Romanian NGO Issues Blacklist of Unfit Politicians

Report names politicians running in next month’s parliamentary elections who once worked for the secret police, held senior positions in the former ruling Communist Party or have convictions for corruption.The Alliance for a Clean Romania, ARC, on Monday released a list of politicians that it says are either corrupt, or have conflicts of interests, or who have switched parties several times.

Over 100 politicians have moved from one party to another one at least once, while dozens face investigations for corrupt practices, the report says.

Another 30 candidates were once informants with the former political police, the Securitate, or had high-ranking positions in the Communist Party, according to the report.

The report also mentions the degree of kinship between candidates, their wealth, businesses and contracts with the state, but also their racist and discriminatory public statements or actions.

The ARC, a coalition of civic organizations, investigated 517 candidates who are running in the December 9 elections.

Some 4,000 people – including many businessmen, journalists and artists – are competing for 452 seats in Romania’s bicameral parliament.

“We want to inform voters through a report containing as much accurate data as possible about their candidates in the elections. The purpose is to expose politicians seeking (re)election while failing to respect the integrity criteria,” says Alina Mungiu, from the Romanian Academic Society, SAR, a member of the coalition.

Since 2004, the ARC has been monitoring the integrity of candidates for parliament, as well as ministers, mayors, and heads of counties.

Some political parties have taken into consideration the group’s data and have already dropped candidates who appeared on the election lists.

In an effort to curb the corruption and tradition of vote-buying, the government this month ruled that while candidates may distribute promotional materials, such as caps, pens or lighters, their value should not exceed 10 Lei (2.5 euro).

It is for the first time in 20 years of democracy that Romania has attempted to regulate the sensitive issue of vote-buying. Vote-buying, by offering petty gifts such as sugar, cooking oil and clothes, has become an accepted practice in Romania, mainly used in poor areas.

Latest polls suggest that the centre-left coalition of Prime Minister Victor Ponta is on course to win the election. The Social Liberal Union, USL, is tipped to win over 50 per cent of the votes.

The Alliance for the Romanian Right, ARD, a new grouping of centre-right parties, dominated by the opposition Democratic Liberals – deeply unpopular for enforcing past austerity measures – has the support of some 16 per cent.

The populist People’s Party, PP, which advocates tax cuts and higher wages and pensions, came third in the polls with 14.9 per cent.

The PP is run by journalist-turned businessman Dan Diaconescu who is under investigation for allegedly breaking the law in a bid for the chemical company, Oltchim, which was subsequently thrown out by privatisation officials.

Graft remains a sensitive issue in Romania, which is still considered one of the most corrupt states in the European Union.

The country has faced repeated criticism from the European Commission for its failure to tackle the problem.

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