Preparations for presidential elections due to take place in Romania later this year have entered a new phase as incumbent head of state Klaus Iohannis raised the stakes with an announced visit to the White House. Such an event is seen as an ace in the hands of anyone who secures it in Romania, a country for which, since the fall of communism, America was a key ally.

Iohannis și TrumpFoto:

A White House press release announced Tuesday evening (Romanian time) that President Donald Trump would receive Klaus Iohannis on August 20. THe two are due to discuss common security challenges, fair trade and energy partnerships.

The White House notes that the visits comes 30 years since the fall of communism and 15 years since Romania's NATO accession.

Romania's Presidency also announced the visit, saying it comes at the invitation of US President Donald Trump.

  • It is the second Trump-Iohannis meeting at the White House, after the visit paid by the Romanian head of state two years ago. At the time, Iohannis was the first East European leader to meet President Trump at the White House after Trump's election and was the first Romanian leader to ever hold a press conference at the White House.

The visit is expected to weigh heavily in the campaign for the presidential elections due to take place in Romania later this year.

Facing little challenge from the governing Social Democrats (PSD), Iohannis leads the pack by a large margin in opinion polls. One of key opponents is Dan Barna, one of the two leaders of the opposition USR-PLUS alliance.

  • An opinion poll on Tuesday showed Iohannis with 42% voters intention, followed by Calin Popescu Tariceanu, who leads a minority group of the governing coalition, way behind with 13.8% of the votes, should elections take place tomorrow. A former PSD leader, Victor Ponta, now head of a new political group, comes third.

Dan Barna, the most vocal presidential would-be candidate for the past months, comes fifth with 9.4% - after his fellow USR-PLUS leader Dacian Ciolos (10.4%).

Iohannis and his Liberal (PNL) supporters plan to launch their campaign to collect signatures for the presidential candidacy on August 10, the day Romania marks a year since violent riot police actions against people protesting against the PSD government in Bucharest.

Dan Barna launched the signature collecting campaign on Wednesday, saying at an event that the stake was a major change in Romania to end a process "started by our parents 30 years ago".

  • The stated goals of the USR-PLUS alliance, which is positioning itself as a challenger to traditional politics, are winning the presidential, local and parliamentary elections in 2019-2020, forming a governing coalition with an alliance-named prime minister and securing the government until 2028 after a renewed general elections win in 2024.

On Tuesday, Barna also announced on B1 TV channel a planned visit to the US in September, saying he was due to hold "various meetings" and a forum of the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA).