Romania: presidential hopefuls duel at a distance
Romania will elect a new president in a run-off vote on Sunday. The outgoing president Klaus Iohannis, who is standing for a second term, refused to take part in a televised debate with ex-head of government Viorica Dăncilă. The two candidates held separate press conferences on Tuesday instead. This was bad for voters and an insult to the media, commentators say.
The voters lose out
Jurnalul National believes that the high audience rating shows once again that the Romanians would have liked the two candidates to engage in a direct duel:
“The large audience for this marathon broadcast of two press conferences, one after the other, testifies to the public's desire for a direct confrontation. That means the big loser here is the electorate, the citizens who voted for neither Iohannis nor Dăncilă in the first ballot. ... There are twelve million people who could have been drawn to one side or the other of the barricade. A real debate between the two could have boosted voter turnout. But Iohannis decided not to fuel interest in the second ballot, which might lead to surprises. ... The decision to play this card could prove fatal for him.”
An insult to journalism
Iohannis's strategy of selecting journalists who would ask questions he was happy to answer was unacceptable, the tabloid Libertatea complains:
“What we must not forgive Klaus Iohannis for in the next five years is his belief that the press can be led like a docile individual to the sort of campaign event which he offered the public in lieu of a TV debate. The president personally selected the journalists who were allowed to ask him questions. Just as he selected which newsrooms were allowed to send journalists to observe the press conference without being allowed to ask questions. Far from being an honour, such conditions were an insult to the journalistic profession.”