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Parliamentary elections in Venezuela, Kuwait and Romania: Dictatorship victory, opposition triumph and ultranationalists

Author : Georgiy Kuhaleyshvili

Source : 112 Ukraine

This weekend, parliamentary elections were held in three countries at once (Romania, Venezuela, Kuwait) in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. Three countries are going through a crisis that affects different areas. The results of these elections may lead to changes in foreign and domestic policy
15:17, 10 December 2020

tuu.com.au

 "Great Romania" in action

The results of the parliamentary elections in Romania on December 6 suggest that a significant part of Romanian society is disappointed in the ability of liberal parties to restore order in the country and cope with the coronavirus pandemic. Only a third of citizens visited polling stations. For the first time, the ultranationalist party "Alliance for the Unity of Romanians" by Giorgi Simion and Claudio Tarziu is entering the Romanian parliament with 9% of the vote, which is an alarming signal for Ukraine.

The party stands for the implementation of the idea of ​​"Great Romania", which consists in uniting Romania and Moldova into one state and annexing part of Northern Bukovina and the Hertz region, which are now part of Ukraine (Chernivtsi region). The party was founded last year by 34-year-old social activist Georgy Simion. In 2015, he organized a march in Chisinau of supporters of the unification of Romania and Moldova (unionists). He was banned from entering Moldova for five years. In 2019, Simion ran for the European Parliament with the slogan "Great Romania in Europe".

The Alliance for the Unity of Romanians has promised to defend the rights of ethnic Romanians in Serbia and Ukraine if they enter parliament. More than 150 thousand ethnic Romanians live in Ukraine. Over the years, Bucharest has practiced the illegal issuance of Romanian passports to residents of the border regions of Ukraine. The ultranationalist Simion, like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, will insist on the abolition of the 2017 language law, which provides for the translation of education into Ukrainian, including in Romanian schools.

Even being in opposition, the Alliance for the Unity of Romanians will use the parliament as a platform to voice proposals that will affect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. The only thing where the interests of Ukraine and Romanian ultranationalists converge is the Transnistrian conflict. In 2012, being the leader of the civil platform Acţiunea 2012, Simion organized a rally in Chisinau demanding to expel the Russian ambassador to Moldova and withdraw Russian troops from Transnistria.

The opposition Social Democratic Party, which until the summer of 2019 was led by controversial politician Liviu Dragnea, received the most votes (about 30%) in the parliamentary elections, while 25% voted for the National Liberal Party of Prime Minister Ludovic Orban, for the "Union for the Salvation of Romania - Party of Freedom, Unity and Solidarity" of Dan Barna and Dacian Ciolos 15% voted. Prime Minister Orban resigned following the defeat of his party. In fact, a significant proportion of Romanian voters voted for a party that justifies corruption.

The Social Democratic Party was in power in Romania in coalition with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats from December 2016 to May 2019. As speaker of the lower house of parliament, Liviu Dragnea tried to pass laws softening anti-corruption justice. Dragnea was accused of falsifying the results of the referendum to remove President Traian Bsescu from power, money laundering in Brazil, misuse of 20 million euros from EU funds, abuse of office. The incumbent leader of the Social Democratic Party, Marcel Ciolacu, is also suspected of corruption. When he was heading the local government in the city of Bizau, the construction firm Mecan Construct got contacts to repair streets and sidewalks at an inflated cost.

Under the onslaught of street protests in Romania, three prime ministers were replaced, and the coalition of social democrates and liberals collapsed in May 2019. Dragnea received 3.5 years in prison. Since November 2019, Romania has been ruled by a minority government led by the National Liberal Party, supported by incumbent President Klaus Iohannis. The plans were to hold early parliamentary elections, economic reforms, strengthen the fight against corruption, achieve economic growth in Romania, but this was prevented by the coronavirus pandemic, quarantine, lockdowns.

Since March 2020, over half a million Romanians have been infected with the coronavirus, and more than 12 thousand patients have died. According to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), from January to July, unemployment in Romania increased from 3.7% to 5.4%, GDP in the first half fell by 4.6%, and the budget deficit is expected to grow by the end of 2020 up to 8.6%. Discontent with the current government is growing in Romanian society. From January to November, the ratings of the National Liberal Party fell from 47.4% to 23.6%. It is not surprising why a significant proportion of voters ignored the elections. The most active supporters of the socialists went to vote. Pensioners and other supporters of the Social Democratic Party liked their draft law on a one-time increase in pensions by 40%, despite difficult times for the Romanian economy.

