Authoritarian Populism Index.

The Authoritarian Populism Index is developed by Timbro.

Timbro is the leading free market think tank in the Nordic countries. Our mission is to promote and disseminate ideas supporting the principles of free markets, free enterprise, individual liberty and a free society. Timbro was founded in 1978 by Sture Eskilsson and the Swedish Employers’ Association, a precursor to the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise.  Since 2003, Timbro is financed by the Swedish Free Enterprise Foundation.


International outreach and translation supported by Friedrich Naumann Foundation and Atlas Network.


Populism Rank: 7


Voter support for radical left in last elections (2020): -0,4%.
Voter support for radical right in last elections: +5,9%.
Populist or radical parties in government (March  2024): None
Number of radical or populist MEP:s (2019): 8/32

01 Speakers

The Romanian party system offers new line-ups for each election. Countless mergers, splits, new formations, and name changes have made it difficult for voters to navigate.


Unlike the other Warsaw Pact countries, Romania experienced a violent revolution when the communist regime fell in 1989. The Communist Party was immediately banned. Instead, many prominent communists rallied within the National Salvation Front, led by Ion Iliescu, who also won a landslide victory in the first elections in 1990 after a campaign marked by violence and significant obstacles for opposition parties to communicate their messages.


The front splintered during the subsequent mandate. In 1992, Iliescu’s breakaway party – the Democratic National Salvation Front (PSDR) – won renewed confidence and governed for the next four years with the help of three fringe parties: the communist Socialist Labor Party (PSM), the nationalist Romanian Unity Party (PUNR), and the nationalist Greater Romania Party (PRM). These parties initially supported PSDR in parliament but intermittently joined the government between 1993-95. The radical nationalism advocated by the coalition parties led to friction, particularly in foreign policy. Romania had strained relations during these years, especially with Hungary but also with Moldova and Yugoslavia. The cooperation ended when Iliescu, on a state visit to the United States, compared the party leaders of PRM and PUNR to the maverick Russian extreme nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovski.

PSDR later changed name to The Social Democrats (PSD). In ideologically terms, it can best be described as a party that combines left-wing populism with national conservatism. There is a noticeable continuity with the Romanian dictatorship of the post-war period, which seamlessly combined communism and nationalism, but also a clear resemblance to the political ideologies that unite populists across Eastern Europe. PSD has repeatedly been criticised for corruption and attacks on the rule of law. Key events, such as the conviction of former party leader Liviu Dragnea and attempts to decriminalise corruption, highlight the party’s disregard for legal norms. The PSD was suspended from its party group in the European Parliament in 2019 due to a lack of democratic credibility.

Ion Iliescu

The Romanian National Unity Party (PUNR) was formed in 1990 and led by Gheorghe Funar. Funar quickly gained notoriety as a nationalist mayor in the Transylvanian city of Cluj, where the colours of the Romanian tricolour were painted on everything from park benches to trash cans and pavement, while street signs were changed, statues were renamed, and Romanian culture was prioritised while Hungarians and Roma were discriminated against. Similarly, the Christmas decorations in the city were limited to the colours red, yellow, and blue. When Romania and Hungary signed a bilateral friendship agreement in 1996, Funar organised a funeral procession in Cluj. He also put up a sign in front of the Hungarian consulate with the text “This is the seat of the Hungarian spies in Romania.”


Funar garnered nearly eleven percent in the 1992 presidential election, while PUNR won seven percent in the parliamentary elections. After a year of supporting the government in parliament, the party joined the government in 1993 and held three ministerial positions: agriculture, foreign affairs, and minister for economic reforms. However, Foreign Minister Ion Mihai Pacepa resigned after a few months. The PUNR remained in the government until 1995 and in parliament until 2000. Funar was expelled from PUNR in 1997 and instead became a member of PRM. He served as mayor of Cluj until 2004. He has made many antisemitic statements, including calling Einstein mentally retarded and claiming that he stole the theory of relativity from a Romanian poet.



