in April: ‘Do not give the money back to them, because there is no such law based on which they can take it away from you. Plus that it would be both immoral and unfair.’ Blaga also criticised PM Ponta for fostering the political migration he had denounced before.

Campaign promises

Meanwhile, the candidates in the local election took full advantage of the official start of the campaign to announce their intentions and plans to the voters. Incumbent Bucharest Mayor Sorin Oprescu said during the Congress of Students of Romania, Saturday, that, in his future mayoral term in office, he was planning to develop two university campuses equipped with all amenities, based on the outskirts of Bucharest.The USL candidate for mayor of Cluj-Napoca, Marius Nicoara, released his programme with the slogan ‘Cluj deserves everything’ on Saturday. Among other things, he promises to open a Disneyland-like amusement park as well as two underground road networks. The USL candidate for the office of mayor of Suceava city, Alexandru Baisanu, wants to set up after-school centres financed by the Municipality, where children can have lunch and do their homework, as well as free wireless internet access covering the entire city. He promises to submit a signed blanc resignation letter to the prefect which can be used if he does not fulfil his commitments. Less interested in the campaign seem to be the USL candidates in Vaslui, present in a proportion of less than 15 per cent for the launching of candidacy Friday night. Other candidates choose less usual advisers. USL mayoral candidate in District 3, Bucharest, for example, has hired actor George Ivascu (photo) to be his spokesman. Negoita’s promises to the District 3 residents include a general and a maternity hospital, a children’s theatre, a library and a cultural festival for high school students. The leader of the PNL political group in the lower Chamber, Calin Popescu Tariceanu, on Sunday accused UNPR candidate for mayor of District 2, Neculai Ontanu, of using his name on his electoral posters and threatened to report it to the Constituency Election Bureau.



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