Romanian Mayors Re-Elected Despite Corruption Probes
More than a quarter of the recently elected mayors of Romania’s 41 counties are under investigation or have been placed under preventative arrest over corruption charges.
The mayors of 11 of Romanian counties who were re-elected in the local polls on June 5 have either been accused of or are under investigation for corruption.
They were re-elected despite a survey conducted two months before the local elections which suggested that more than 82 per cent of Romanian voters wouldn’t cast their ballots for a person who is under investigation or on trial on corruption charges.
“It is as if Romanians are suffering from Stockholm syndrome,” said Septimiu Parvu from the Bucharest-based Expert Forum – EFOR think-tank. “Despite the fact that their money is constantly being stolen and they are victims of these people in the public administrations, they still vote for them,” Parvu said.
One significant example is the re-election of the mayor of Baia Mare in north-west Romania, Catalin Chereches. Chereches has been mayor of Baia Mare since May 2011 and in that time has caused protests by international rights organisations against his plans to erect a wall around a Roma neighbourhood in what he said was a bid to keep down crime.
In April 2016, he was arrested on bribery charges and is still under preventative arrest in prison. He conducted his latest election campaign from behind bars through intermediaries and postings on Facebook, and was re-elected on Sunday, securing over 70 per cent of the votes in Baia Mare.
The mayor of Bucharest District 3, Robert Negoita, has held his post since 2012 and on Sunday was the only mayor out of a total of seven in Bucharest who was re-elected with more than 50 per cent of the votes. Negoita secured over 60 per cent despite being under investigation over alleged corruption.
The leftist Social Democrat Party, PSD, came out on top in the local elections, ahead of the right-wing National Liberal Party, PNL, but some observers said that people’s apparent willingness to vote for graft suspects cast a shadow over the results.
“The biggest loser of these elections is not the Liberal Party, but the anti-corruption public discourse. For many Romanian citizens, an honest candidate is in fact just a fool who doesn’t know how to steal,” said journalist Florin Negrutiu.
Romania is still considered one of the most corrupt states in the European Union and has made only limited progress in fighting corruption and organised crime since it joined the EU in 2007. But in recent years, the number of high-ranking officials convicted of graft has increased significantly.
At the same time, graft remains a part of life at all levels of society. It is still common to pay cash gifts to secure medical treatment, to get essential paperwork from government offices or to pass school and university exams.
7 June 2016