Parliamentary Elections

December 6, 2020


Turnout was historically low in this election at 33.2%. In the Chamber of Deputies, PSD came in first with 28.9% of the vote (though it lost over 40 seats compared to the previous election), PNL second with 25.2%, USR PLUS third with 15.4%, and UDMR fifth with 5.7% (PRO Romania and PMP did not cross the 5% threshold to enter parliament). In fourth place, a new right-wing party surged to 9% of the vote and 33 seats in the Chamber despite having never run in previous elections.

President Iohannis tasked the PNL to form a government and the party is currently in negotiations with USR PLUS and UDMR to form a center-right coalition. Talks have been disrupted over disagreement regarding cabinet positions and speakership in the Chamber, but they continue nonetheless.


  • Bicameral parliament in a semi-presidential republic; 329 members in the Chamber of Deputies (lower house) and 136 in the Senate (upper house).
  • Both houses elected for 4-year terms via party-list proportional representation; threshold to enter parliament is 5% of national vote or 20% in 4 different constituencies.
  • Chamber is made up of 308 multimember constituencies, 4 seats for Romanians abroad, and currently 17 seats for ethnic minorities.
  • Parliament passes legislation, approved Cabinet, oversees the work of the government; the Prime Minister usually hails from the largest party in parliament.
  • Incumbent: PM Ludovic Orban (PNL) leads a minority government supported by a confidence-and-supply agreement with USR and minority parties.



  • National Liberal Party (PNL): party of PM Ludovic Orban; center-right, liberal conservative; supports economic liberalization; socially conservative; pro-EU; pro-NATO.
  • Social Democratic Party (PSD): left-wing, social democracy; populist party; shifting economic platform; party has been at the center of corruption scandals for years, with former leaders indicted for abuse of office and corruption; mild Euroskepticism (suspended from the S&D group in European Parliament); pro-NATO.
  • Alliance 2020 USR-PLUS (USR-PLUS): alliance of Save Romania Union (USR) and Freedom, Unity and Solidarity Party (PLUS); center coalition; platform of anti-corruption reforms; pro-EU (PLUS leader leads Renew Europe group in European Parliament); pro-NATO.
  • PRO Romania Social Liberal (PRO): center-left, social liberal; led by former PSD prime minister Victor Ponta (indicted for corruption but charges later dropped); supports a more regulated economy; socially liberal; pro-EU; pro-NATO.
  • People’s Movement Party (PMP): center-right, Christian democracy; economic liberalization; socially conservative; pro-EU; pro-NATO; supports union of Romania and Moldova.
  • Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR): minority party of ethnic Hungarians in Romania; center-right, Christian democracy; supports cultural and territorial autonomy for Magyars in Transylvania; pro-EU.


Impact on U.S. Interests

  • Romania is an EU and NATO member; it hosts part of NATO’s ballistic missile defense system, the NATO Multinational Division Headquarters South East, and a U.S. forward operating base on the Black Sea through which an average of 500 U.S. troops rotate; it contributes over 700 troops to the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.
  • Romania is a staunchly pro-Western ally that has supported sanctions against Russia since 2014, and is the third-most energy independent country in the EU. It aspires to be a strong military partner for the United States in Southeast Europe and could see a force increase should the security situation around the Black Sea deteriorate.
  • It supports stabilization and Euro-Atlantic integration in Moldova, where Russia maintains a military presence in Transnistria.


Key Issues to Watch

  • Romania has been badly affected by the second wave of Covid-19 in Europe, passing 10,000 deaths in November (population of around 20 million); hospital capacity is reaching its limits while a hospital fire in the north of the country killed 10 people in mid-November and spurred outrage at the management of the hospital.
  • Tensions have been rising between President Klaus Iohannis (legally unaffiliated politically but former PNL member) and PSD, after the former criticized the party repeatedly in the last few weeks.
  • Iohannis has also blamed PSD for supporting a bill in the Chamber of Deputies that would grant more autonomy to ethnic Hungarians in Transylvania, accusing them and Hungarian-Romanian politicians of trying to “give Transylvania to Hungary.” (The bill ultimately failed in the Senate.) This also sparked a brief spat with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who has made more and more overtures to ethnic Hungarians in the region.
  • Corruption remains a serious issue in Romania—it has not exited the EU verification mechanism put in place upon accession in 2007—and a PSD victory could trigger new efforts to shield high-level officials from scrutiny.
  • The government is proposing to use EU Recovery and Resilience funding (€30 billion, or $36 billion) for transport and climate change, public services and urban development, and competitiveness and digitalization.
  • PNL will likely stay in power with a strengthened position in parliament, supported by an increasingly popular USR-PLUS coalition. Government formation talks should be relatively swift if this coalition remains, and their first order of business will be measures to tackle the Covid-19 health and economic crisis.



Data source: Politico Poll of Polls.

Data source: Politico Poll of Polls.