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Bucharest
January 27, 2023
POLITICS

The film of the hours when percentages inversed

Since Sunday night, Romania has a new president: Herr Klaus Iohannis, who managed to overturn in an entirely spectacular manner the first round result when he was bettered by his opponent, Victor Ponta, by 10 per cent.

Not only did Iohannis beat Ponta – which only days before seemed virtually impossible to many, especially after the performance of the Christian Liberal Alliance (ACL) candidate in the televised debates – but he actually managed to impose himself in quite a spectacular way in front of the opponent, at a remarkable difference of not just 1-2 per cent, but of almost 10 per cent.

There is no doubt about the fact that, before the runoff, on the ACL camp there were hopes and optimistic prognostics that Iohannis was able to make up for the difference (of 8-10 per cent) separating him from Ponta and that he could win, but such estimations were nevertheless resaved and cautious. They based themselves on realistic mathematical calculations that the votes obtained in the first round by Monica Macovei, Elena Udrea and Kelemen Hunor (approximately 15 per cent in total) would be gathered by Iohannis in the runoff. The calculations gave a result of 45 per cent for Iohannis, however still very far from the 55 per cent Ponta was credited with prior to the runoff election by all sociological measurements.

The strategists of ACL calculations were definitely also massively counting on the votes of the undecided or the absentees in the first round, but I believe not even the most optimistic of them would dare dream that, in a matter of hours, Klaus Iohannis, always believed to have the second chance in the electoral race, was to overturn the score of percentages yielded by all analyses, thanks to a massive turnout rate in the Diaspora as well as to domestic voters, many of whom mobilised themselves to the polls no so much because they were pro-Iohannis, but mostly because they wanted to cast an anti-Ponta vote, give him a harsh penalty in retaliation and present to him the bill for the humiliations endured by the Diaspora during the voting process overseas. With over 62 per cent turnout, the election where Romanians had to choose between Ponta and Iohannis will definitely be remembered by history as the moment where an exemplary mobilisation both in the country and abroad (where approximately 380,000 Romanians voted, more by 200,000 than in the first round) caused , in a matter of hours, a dramatic overturn of the situation to the detriment of the race favourite, Victor Ponta. This is the election with the second highest turnout, after the one in 1996, when Right wing candidate Emil Constantinescu won against Ion Iliescu.

Sunday, 16 November, the day of the runoff election.

Everybody in ACL had hope, but, at least during the first part of the day, was naturally concerned about the first exit-poll results sourced from PSD, which were giving a score of 60 to 40 in Victor Ponta’s favour.

Madness began towards the afternoon. Journalists were phoning their sources on both sides, politicians were phoning the journalists. Ponta was still ahead of Iohannis and, while the comfortable difference had noticeably narrowed down since the morning, he nonetheless kept a considerable advance: ‘52 to 48’ PSD was saying. After 17:00, the situation had begun to stabilise and optimism was growing among ACL staff, encouraged by signals coming from polling stations abroad, where the mobilisation was truly spectacular, much higher than in the first round of the election. ‘With the votes from the Diaspora, we have chances to win this”, the ACL team was thinking looking at exit-poll results commissioned by both themselves and by the opposing side, which were indicating a dramatic fall of percentage for the PSD candidate and a snowballing rise for Iohannis. ACL campaign strategists were sure that, (setting aside the tradition in the history of Romanian elections that the votes of the Diaspora are always against the Left wing candidates, no matter who they are), once more, everything that was going to come from the Diaspora was going to be an anti-Ponta vote.

While PSD sources exit-polls were still giving a considerable advantage to Ponta in the last hours before the closing of the vote, ACL exit polls were already appearing on the internet, indicating a score of 50 to 50 per cent, at which time the media gets hold of a statement made by Vasile Blaga – ‘we did them’ – similar to the one made by the candidate Traian Basescu on the night of the 2009 election, before he was officially declared the winner, when he made the now famous remark: ‘Petty thing! I pierced them!’, meaning PSD.

The fact that it was all advancing in the direction of a disaster for the PSD candidate was already visible on the faces of a pro-Ponta TV station commentators who had gathered in the studio waiting for the legal time – 21:00 hrs – when they could announce the results of the exit-polls: ‘We have the results and they are very tight’. Their faces were giving away abasement and concern…

The clock beats 21 hours, TV stations announce the exit-poll estimations. The score was even: two were giving Iohannis as the winner, 2 said Ponta had won, however at infinitesimal differences, totally insufficient to give either candidate reasons to explode into a burst of total joy. And yet, they pass the live connection first to the ACL campaign staff. A smiling Klaus Iohannis, unladen  and detached as maybe he had never been seen before by the press, begins his winner’s speech. He thanks Romanians and the Diaspora. ‘Dear Romanians, you have been heroes, your vote has been formidable’ – he says in front of camera flashes. And he ends by stressing that he would continue to be nervous until the final Constitutional Court (CCR) decision, because the score was so tight.

Live broadcasting also begins from the PSD campaign headquarters. However, instated of Victor Ponta, PSD Vice-President Liviu Dragnea appears, flanked by PLR President Calin Popescu Tariceanu and PC President Daniel Constantin. They all look wry, abased and worried. Dragnea says it’s too early for anyone to be happy, since the result was that tight and demands maximum vigilance of PSD representatives in the polling stations during the vote count and especially during the preparation of data processing reports.

There are still some vague traces of hope… although all signals from abroad were very clear – the difference was only going to widen between Iohannis and Ponta… Still early, a few good hours before the ending of the voting process, results had arrived from Asia (Iohannis was overwhelmingly dominating with a score of about 95 per cent)… and the trend could have not been any different among Romanians who voted in other countries around the world…

In the meantime, groups of people were already gathering in the city centre to celebrate Iohannis’ victory at the University, but also to clamour down Ponta for the terrible organisation of the humiliating election process in the Diaspora.

Klaus Iohannis, surrounded by the explosion of joy of his supporters gathered well in advance at the ACL campaign headquarters, leaves for the University for a crowd bath amidst his 10,000 supporters who enthusiastically greeted him.

In the meantime, although the parallel vote counting was still in progress both at PSD and ACL (however not anticipating anything good for the PSD candidate), Victor Ponta was announcing that he had phoned Klaus Iohannis to congratulate him, by that admitting to having lost. ‘The people is always right’, Victor Ponta said.

That was before midnight… crowds in Bucharest and across the country were chanting “Resignation!’, ‘Resignation!’…with reference to Victor Ponta, or “Iohannis!”…”Iohannis!”…

 

 

 

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