Without a doubt, the most startling result from the election is that less than 40 percent of eligible voters took part in what was Romania’s first poll since entering the EU. For political analyst Stellan Tanase it is a sure sign of people’s growing disaffection with politics, which will make life much more difficult for the government. “The government will be under lots of social pressure because unemployment will rise, the local currency will be unstable, purchasing power will diminish and the Romanian people will be obliged to tighten their belts,” he says.
And that is not going to be easy. Unions called off their strikes during the campaign but teachers are expected to resume their action to have their already-approved 50 percent wage rise implented immediately.
The new government is also facing the prospect of a huge spike in unemployment because of the slowdown sparked by the global financial crisis. A sharp drop in orders has forced major industrial groups like Dacia and Arcelor Mittal to halt production, threatening thousands of job cuts.
On top of that, the number of people out of work could go up with the imminent return of some half a million Romanians who have failed to find employment or have lost their jobs across Europe. But what has caused many Romanians to lose faith in the political system is the failure of the previous government to fight deep, ingrained corruption.
A national body charged with the task three years ago has investigated several senior politicians but none have been brought up on charges. The most high profile case involved former prime minister Adrian Nastase, who faced several accusations, including bribery, blackmail and money-laundering. His political career looked over. But like all the others, he escaped prosecution and sparked some public outrage when he stood for re-election in a small village close to the capital – a situation which helped spread the feeling that it is one law for the politicians and another for everyone else.