On a Sunday night in mid-November last year, people gathered on the streets of Bucharest in their thousands to celebrate the choice of Klaus Iohannis as Romania’s next president; a liberal thinker and the first person from the country’s ethnic German Protestant minority to be elected. With a voting turnout of 62%, the highest in 14 years, Iohannis’s appointment was considered a surprise for this conservative, majority-Eastern Orthodox country.
While in essence a protest vote against the incumbent government and its socialist prime minister Victor Ponta, who ran a staunchly nationalist campaign, Iohannis’ election may well prove to be an asset for the nation. The centre-right leader’s plans to modernise Romania include establishing an anti-corruption regime – the country is widely regarded as among the most corrupt in Europe – focusing on the rule of law, safeguarding the independence of the judiciary and, equally important, winning western investment (well before the election, Romania regained its investment credit rating for the first time in six years from Standard & Poor’s). Most importantly, Iohannis’ election signals the increasingly progressive mood of the Romanian public, which is good news for the domestic and international law firms operating there.