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Unclear contender for face-off with Basescu

With the first round of Presidential elections set for 22 November, the battle has begun over which candidate is likely to face-off against the incumbent Traian Basescu in the second round of voting.

October 2009 - From the Print Edition

As we went to press, Basescu had not yet announced his candidacy, but was widely expected to participate. Backed by the Democratic Liberal Party (PD-L), he has the highest chances of winning.
Basescu attracts about 30 per cent of the vote, against 20 per cent for Mircea Geoana, president of the Social Democrats (PSD) and the same for Crin Antonescu, leader of the National Liberal Party (PNL), according to a poll average. About ten per cent of voters would pick Sorin Oprescu, the mayor of Bucharest.
Between five and ten per cent of voters favour Corneliu Vadim Tudor, president of extreme right-wing Greater Romania Party (PRM), George Becali, billionaire financier of Steaua Football Club and Kelemen Hunor, from the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR). Independent candidate Nati Meir, the ex-director of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE) Ioan Talpes, the Green Party’s Remus Cernea and Ninel Potirca, supported by Roma businesspeople, each have less than three per cent. Independent candidates need 200,000 signatures to run in the presidential elections. Prince Radu of Romania, son-in-law of Romania’s former King Mihai, withdrew from the race.
Basescu’s strategy has been to delay the announcement of his candidacy to benefit from his image as President of Romania. The presidential institution in Romania enjoys the Romanians’ largest trust, after the Romanian Orthodox Church, and gives him the opportunity to travel around Romania and campaign by proxy. Campaign specialist Tal Silberstein, who previously worked for Adrian Nastase and Calin Popescu Tariceanu, has allegedly joined Basescu’s electoral team.
Basescu has support from old enemies including Marian Petre Milut, president of the National Peasants’ Party (PNTCD), who convinced its party members to start discussions with the PD-L to support the incumbent leader.
Meanwhile 50 year-old Liberal candidate Antonescu is trying to position himself as an Obama-esque agent of ‘change’, building on his image as a politician with a clean history. He was previously backed by Sorin Oprescu, who appears to now want to be President. Oprescu hopes to repeat the success he made last year as an independent in the Bucharest Mayoral elections at a national level. 58-year-old Oprescu is seen by some analysts as the most serious challenger to Basescu, due to his populist appeal.
Mircea Geoana, 51, has focused his campaign so far on criticising Basescu. The ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs and former Ambassador to the USA is presiding over a party which has seen some recent frictions. He has received begrudging support by former President Ion Iliescu, but if Oprescu stands, many believe the old guard of the PSD will leave Geoana to support the capital’s mayor.
PSD strategist Viorel Hrebenciuc has convinced MEP George Becali to run in the elections – a move which many believe is an attempt to act as a spoiler for Oprescu. Becali, who is subject to a criminal probe by anti-corruption prosecutors for kidnapping car thieves, is expected to ‘steal’ some of Oprescu’s voters. This would give more chances for Mircea Geoana to enter the second round.



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