The two candidates in the final round of Romania's presidential elections each held a "debate" on their own on Tuesday evening, not facing each other but only journalists to discuss everything to the influence of Chinese companies to how to compute the area of a circle - and, in this latter case, not knowing the proper answer.
- See what they said - or even what they didn't say - during their talks
Incumbent President Klaus Iohannis has been insisting he would not accept a debate with his rival in the presidential elections, Social Democratic (PSD) leader Viorica Dancila, or risk giving legitimacy to her party after a period when it ruled "against the interests of the Romanian people".
So, despite criticism of picking a wrong formula and of handpicking who can ask questions, he organised a debate on his own on Tuesday evening - he against a dozen journalists and political analysts.
But Dancila, who herself challenged Iohannis continuously but refused other debates herself, tried to hijack the president's event by organising her own "open discussion" with the press, mostly overlapping with that of the president.
Key statements from their discussions, which covered all manners of subjects, from mathematics to compliance with the rule of law and Romania's attachment to North Atlantic values:
- On strategic projects involving Chinese companies - he said these, including one related to Reactors 3 and 4 of the Cernavoda nuclear power plant, would be analysed in the Supreme Defense Council (CSAT), considering the security-related issues raised by the US lately. What he didn't say was that the Cernavoda project, in which the partner is a Chinese company accused of espionage in the US, was already discussed in the CSAT in May 2016, early in his term, and declared a priority investment - Details here (in Romanian)
- On ExxonMobil's expected withdrawal from Black Sea gas exploitation and exploration operations, he said that the US company might not withdraw eventually as such "mega-companies say what they believe it's best to say, it is possible to change their decision and not withdraw".
- On his position about the violent intervention against anti-government demonstrators on August 10, 2018, he said that had he be present at the protest, the situation would have become way more serious and caused accusations that he was orchestrating a coup d'etat. He said the riot police actions proved that the PSD government was "anti-democratic" and "against the Romanian people".
- On mending the damage done by an emergency ordinance issued last winter by the former PSD government, which shocked a series of economy sectors from banking to energy and telecoms: the simplest solution, that of annulling the ordinance altogether, is not feasible anymore as other changes took place along the way.
- On his performance on defending the rule of law, he claimed no less than that without him "the rule of law in Romania would have been broken" under the constant attacks of the former PSD government
- On naming heads of key prosecutor's offices, which are managed on an interim basis for the time being, he said he hoped the issue would be solved by February next year. On a highly criticised special section investigating magistrates' actions, established by the former PSD government, he said it can be transformed too easily into a means of non-constitutional control over magistrates
- He re-affirmed his attachment to North-Atlantic and European values and as an ethnic German he fully felt as a Romanian and as a European. He dismissed PSD comparisons of him with nazi and fascist leaders as extremist.
- All his statements - in Romanian here
For her part, Viorica Dancila:
- constantly attacked President Iohannis during her 2 and a half hours of talks with the press
- accused Iohannis of acting like a coward and an arrogant by refusing to join a debate with her
- accused the president of trying to hoard all power in the Romanian state and accused him of extremism
- asked whether she would pardon former PSD leader Liviu Dragnea, currently in jail for a corruption-related sentence, she said she wouldn't
- she said it was not her who employed her son at the Court of Accounts as he was employed there before she joined the government
- she refused to take responsibility for the actions against justice and the rule of law which were made by her party in the past three years
- on China and a memorandum with the US on 5G communications, he said relations with China must be correct
- on EU sanctions against Russia, she said they must be kept until Russia fulfills its obligations towards the EU
- said relations with Russia must be correct, based on talks and international principles, while Chinese investments in Romania are necessary
- when prompted about how many brooches she has or about her expensive watch, she sent journalists to ask President Iohannis about how money did he get from private lessons, that he, as a teacher, managed to buy 5 houses. She also claimed that she gave private lessons, but for free. Asked about the calculus of circle areas, she missed the formula.