The Greater Romania Party (PRM) was formed in 1991 and led until his death in 2015 by Corneliu Vadim Tudor. In 1994, PRM joined the government and also obtained three ministerial positions: youth, culture, and industrial policy. Like PUNR, PRM left the government prematurely.


PRM’s biggest success came in the 2000 presidential election when Tudor finished second. Afterward, the party sought to moderate with the ambition of joining the European EPP party. However, their membership application was rejected. When Romania later held its first EP elections in 2007, PRM lost its seats, only to return in the regular EP elections in 2009. However, in the interim, they lost their seats in the Romanian parliament in 2008, and in the EP elections in 2014, they lost their last remaining seat there as well.

Gheorghe Funar.

PRM has advocated for an ethnic form of nationalism, with the ultimate goal of recreating Greater Romania, with the borders of the interwar period. The party aims to unite all ethnic Romanians into a homogeneous state, advocating for the annexation of Moldova. They have also campaigned for a ban on the Hungarian-dominated party UDMR, accusing them of wanting to break away Transylvania from Romania.


The Socialist Party of Labour (PSM) was a relatively short-lived leftist extremist party, de facto communist, formed in 1990. It entered parliament in 1992 with a narrow margin and gained some influence by being part of the coalition government. PSM lost its parliamentary seats in 1996 and was finally dissolved in 2003.


In 1996, the right-wing opposition managed to win the election. Since then, Romanian politics has been dominated by relatively centrist parties (liberals, conservatives, social democrats). No extremist party has been part of the government since 1996. However, several anti-establishment parties have emerged, achieving temporary success but rarely becoming long-lasting. 


The New Generation Party was a right-wing extremist nationalist party formed in 2000, which at best won two percent in the 2004 election. From 2003, it was led by Gigi Becali, owner of the Steaua Bucharest football club. Becali later joined the PRM.


The People’s Party  – Dan Diaconescu was formed in 2011, entered parliament in 2012, and dissolved due to internal divisions two years later. The party gained votes on promises to fight corruption and increase social justice, largely due to the leader’s significant media visibility. 


The most recent example is the Alliance for Romanian Unity (AUR). The party was formed in the fall of 2019 and surprised most by becoming the third-largest party in the 2020 election. Party leader George Simion had previously been involved in the issue of uniting Moldova and Romania, and the party name alludes to the dream of reuniting all Romanians in a Greater Romania, i.e., claiming Moldova.


The vice-party leader has a background in a citizen movement advocating for a traditional view of marriage, campaigning for a constitutional amendment to guarantee that only a man and a woman can enter into marriage. However, the party is not opposed to abortion. In August 2022, George Simion live-streamed his wedding on Facebook and invited the entire population to watch, provided they were wearing traditional Romanian attire.


The party is pro-NATO, advocates for energy self-sufficiency, sees Fidesz and PiS as role models, and associates itself with the ECR in the European Parliament.

EP elections

Number of authoritarian or populist MEP:s (2019): 8/32


Romania became a member of the EU on January 1, 2007. The first MEPs from Romania were elected by parliament, based on the results of the last national elections. This meant that the Greater Romania Party got three seats. Together with Ataka from Bulgaria, PRM was a founding member of the short-lived ITS group.


In the first Romanian EP elections in November 2007, PRM lost their seats, only to return in 2009, again with three seats. Among the new MEPs were party leader Vadim Tudor and Gigi Becali, owner of Steaua Bucharest football club and accused of corruption (PRM’s third MEP left the party and joined the SD group after a year). Unusually for a nationalist party, PRM was in favour of Romania’s EU membership.


Dumitru Zamfirescu from the Romanian PRM, known as “The Yes Man,” has never voted against a single proposal in the European Parliament, regardless of its content.


Since PRM was voted out of the EP in 2014, no radical right-wing Romanian party has gained seats. If elected in 2024, the AUR has said it will join the ECR group.

PSD summary

Economics: LEFT
Social issues: CONSERVATIVE
Democratic credibility: LOW

AUR summary

Economics: RIGHT
Social issues: CONSERVATIVE
Democratic credibility: LOW