Romania politics

By Nick Kochan

The election of a majority Social Democratic PSD party in Romania this past weekend gives the country a chance to push the reset button on its relations with foreign investors.

After a year when the government has been drawn into fruitless squabbles in commercial courts and arbitrations with no less than five international companies, now is the time to reassure investors that Romania is open for business. The time to close the book on introspective and opaque government is long overdue.

Energy companies have been in the forefront of these battles with Romanian officialdom. So the government took Enel, the Italian energy company, to court over a breach in a privatisation contract but ended in July 2016 facing a €1bn bill. E.on, the German energy company, won an arbitration dispute in Paris and the government was forced to pay its legal costs. Read more

Romania is set for a period of political uncertainty following the shock victory of liberal Klaus Iohannis (pictured) in a presidential election on Sunday. With 96 per cent of the votes counted, Iohannis was in the lead with nearly 55 per cent, an unexpected triumph over Prime Minister Victor Ponta of the ruling Social Democrats (PSD).

Ponta will now face calls to stand down from the premiership, even though he has said he is determined to stay on as Romania prepares to draw up its 2015 budget, paying for a pre-election splurge. Read more

Negligible inflation and a desire to maintain exchange rate stability in spite of capital inflows were the key factors prompting Romania to cut interest rates to an all-time low, analysts said on Tuesday.

On August 4, the National Bank of Romania (BNR) reduced its key policy rate to 3.25 per cent from 3.50 per cent. Reuters quoted Governor Mugur Isarescu as telling reporters that more easing was possible. “There may be further (easing) space but, this time, we’d be forced to take decisions taking into account the external environment to a greater extent,” Isarescu was quoted as saying. Read more

An attempted murder in a bar brawl; a president under siege after the arrest of his brother and son-in-law on graft charges, having already survived two referendums on impeachment – Romanian politics may be messy but it is rarely boring.

For the economy, though, it is business as usual. And perhaps the fact that the law can reach even those closest to the country’s most powerful man is a positive development for a country once seen as a byword for corruption. Read more

President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil has promised a referendum “to authorize establishing a specific constituent process” on political reform, as one of five responses to mass demonstrations on city streets across the country over the past fortnight. In other words, voters will decide whether to call a constituent assembly charged with overhauling Brazil’s dysfunctional political system.

As Reuters reports, the process could take years. Plenty more will be said and written about it. For now, below is a translation provided by the government of Rousseff’s speech in full before state governors and mayors of state capitals in Brasília on Monday. Read more

Could the end to a grim year bring hope for beleaguered Romania? Markets have welcomed the ruling coalition’s landslide victory in Sunday’s election, hoping the country will win a new deal with the IMF and push through reforms in return. But have investors factored in the challenges ahead, or Romania’s fluid political landscape? Read more

A thumping election victory looks set to put Romania’s ruling coalition back in power with a strong mandate, according the exit polls following Sunday’s vote.

The predicted landslide for the Social Liberal Union (USL) led by Prime Minister Victor Ponta is also a resounding defeat for his rival, President Traian Basescu. But while the result looks clear-cut, exactly what happens next is still not clear, as the wily Basescu may still have a few cards to play. Read more

Given all the eurozone bad press, it is unusual to hear from a man who can’t wait for the day when his country enters into the single currency.

But, as a report in Monday’s FTfm explains, for one Romanian fund manager euro entry would usher in a future with more freedom. Read more

Romanian president Traian Basescu has narrowly escaped the chop.

The constitutional court ruled on Tuesday that the referendum vote to impeach Basescu was invalid because the turnout was less than 50 per cent. So, by a majority of 6-3, the judges ruled that Basescu could remain in office even though 87.6 per cent of those who voted in the July 29 poll wanted him out.

The combative Basescu will quickly throw himself back into the political fray, resuming his battles with the centre-left government of Victor Ponta. But the court decision should appease European Union partners anxious about Romania’s democratic stability. So, the verdict should be mildly positive for investors. Read more

The Romanian leu strengthened by as much as 1 per cent against the euro on Monday after preliminary results of the weekend’s poll showed that president Traian Basescu had survived a referendum on his impeachment, called by the leftist government of prime minister Victor Ponta.

But the relief will probably be short-lived. Basescu survived only because less than half the electorate turned out. The vote will to nothing to bury an increasingly acrimonious political battle that has raised international concerns about the rule of law. The leu could easily be heading back to new lows. Read more

The Romanian leu has started what could be a tense week in Bucharest by trading near the record lows it reached on Friday, when parliament voted to suspend president Traian Basescu and order a referendum on his impeachment.

The leu was at 4.52 to the euro at 13:00 Bucharest time on Monday, a slight recovery from Friday’s close of 4.53 but much weaker than its recent average of 4.46. Romanians were nervously awaiting a Constitutional Court hearing into the legality of the impeachment move. Read more

But will he blow the IMF's trumpet?

While eurozone policy makers thrash out the growth vs austerity debate, the evidence from Romania seems to be that the traditional medicine works.

The IMF has given Romania a qualified thumbs up on it’s economic reforms and recovery. However, the Fund may have praised Romania’s progress, but it still warned of substantial downside risks and that reform still has a long way to go. Read more

The Romanian leu suffered its biggest one-day fall this year after the government unexpectedly collapsed in a no-confidence vote.

Prime minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu’s two-month-old administration is the latest victim of a growing political backlash against austerity policies implemented across the EU.

His successor’s job will be just as difficult. So will the challenges of investing in Romania. Read more