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The Social Democratic Party will not be able to come to power if the National Liberal Party and the Union for the Salvation of Romania - Party of Freedom, Unity and Solidarity agree on a coalition. If they do not have enough seats to form a majority in parliament, then they should look for a third partner. The most attractive for them is the "Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania" by Gunor Kelemen, for which about 6% of Romanian citizens voted. The "National Liberal Party" and the "Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania" are ideologically close and are part of the center-right bloc "European People's Party" in the European Parliament. The Alliance for Romanian Unity is overly reactionary, and its entry into the ruling coalition may lead to an increase in inter-party disagreements and conflicts, and to deterioration in relations with neighboring countries.

Dictatorship victory in Venezuela

The results of the parliamentary elections in Venezuela on December 6 marked the virtual victory of the regime of the president and leader of the General Socialist Party, Nicolas Maduro, in a civil confrontation with the parliament controlled by his opponents. In conditions of low turnout (31%), almost 68% of voters voted for the Great Patriotic Pole bloc led by the socialists, and about 18% for the opposition Democratic Alliance. The United Venezuela Alliance scored less than 5%. The voting results were not recognized by the United States, Brazil, the Organization of American States, and the EU. The members of the electoral commission were appointed at the discretion of the illegally created National Constitutional Assembly in 2017 and controlled by the socialists, who took over legislative functions.

The elections were held due to a split in the ranks of Maduro regime opponents. Speaker of the Venezuelan Parliament Juan Guaido, recognized as the acting president of Venezuela in more than 50 countries of the world, called on opposition parties to boycott participation in the elections. Only 27 parties from the "Round Table of Democratic Unity" coalition listened to his opinion. 14 thousand candidates from 100 political forces took part in the parliamentary elections. In particular, the United Venezuela alliance was headed by the opposition politician Luis Parra, who challenged the post of parliament chairman with Juan Guaidó.

The results of the parliamentary elections radically change the balance of power in a political crisis. Maduro's opponents are losing control of the legislature. Following the results of the previous elections in 2015, the Round Table of Democratic Unity won the majority of seats in the parliament, which is responsible for the ratification of international treaties. Now the socialists have concentrated all three branches of government in their hands. Guaido will not be able to act as Venezuelan President under the Venezuelan Constitution. The parliament and part of the international community did not recognize the 2018 presidential elections as legitimate, in which Nicolas Maduro won. If the president is unable to fulfill his duties, they to be passed to the speaker of parliament.

The new parliament will begin to work in 2021. The Maduro regime will launch repression against the leaders of the parties who are included in the "Round Table of Democratic Unity". For example, Leopoldo Lopez, leader of the People's Will Party and former mayor of Caracas, who spent 4 years in prison, has already emigrated to Spain. The results of the parliamentary elections in Venezuela marked the defeat of the United States and the EU for influence in this long-suffering South American country. The policy of sanctions did not lead to the resignation of Maduro, sponsored by Russia and China. The political crisis is aggravated by hyperinflation at the level of 4000%, shortages of fuel, food and electricity. Over 4.5 million Venezuelans have fled their country as migrants or asylum seekers since 2014.

Opposition triumph in Kuwait

In oil-rich Kuwait, parliamentary elections have been held since 1963. The emirate has a reputation as the most democratic country among the oil monarchies of the Persian Gulf. The emirate has been ruled by sheikhs from the al-Sabah dynasty for 250 years. The Emir has the last word in decision-making on state issues, but the parliament has the authority to approve or block laws, question the actions of ministers, and put forward a vote of no confidence in civil servants.

On Saturday, December 5, parliamentary elections were held under the new Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah, who came to power in September 2020. Voters voted for individual candidates who run for the 50-seat National Assembly. Oppositionists won half of the seats with proposals for reforms in the wake of corruption scandals and the growth of national debt in the oil monarchy. Kuwait is facing an economic crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic and lower world oil prices.

Liberals and Islamists alike advocate a return to the party system, which has been banned since 2012. The opposition is also in favor of amnesty for political emigrants, for strengthening the persecution of corrupt officials. Corruption is rampant among senior Kuwaiti officials and their families. The negative imprint on the outgoing government postponed the arrest in July of Sabah Jaber al-Mubarak al-Sabah, the son of the former prime minister, and his business partner Hamad al-Wazan, who were involved in money laundering. In June, Bangladesh MP Mohammed Shahid Islam was arrested for selling people into slavery in Kuwait.

The results of the parliamentary elections are unlikely to affect Kuwait's foreign policy. The ruling dynasty is a long-standing regional partner of the United States and is wary of Iran and radical Islamists. However, three seats in parliament were won by Islamists close in views to the extremist organization "Muslim Brotherhood", and six seats went to representatives of Shiite Muslims who dominate Iran.

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