There was another election held in ex-communist Eastern Europe this weekend, and no, I'm not talking about Molvania. Romania, site of the bloodiest and least guard-changing 1989 revolution in the region, went to the polls to elect a Parliament and send the presidential race to a Dec. 12 runoff.
The good news is that three-time president Ion Iliescu, an ex-commie hack who green-lighted the bussing of thousands of coal miners to the capital Bucharest in 1991 to murderously suppress long-running student protests (for which he called them "patriots"), will not retain his presidential office in Ceausescu's monstrous palace, and his Social Democrats will probably see their parliamentary plurality erode to a couple of percentage points over the more liberal Justice and Truth Alliance. The bad news is that Iliescu's hand-picked successor, current Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, was ahead after 68 percent of the votes were counted in the first round of presidential voting, and is probably the favorite to win the opportunity to form what would likely be a minority government.
What are the prospects for Ukraine-style shenanigans? Slight, but real. Romania, a NATO member with troops in Iraq, may look corrupt and poor when compared to the post-communist countries in Central Europe, but it's a democratic paradise next to Ukraine. Still, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is red-flagging some voting irregularities:
"While the democratic election process appears to be further consolidated in Romania, some procedural concerns have been raised regarding suspension of the use of voter cards," said OSCE ambassador Stephen Nash.
"In the context of a closely contested election, this has the potential to affect public confidence."
Justice and Truth candidate Traian Basescu told the BBC: "In real terms I think we have already won … because the estimated level of frauds is between three and five per cent."
Romania's nearly even electoral split between young urban liberals and old rural nostalgiacs make America's bitter Red/Blue divide look positively cosmetic in comparison. For one smart young (and disappointed) Bucharest blogger's view, click here.