It I were a Romanian citizen, I would definitely support Klaus Iohannis for president. And yes, not all Moldovans have Romanian citizenship yet. Iohannis is not your typical Romanian politician, as you can tell by his name. However, his odd appeal extends far beyond his ethnic origin – Transylvanian Saxon. Despite not having central government experience, he is a seasoned public manager. He was first elected mayor of Sibiu in 2000 with 69.18% of the vote, reelected in 2004 with 88.7%, again in 2008 – 87.4%, 2012 – 77,9, despite the fact that Sibiu’s German minority had shrunken to a mere 1.6%. If these results are not impressive in today’s world of shrewd local politics, than I do not know what is. Bear in mind that Sibiu is the 14th largest city in Romania, with a population of 137,026 and, according to the Local Social Development Index, Sibiu is the second most developed municipality after Cluj. A lot of people say that it is also the most beautiful town in the country. It should come as no surprise then that Sibiu is the only Romanian city and, indeed one of the few in southeastern Europe, declared European Capital of Culture of 2007. Romanians attribute this success and the over one million tourists that came as a result to Iohannis.
Bucharest political class laid its eyes on the Sibiu mayor back in 2009 when Iohannis became a candidate for Prime Minister. However, President Traian Basescu denied him the nomination. It was speculated that, despite their initial friendship, relations between the two went south after a leading figure from the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania (political party led by Iohannis) defected to Basescu’s Democrat Liberal Party prior to the 2008 local elections. Ironically, that nomination was backed by a broad coalition that included not only his current party – National Liberals, as well as Conservatives and Democratic Union of Hungarians, but also his current main rival’s party – Social Democrats. Now, if that does not strike you as a rather flexible political landscape. Consider that, currently, National Liberals and Democrat Liberal find themselves in a Liberal Christian Alliance, supporting Iohannis as their presidential candidate.
Iohannis’s strengths are his record and his outsider view, not yet entangled in the Bucharest political shenanigans. He has a great reputation if you ignore the unsubstantiated allegations of child trafficking going back to the ’90s when he oversaw adoptions of Romanian children by American and Canadian couples as part of his duties at the county Education Inspectorate. I know it did not sound quite right, but, in this part of the world, adoption is a sensitive issue and anyone involved can potentially be accused of trafficking, particularly back then when there was little sound formal guidance and tremendous number of children hoping to escape the misery of post-Ceausescu orphanages. Still, the fact that he has six homes does not help his political image too much. To be fair, those are not lavish villas, he apparently has an eye for real estate investment. Again, in this part of the world, real estate is largely the only safe and profitable investment opportunity for regular folks.
Finally, when compared to his opponent, Iohannis has the upper hand anyway you look, unless you look from the Social Democrat side. He may not be as eloquent and charismatic as Ponta, but Romanians might as well try, for a change, someone who can get things done well and not just talk his way through. Simple math tells us that Iohannis should carry the run offs, given that the following five candidates gathered over 20% of the vote and happen to be right leaning. However, if Romanian politics stands for something, it is all but predictable.