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June 29, 2022

Election campaign’s final hours: How Ciolos and Iohannis played their last card to get media coverage on a day in which political parties were banned from television

The elections campaign ended on Saturday, at 7 a.m., after three weeks of apathy and one in which the swords were sharpened, a Mediafax analysis points out. The final 24 hours were used by politicians to express themselves exclusively online, the campaign having ended on radio and television.

The final day of campaign coincided with the International Anticorruption Day, which brought back the “Corruption kills” slogan that President Klaus Iohannis used, after the Colectiv nightclub fire tragedy, to install a technocratic Premier in 2015 and last Friday to call on voters to show up and vote.

The main beneficiary of the call, Premier Dacian Ciolos, scored when it comes to originality by giving an interview – the first of a Romanian Premier – for Mikey Hash, the first Romanian vlogger that has over 1 million subscribers on YouTube. The Premier thus tried to reach out to young voters who are not watching TV and who are not very interested in politics, but who want change and “are sufficiently smart to choose.” While before this interview the Head of Government sometimes seemed passive in the campaign, as he himself recently confessed, and his balancing between his role as technocrat and politician was often complicated and hard to digest, Dacian Ciolos’s presence in the informal online environment looked more natural.

The Head of Government explained to youngsters that election boycott is a choice that has consequences and not casting ballots means a minority will decide. “Parliament will be elected at any rate. (…) It’s one thing for it to be elected by 2-3 million [people] and another to be elected by 10-15 million people. Time is passing by if you’re not doing anything,” he emphasised.

Ciolos also talked about the music he likes – classical, folk, but also old-school electronic. He also talked about a politician he likes – his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau. “If pressed harder, to obtain some things, one can see his father was a Premier and he learned some things from childhood.”

At the same time, the Premier distanced himself from politicians and their custom to “look good” in the campaign. He did not name any party and was asked by youngsters why school is more difficult in Romania than abroad.

Ciolos also recounted how “the madness came over him to accept” the Government’s leadership, following a two-hour discussion with the Head of State, after President Klaus Iohannis told him: “Take the entire Government and deal with it this year.”

On the other hand, PNL staked everything on the Dacian Ciolos vs. Liviu Dragnea contrast, but blundered in a way similar to the one seen in local elections, when Razvan Sava, PNL’s candidate for Bucharest District 4, was seen alongside Cristian Popescu Piedone. Thus, PNL Maramures President Mircea Dolha posted a video message in which he is seen alongside Mayor Catalin Chereches, a video in which the mayor, who is currently under house arrest, encourages voters to vote for those who did not turn their backs on them when the going got hard, namely for PNL candidates, his mother being among them. The message which accompanied the Facebook video posted by Mircea Dolha, PNL Maramures’s candidate for a Senate seat, reads: “A word given. A word respected! Catalin Chereches votes for PNL.”

The Social Democratic Party (PSD) managed to avoid during the final day, just like it did in the rest of the campaign, the anticorruption topic. PSD President Liviu Dragnea reiterated on Friday the multitude of electoral promises that defined the elections campaign, announcing in an online interview “programmes that never existed before in Romania.”

At the same time, he also called on younger generations to vote, but also called on elderly citizens, traditionally “incriminated” for being the PSD voters who decide the future of young people who do not show up and vote in sufficiently high numbers. The Social Democrats tried to counter this image, making pensioners state with tears in their eyes: “I need big changes and I want them today! Not for me, for my children, for the country! I will bequeath to you all that I have best, all that I know will take care of you! I have great confidence in our Romania!”

The Save Romania Union (USR) started the day with a Facebook photograph showing a night-time feast at ‘La Cocosatu,’ then posted a winter holidays animation: “It’s better to believe in Santa than in those who have been leading us for 27 years.” Nicusor Dan’s message was that we have had an “abject” elections campaign directed against Romanians who studied and worked abroad. He also launched a warning for Dacian Ciolos not to join PNL.

United Romania Party (PRU) resorted to text messages signed by Victor Ponta which encouraged people to vote for PRU in order to help PSD form the government. The ex-Premier was forced to partially distance himself from this encouragement, stating that he votes for PSD but that he respects those who vote for PRU and ALDE because “they mean well for Romania,” reiterating the theme of “serfs who rebel against foreign exploiters,” a discourse that USR labelled as “fascistic.”

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) voiced – through Co-President Calin Popescu Tariceanu – its known obsessions: President Klaus Iohannis should apologise to Romanians for “illegitimate and unconstitutional involvement” in the electoral process which “has surpassed any imaginable limit and has no precedent, not even in Traian Basescu’s terms in office.” He also expressed an apprehension: “the high number of citizens who do not believe that the elections will be fair and free and who expect manipulations and illegal distortions of the electoral process, liable to affect the result of the voting.”

Popular Movement Party (PMP) President Traian Basescu toned down his attacks against the judiciary on the final day of campaign, partially returning to the discourse with which he won two presidential elections. “I will do everything possible for PSD and ALDE not to secure their prey, not to collect the percentages, and for us to boost the right-wing percentages. I too am censuring the judiciary’s abuses, but I know PSD’s mentality. They want to control the judiciary,” he said in an interview. He encouraged PNL voters “who do not feel represented by a leader such as Ms. Gorghiu to vote for PMP.”

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