Turnout in Romania for the European elections edged over the 50% threshold for the first time in 2019m increasing from 32% in 2014 to 52%.
Strong turnout figures may well be linked to a referendum on justice reforms that was organised to coincide with the European elections. The referendum on justice reforms linked to the socialist governments efforts to weaken the justice system to make it harder to prosecute high-level corruption also provided the political context to the European elections. Indeed the governing Social Democratic Party (PSD) lost 8 seats, down from 16, which allowed the National Liberal Party to take top spot in the polls with 27% of the vote and 10 seats. The biggest winners on the night were the new liberal Save Romania Union & Romania Together (Alliance 2020), which secured 22.28% of the vote, almost overtaking the SPD (22.56%). The Alliance will send 8 MEPS to Brussels on the back of a historic showing and will be a middle-sized force in ALDE.
The poor showing from the PSD is unlikely to further enamour it within its parent political group in Brussels, the Socialists & Democrats (S&D), with its candidate for the European Commission President warning Romania that the EU is ready to escalate its actions on respecting the rule of law.
With power finely balanced in Brussels the S&D could have used the seats that the PSD lost and it is possible that the political group will look to sanction the party. It will certainly not help the PSD’s case that its leader Liviu Dragnea was sentenced to three and a half years in in prison on Monday 27 May, just a day after the European elections.