Over 18 million of Romanians are entitled to cast votes on Sunday to decide who will run their municipalities and provincial councils for the next four years, in an election that is likely to shape the run-up to parliamentary elections due on December 6.
The battle for Bucharest, where the incumbent Social Democrat mayor, Gabriela Firea, hopes to be reelected and defeat her centre-right adversary, Nicusor Dan, is attracting most media attention – and will largely determine which party claims victory at a national level.
Dan, one of the founders of the reformist alliance USR PLUS, the third-largest party in parliament, has the backing of the ruling National Liberal Party, PNL. The two parties have joined forces in the capital to take control of the city hall from the Social Democratic Party, PSD.
The path to polling day has been dominated by constant, bitter attacks between the two camps, with Dan accusing Firea of promoting nepotism and corruption and Mayor Firea linking her rival to shady real estate investors.
Opinion polls put Dan slightly ahead of Firea, leaving experts still wondering whether he can mobilize enough voters discontented with the current administration to tip the balance.