The profile of political clientelism in the region: Romania, Moldova and Georgia

Expert Forum and its partners – Watchdog and Expert Grup – have launched a serie of reports on political clientelism in Moldova, Romania and Georgia. Along with the reports we released two interactive maps of political clientelism in Romania and Moldova.

The main conclusions

  • Although there are differences in the logic and structure of investment programs or other funds (emergency or intervention funds, for example) from national budgets, in all countries money is used to a greater or lesser extent to reassure mayors and attract votes, through arbitrary allocations, based on unclear rules and lack of transparency
  • If there is some visible electoral and resource competition in Romania and Moldova, in Georgia, political migration is stronger and therefore, an objective, data-driven analysis is harder to obtain
  • In Moldova, the analyzed programs show us that the mayors of power have received more money than those of the opposition or the independents. In the Good Roads for Moldova Program, allocations favor the constituencies where the Democrat Party will run in February 2018, based on the new mixed voting system.
    A maximum index of political clientelism has been proven in 2012 in relation to the annexes of the national budget for the capital investments, when on average it was 6 times more likely to receive funds if you were a mayor affiliated to the governing alliance, as if you were in the opposition. In 2015, the index of political clientelism shows that the probability of receiving funds if you were a mayor affiliated to the governing alliance was on average four times higher for all transfer instruments (except for the capital investment instrument, which was less used).
  • In Georgia, clientelism seems more difficult to spot, especially due to the lack of investigations and monitoring, but also the massive migration of local government to the elections. Mayors prefer to migrate to a new party and avoid the risk of being in opposition in a country where most of them are from another party. Local communities in Georgia are at the financial disposal of the central government and local authorities have to compete for the political and financial support of the central government; they risk too much by showing lack of fidelity.
  • In Romania, in the first half of 2018, we detected imbalances in the payments from National Program for Local Development (PNDL). The payments to the 3rd District, where the mayor is a PSD vicepresident, were equivalent to those for the first five whole municipalities; Robert Negoiță’s municipality received half of the sum paid to 55 municipalities.
    There are important discrepancies between the localities that have received the most, respectively the least money, the share reaching 1 / 11,000. Some of the counties or localities that have received the most money in the account are those in which voting records are usually registered in favor of Social Democrat Party (PSD).



Watchdog has published an analysis of the Good Roads for Moldova Program and pointed out the main reasons for which it is damaging for the budget, economy and the development of the local communities:

  • Taking money from the Roads Fund (Fondul Rutier) means undermining the sustainability of road infrastructure
  • The concentration of the State Road Administration resources and local entrepreneurs compromises the development of the local road improvement project, financed by the World Bank, as well as of the national road rehabilitation projects.
  • Developing road repair programs without proper planning, feasibility studies or improving the additional pedestrian infrastructure has a reduced utility for society and represents an unreasonable allocation of budgetary resources.
  • The low quality of works leave many doubts about the sustainability of the investments.
  • The populist and discretionary allocation of resources in the pre-electoral year is likely to be an attempt to corrupt the electorate.

Although the program appears to be transparent, the analysis of allocations for localities in four districts (circumscriptii) shows that funding is concentrated in some localities for the Democratic Party’s exponents. Priority was given to districts and constituencies with better electoral success in the context in which the new mixed system will be applied to the parliamentary elections. In just 27 out of 51 constituencies, the government has concentrated over 90% of spending.

Concerning the National Ecological Fund, the Social Investment Fund, the Energy Efficiency Fund, the analysis shows that regardless of the governing party / alliance, the mayors affiliated to it / her were more likely to receive project funds through the instruments analyzed financially than those in the opposition and the independent ones. Thus, the ruling party or coalition uses public budget resources to favor affiliated mayors in order to retain their support and to attract voters for the next parliamentary elections.

A maximum index of political clientelism was identified in 2012 in relation to the annexes to the national budgets (capital investments) when, on average, it was 6 times more likely to receive funds if you were affiliated to the governing alliance, than if you were a mayor of the opposition. In 2015, the index of political clientelism shows that the probability of receiving funds was on average four times higher for all transfer instruments (except for the capital investment instrument, who was lower).



Out of PNDL, the main instrument for allocating funds for investments, payments of 1.69 billion lei, were made to 1468 beneficiaries of which 70% rural communes. Around 60% of the money went to the municipalities and county councils headed by PSD, almost 32% to the Liberal Party (PNL) and 3.94% to UDMR; other parties have received the rest. Payments can come from projects funded from both PNDL 1 and PNDL 2.

We have published the localities or counties that have received the most and the least money, depending on the party from which the mayors or presidents of the CJ come from. Figures in many cases show significant differences between top and last-place entities of even 11,000 times. Not necessarily a rule, one can see that some of the communes (Gogosu / DJ, Colonesti / OT) or the top counties (Giurgiu, Olt) who have received the most money are active and when it comes to high attendance or mobilization of voters in elections.

In Bucharest, only the 3rd and 4th Districts received money from the PNDL. District 3, headed by mayor Robert Negoiţă (PSD), received 28.4 million lei (6 mln EUR) while District 4 was transferred one million lei (0.25 mln EUR). Most of the projects funded for the Bucharest sectors are related to investments in schools and kindergartens. District 3 was allocated 74.5 million of PNDL 2 for the period 2017-2020, almost as all the other districts in Bucharest; S1 did not receive allocations.

In terms of payments, the first 5 municipalities (municipii) – Drobeta Turnu Severin, Galati, Resita, Hunedoara, Orastie – received 27 million. All 55 municipalities received 68 million lei. Therefore, we can see that the district manage by Robert Negoiță, vicepresident of the Social Democrat Party received half of the sum that got to 55 major municipalities.


In Georgia, we analyzed three municipalities: Kutaisi, Marneuli and Telavi, respectively funds for investment, capital or emergency.

There are very few known or suspected cases of clientelism in the local government in Georgia. This does not necessarily mean that there are no cases, but that they are either rare or not sufficiently investigated. Both reasons have a certain basis: the transparent, centralized and automatic procurement system makes it significantly more difficult to take bribes; but at the same time there is no effective and independent mechanism to investigate high-level corruption offenses. There is also a significant lack of relevant activity of journalists and civil society actors at the municipal level.

Somewhat ironically, the fact that Georgia’s political landscape in the past 15 years has been inconsistent (the country has moved from the majority of the National Unity Movement in all municipalities before 2012 to the Georgian Dream after) could have considerably reduced the need for the central government to resort to clientelism to secure political support or to reward supporters.

The fact that the last two governments had majority representation in all municipalities eliminated the need to punish unfair local governments. Moreover, as the local authorities in Georgia are already at the financial disposal of the central government, the local authorities have to compete for the political and financial support of the government and potentially risk much by showing disloyal behaviour.

The only clear evidence on the use of development funds for political purposes can be found in the transition period between the last two governments when the MUN used various means to transfer unprecedented development funds to local authorities before the 2012 parliamentary elections (which had an increased importance), supposed in an effort to stimulate political support and voters at local government level.

Data on political migration from the two recent Georgian elections shows that actors in the Georgian local government are very likely to change political options in favor of the final winner to enjoy all the privileges that come from being part of the majority or in an effort to avoid being the only opposition in a country run by a single party. The municipality of Marneuli, which made a full return from the 16% vote in favor of Georgian Dream in 2012 to 69% in 2017, was probably one of the most extreme examples in this regard.

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