Romania Political System

Political system

The constitution of 1991 is the model of the French constitution. This means, among other things, that Romania short for RO is a republic whose president has great powers. Extensive amendments were made following a referendum in 2003 to adapt the constitution to EU legislation prior to the country’s entry into the Union in 2007.

The president is the country’s head of state and has the executive power. They are elected directly by the people and can sit for a maximum of two five-year mandate periods. The president appoints a government leader, who in turn appoints other ministers.

The head of state has the right to dismiss the government and dissolve Parliament (the National Assembly). Parliament may, in turn, propose that the President be dismissed if he is in breach of the Constitution, but the decision must be approved in a referendum. The government must be approved by Parliament in a vote of confidence.

The National Legislative Assembly has two chambers: the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. The number of members varies between the terms of office as decided by the Election Commission. After the 2016 election, the Chamber of Deputies had 329 members and the Senate 136. A number of seats in the Chamber of Deputies (currently 18) are reserved for minorities not represented by a party in Parliament.

Laws are passed by both chambers. With the exception of the 2008 election, when the candidates also ran in one-man constituencies, a system of proportional representation according to party lists is used. A party must get at least five percent of the vote, or eight percent for an election alliance, to enter the National Assembly. Parliamentary elections are held every four years and the voting age is 18 years.

In 2013, the law was amended so that a referendum is valid if at least 30 percent of the eligible voters participated. Previously, the limit was 50 percent.

Administratively, the country is divided into 41 districts (Judete) plus the capital Bucharest. Within the districts, local government is exercised in hundreds of cities and thousands of rural municipalities. At all administrative levels, representatives are elected in general elections for a four-year term. The Bucharest government appoints a prefect in each district to represent the central government.

The Romanian judiciary has four bodies: local district courts, regional courts, appellate courts and the Supreme Court (HD), which oversees the work of the other courts and is the final court of appeal. There is also a Constitutional Court and Military Courts.

Political parties

There are a large number of political parties in Romania, but none of them have been large enough to get their own majority in the National Assembly. Instead, Romania is ruled by coalition governments. Personal contradictions within the parties have often led to their being split, transformed or merged. Many parties are supported, also financially, by a group of businessmen who became wealthy during the 1990s. These business people do not seldom try to use their political influence for personal gain.

Between the major parties, there has basically been a consensus on overall political issues such as membership of the NATO and EU defense alliance and the adaptation to market economy.

The largest in the 2016 election was the Social Democratic Party (Partidul Social Democrat, PSD). Its core is made up of former communists and the strongest voter support is found among older Romanians and in rural industrial areas. During the 1990s, the party was led for a long time by Ion Iliescu, until 1989, Communist dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu’s co-workers. From 2000, the PSD was steered in a more reform-friendly direction and is referred to as a center-left party.

Second largest was the Liberal Conservative National Liberal Party (Partidul National Liberal Party, PNL), which has been a member of a number of coalition governments since 1989. PNL was originally founded in 1875 but was dissolved by the Communist regime in 1947. PNL was re-formed in 1990.

The third largest party became the Union Save Romania (Uniunea Salvați România, USR). It was formed as late as 2015 and describes itself as activist-based and “against the system”. The USR has its roots in an activist movement in Bucharest that worked against corruption and property speculation, mainly in the capital.

Hungarian Democratic Union in Romania (Uniunea Democrată Maghiară din România, UDMR), founded in 1990, is the leading political force of the country’s Hungarian minority and has been a member of several governments since 1996. A falang that wants increased autonomy for Hungarians broke out of the party in 2003 UDMR came fourth in the 2016 election.

In 2015, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (Alianța Liberalilor și Democraților, Alde) was formed through a merger of the Liberal Reformist Party (Partidul Liberal Reformer, PLR) and the Conservative Party (Partidul Conservator, PC). PC wanted to promote social conservatives and national values, but was in practice often allied with PSD. Alde became the fifth largest party and, together with PSD, is part of the government that was formed in early 2017.

The sixth and final party to enter the National Assembly 2016 was the People’s Movement Party (Partidul Mişcarea Populară, PMP), which is a center-right party, formed in 2013.

In February 2018, the former PSD politician and also head of government Victor Ponta formed a new center-left party for Romania (Pro România). The party attracted MPs from both PSD and Alde, which led to the coalition government losing its majority in parliament at the end of 2018.

At the same time, a new pro-European Center Party was formed – the Party for Freedom, Unity and Solidarity (Partidul Libertății, Unității și Solidarității, PLUS). The party voted in the European Parliament elections in coalition with the USR (see above). The coalition called the Alliance 2020 came in third place in the election, which became a major setback for the ruling PSD. Pontas For Romania also ran in the EU elections and came in fourth place (read more about the EU elections in the Calendar).

Romania Urban Population



Protests against the savings

New popular protests erupt when the cuts in public sector wages begin to be implemented at the same time as the increased VAT hits consumers. The Social Democratic opposition accuses the government of waging war against the public.


France expels Roma

France expels hundreds of Roma back to Romania. President Băsescu wants an integration plan for Europe’s Roma, but France demands that the EU force Romania to stop the emigration of Roma to other EU countries. According to Amnesty International, 75 percent of Romania’s around 2.2 million Roma are poor as a result of discrimination.


Severe injuries when the Danube floods

Floods along the Danube River are forcing over 16,000 people to leave their homes, causing material damage for around a billion euros.


Reduced pensions will fail

Social Democratic opposition leader Victor Ponta appeals to the cuts in the savings package (see May 2010) to the Constitutional Court, which rejects pension cuts but provides green light for lowered public wages. To secure continued loan payments from the IMF, the government raises VAT from 19 percent to 24 percent.


Năstase is charged with corruption

Former Prime Minister Adrian Năstase is charged with corruption after a multi-year criminal investigation. He is accused of taking bribes and violating customs regulations when importing, among other things, building products from China.

Unpopular savings package

The government presents a savings package, which means that public salaries are reduced by 25 percent and pensions and unemployment benefits by 15 percent. The average income in Romania equals SEK 3,400 a month and the pension is equivalent to SEK 1,800. Tens of thousands of salaried employees and pensioners demand the resignation of the government, but the finance minister defends the savings package by saying that government spending must be cut quickly if the country is not forced to take out new loans.