The Eastern European Spring

Voters Tilt Toward Pro-EU, Anti-Corruption Candidates

A man holds a sign reading "We want democracy like in EU, not like in Russia" in front of government headquarters in Bucharest, November 2014. Radu Sigheti / Courtesy Reuters

On November 16, when the Romanian people elected as president Klaus Iohannis, an ethnic German who ran a vigorous campaign against corruption, they shattered a number of illusions about politics in eastern Europe. Since the end of the Cold War, Western analysts and media have portrayed eastern Europe as a region dogged by a xenophobic nationalism, where uncivilized voters are quick to turn to ethno-nationalist parties in times of trouble. Although Hungary’s recent slide into authoritarianism conforms to this narrative, Iohannis’ victory tells another story—as do recent elections in several other postcommunist states.

In Romania, election results suggest that eastern Europeans have directed their frustrations not at ethnic minorities but at their own governments, which are riddled with corruption and inefficiencies. Iohannis’ opponent, Prime Minister Victor Ponta, ran a campaign that catered to the nationalist vote, promising to support traditional Romanian values of “the army, church, and family” and

Loading, please wait...

Related Articles

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.