Social Democratic Party (PSD) & Conservative Party (PC). The PSD is Romania’s largest party.
The heir of the Iliescu faction of the FSN (Iliescu is still the honorary president of the party) the PSD is perhaps the single most powerful centre-left party in all of Eastern Europe.
Part of the PSD’s strength is in its structure of local barons. The party is very strong in local government throughout Romania with local leaders often handing out patronage in exchange for favours to allies. Typically of the PSD, barons are not particularly ideological and some hold quite controversial or nationalist views.
Barons have a large degree of power in the party, and the party is widely perceived as a network of corrupt former communist bosses and Securitate officials with authoritarian leanings.
Ideologically, the PSD was originally very slow to reform Romanian society, especially the economy. Privatisations proceeded at a crawl under Iliescu and were often corrupt. Under more recent leaders it has become much more reformist and under Ponta has liberalised the economy. However the party still maintains some centre-left leanings. For instance, it supports progressive taxation, whereas the two other big parties support flat taxation.
The PSD typically runs for power with the Conservative Party (PC). It no doubt appears odd to Western eyes to see Social Democrats allied with self-declared Conservatives but the party is not in reality a conservative party.
More accurately the party is predominantly a personal machine for the interests of its founder, Dan Voiculescu, one of Romania’s richest men who owns Antena 3, one of the country’s most watched news channels. The party has a low level of public support. The last time it ran alone was in the 2008 local elections when it won barely 3% of the vote. Yet the PSD works to retain the PC’s support because it means keeping one of the country’s biggest, and most partisan, media outlets sweet. The PC is an uncooperative partner, however, and has previously aligned itself with other major parties. Generally it comes back to the PSD, however, knowing that its bread is best buttered with the larger party.
The PC is broadly socially conservative and centrist economically but really lacks any kind of coherent ideology. One of the eleven MEPs in the PSD group in the European Parliament is from the PC.
This year the PSD is also running with the National Union for the Progress of Romania (UNPR). The UNPR is a party of opportunistic ex-PSD and a few PNL MPs who split from their former parties in order to give President Basescu a parliamentary majority in 2010. The party then ran back to the arms of the opposition parties when they saw which way the wind was blowing.
The PSD and its allies are broadly pro-European though they can often express irritation at what they see as meddling in Romanian affairs by the European Commission. Ponta’s government has frosty relations with the EU, partially due to alliances with Basescu amongst prominent EPP politicians.
The PSD and the PC both sit in the Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament. They are the ninth most loyal member of the group, with loyalty of 98.4%. The PC MEP does not demonstrate any significantly different ideology from the PSD MEPs.