Stefanesti, a village near Romanian capital Bucharest, has been drawing most attention in local elections across the country on Sunday. As apathy is the word of the day, hundreds of voters sieged two polling stations there, forcing police intervention and seriously challenging electoral regulations. The village is due to be crossed by a future highway linking Bucharest and Ploiesti and land owners in the area are expected to receive huge amounts of money to cede their properties. So the land is hunted by some of the highest-profile businessmen whose interests are represented by candidates for Stefanesti mayor.
Real estate businessman Gigi Becali, who leads the New Generation Party (PNG) and is better known as the owner of Bucharest football club Steaua Bucharest, supports the candidacy of incumbent mayor Anghel Rababoc, a former Social Democrat.
The area between the Stefanesti Forest and Pipera, an upmarket residential area, is due to be crossed by the Bucharest-Ploiesti highway. About half of the 1,200-hectare territory is owned by Gigi Becali and businessman Fahti Taher.
Tensions there reached a peak on Sunday morning when voters for both PNG's candidate Rababoc and Aurel Parvu, the candidate for the Social Democrats (PSD) had convened at two polling stations as early as 2 a.m.. While none admitted explicitly they had received material advantages for showing up and vote, some of them mentioned a price as high as 300 euro per vote for a certain candidate.
The climax was reached at about 10 a.m. when a polling station was closed because of a scandal involving supporters of PNG and PSD, convented in two camps.
The two parties have a common interest in one man and hundreds of hectares of land. The man is incumbent mayor Anghel Rababoc, who has left PSD for PNG. PNG leader Becali came to public attention when he concluded a property exchange with the Romanian Defense Ministry in the mid nineties.
At the time, former Chief of Staff, General Dumitru Cioflina, demanded the Supreme Defense Council to approve a land exchange between the Ministry and citizen George Becali. For ten hectares in Stefanestii de Jos, becali received 10 hactares, way more valuable, in Voluntari, a village in the near vicinity of Bucharest. The deal was allegedly intermediated by Stefanestii de Jos mayor Anghel Rababoc, brother-in-law with General Cioflina. The names of both Rababoc and Cioflina appear in a graft case put up by the National Anti-corruption Department on the land exchange.
Both Becali and Rababoc deny they ever had a business relationship.
More recently, the process of expropriation along the route of the future Bucharest-Ploiesti highway were stuck in the area of Voluntari, where land owners are hard to identify. The only plot of land with no ownership doubts belongs to Gigi becali and Fathi Taher. They won some 500 hectares on the perimeter due to be crossed by the highway, no matter the exact route to be chosen for the project.