Thursday, November 12, 2009

Romanian presidential election campaign sign review

It was a happy coincidence for a political junkie that my visit to Bucharest for the World Blogging Forum coincided with early campaigning for the Romanian presidential elections. Since I enjoy getting away from policy from time to time and looking at communications and branding, I thought I'd snap some pics of the campaign signs plastered all over the city for a Romanian edition of my regular election campaign sign reviews.

First a little background, based on a few conversations with Romanians I've met. Romania has a two-chamber system with a Chamber of Deputies and a Senate. The Prime Minister is head of government and, similar to our system, must command the support of the chamber of deputies. Members of both houses are elected to a four-year term. The President is head of state and is elected to a five-year term.

The incumbent president, who addressed the opening day of the World Blogging Forum, is Traian Băsescu. I'm told he's been a controversial figure in the country. Formally independent but supported by the Democratic Liberal Party, which has a slim minority in parliament, but Băsescu has been unable to get some of his reforms approved.

In particular, I'm told he wants to abolish the Senate. Some Romanians I spoke with told me the powers of the two houses, which once different, are now largely similar, and the bicameral system has led to legislative gridlock. Interesting to consider given the unending Senate reform debate in Canada.

While Băsescu appears to be contesting the presidential election and running for a second term (based on his Web site certainly), Băsescu doesn't seem too active in the sign war. The only signs I saw of his don't appear to be for a presidential campaign, but rather asking for a yes vote in a referendum to bring in a unicameral system, essentially abolishing the Senate.

Election polls show Băsescu in a dogfight for a second term with the Social Democratic Party candidate, Mircea Geoană. The polls show Băsescu leading on the first ballot with around 34 per cent support but with limited growth support, dropping the second ballot narrowly to most of the other major candidates.

I'm told the election is a coin-flip at this point. Which makes the sign war all the more important. In order of first ballot poll support, here are the campaign sign pics I snapped around Bucharest. The first ballot vote will be November 22nd, and the second round on December 6th.

Traian Băsescu

The incumbent, Traian Băsescu is the only of the candidates to be approaching a smile on his signs, which appears to be a bold choice in Romania. As I mentioned the signs, which aren't as numerous as those of the other candidates, seem to focus not on the presidency but on the political reform referendum.

Roughly translated, the slogan is "why are we afraid, let's escape. Go referendum!" and talks about reducing the elected parliamentarians from 471 to 300. (UPDATE: A better translation offered in the comments is: "They cannot escape from the things they fear.")

The orange and green vaguely remind me of the NDP. I give Băsescu credit for not scowling in his picture.

Mircea Geoană

Mircea Geoană's signs looked much the same as this but I wanted to share a picture of his campaign tent, as I thought this was a neat idea.

Design-wise it's a simple design: his name, the office he's running for "presidente" and the logo of his party. Or, to be more specific, the coalition between the Social Democratic Party and the Conservative Party.

Simple can be good but this almost seems to simple. A slogan would have been nice. Geoană has adopted a neutral facial expression, which could be worse (as you'll soon see) but can't these guys smile? Maybe Romanian politics is different, but I want a happy leader.

The tent is cool, though. I saw a few of them located in major pedestrian squares, like our Yonge and Dundas in Toronto. During the day they're staffed by campaign volunteers (I presume) handing our brochures and speaking to those interested. It's a cool idea.

Crin Antonescu

The candidate for the National Liberal Party, Crin Antonescu is currently running a distant third on the polling but he's near the lead in the sign war.

This poster features a picture of the candidate against a sky-blue background with his last name, the office, a slogan and the logo of his party. Continuing the off facial expression-choice theme, Antonescu appears to be offering a smirk. One lady-friend commenting on Facebook however called it a "come-hither look" that may appeal to the ladies. I shan't comment on that.

The slogan translates roughly as Romania common sense. Platitudes abound in any language, it seems. Surely not a Romanian Mike Harris devotee? Overall I like the sign, except for the facial expression.

Sorin Oprescu

Running fourth is Sorin Oprescu, the current mayor of Bucharest. While a former member of the Social Democratic Party, he's running as an independent candidate and I'm told he has no real chance of winning, with one person calling his campaign a "waste of money." He must be spending a lot though, as by my judgment he's winning the sign war, at least in Bucharest.

Maybe he'd be polling better though if he had less signs, because that angry scowling picture can't be helping him any. I like the white on blue design and the slogan is alright, translating as "Go Romania!" But with that scowl, it makes it seem like he wants Romania to go away.

Don't be so angry, man!


There are a number of other declared candidates for smaller parties, including one for the Green Party, but I saw no signs for them during my travels.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers


Unknown said...

I'm glad some people have the guts to face the world without hiding behind a smile. It is frustrating to see just how affected you are by irrelevant facade.

DumbDoe said...

I have a few observations about basescu's campaign that might be helpful for you.
1.Basescu is very active in the sign war. His signs are very numerous and his supporters sometimes go beyond the law and destroy the other candidates' signs. Of course, it happens in the districts (judete) where the local authority is also "orange" (the party that supports Basescu)
2. the slogan is a popular saying and the translation would be: "they cannot escape from the things they fear". It was cleverly created to make people come to vote, because polls show a presence less than 40%. Basescu basis its campaign on the assumption that all the people want a smaller number of reprezentatives and he wants to be the leader of those who now hate politics but want to change Romania. And this is funny: change the way the authorities made their decisions without being a politician. In Romania this is somehow strange, because everything is politics. INcluding Basescu and Oprescu, who act like independents candidates.

Jeff said...

tiny, I don't claim to know the issues or really much about the candidates. My analysis was solely of signs and the messaging they convey. And, to me, a scowling or angry-looking candidate is a turnoff.

Doe, thanks for your observations, very interesting. I think trying to me seen as anti-politician or as an outsider is certainty a global phenomenon.

Unknown said...

Just so you know, Basescu and his loopsided grin won a second term :)

Unknown said...

Just so you know, Basescu and his loop sided grin have won a second term :)

BlacKat said...

Basescu "won". It's the biggest theft in the Romanian history since the communists stole the elections after WWII. The people, at least in Bucharest, are hugely depressed because, although we corrected the mistake we made at the euro parlamentary election when not even 40% of the population voted (which allowed for Ms Elena Basescu to become an europarliamentary with only 70 000 votes) and showerd up to vote, our wish didn't make any difference. Basescu's cronies stole our votes in so many ways that it is painful.