A Mayor Who Died of COVID-19 Just Won Re-Election by a Landslide in Romania

The late Ion Aliman won with 64 percent of the vote.
Răzvan Filip
Bucharest, RO
September 29, 2020, 12:31pm
A voter casts a ballot at a polling station in Bucharest​.
A voter casts a ballot at a polling station in Bucharest. Photo: DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP via Getty Images

On Sunday, over a thousand people from Deveselu, a village of around 3,000 people in southern Romania, went to the polls and re-elected their mayor, Ion Aliman, of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), with 64 percent of the vote.

Aliman has been dead for almost two weeks.

Local officials say that Aliman – who died from COVID-19 –  was already on the printed voting ballots, and could not be legally removed so late into the election. And Ailman did not have an opponent because he had previously promised to switch parties and run as a candidate for the government’s Liberal Party, only to change his mind – leaving the Liberals with no time to pick another candidate.

Despite Aliman being dead, the SDP continued to campaign on his behalf. On election day, dozens of cars drove around the village with the mayor’s face emblazoned on the side, with the message: "Vote Aliman, he is our mayor!"

Election day also happened to be Aliman’s birthday, so dozens of villagers gathered at his grave to break the news of his surprise victory and toast what would have been his 57th birthday. “Yes, we elected a dead man,” a local villager told Adevărul, one of Romania’s newspapers. “If we hadn’t, a do-nothing politician would have won.”


Aliman had ruled Deveselu since 2012. During his eight-year tenure, Deveselu’s airbase became part of NATO’s missile defence system with the local ballistic missile defence operational since May 2016.

New elections will be held in the coming months, after both parties appoint a new candidate. “His death will be recorded by the electoralauthority, then the newly elected local council will choose a deputy mayor to do the main job until new elections are held,” says Nicolae Dobre, Aliman’s former deputy mayor.

Aliman’s post-mortem electoral win was not the only shocking occurrence during this Sunday’s local elections. In Sadova, another southern Romanian village, the conservative mayor, Eugen Safta, had a heart attack and died soon after finding out he was re-elected for a third term. In a Prahova county village, the SDP mayor Bogdan Davidescu, previously convicted for child pornography, was re-elected for a new term.

A similar thing happened in an Iași county village in eastern Romania where the Liberal Damian Butnariu won his fifth term, even though he has previously admitted to having sex with 17-year-old minors solicited from a known trafficking gang. And a district in Bucharest re-elected a former mayor who is currently appealing his eight-year prison sentence for his negligent role in the Colectiv club fire that killed 64 people in 2015.