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Klaus Werner Iohannis (born 13 June 1959) is the president of Romania.
He became leader of the National Liberal Party (PNL) in 2014, after having served as leader of the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania (DFDR/FDGR) from 2001 to 2013.
Iohannis was a physics teacher and a school inspector before entering full-time politics. Iohannis was first elected mayor of the city of Sibiu in 2000, representing the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania.
Although the German population of the once predominantly German-speaking city of Sibiu (German: Hermannstadt, Transylvanian Saxon dialect: Härmeschtat) had declined to a tiny minority, Iohannis won a surprise victory and was re-elected by landslides in 2004, 2008, and 2012.
Iohannis is credited with turning his city into one of Romania's most popular tourist destinations, and the city was declared the European Capital of Culture in 2007.
In February 2013, Iohannis became a member of the National Liberal Party, accepting an invitation from then liberal leader Crin Antonescu, and was immediately elected the party's First Vice President, eventually becoming the PNL President during the following year. In October 2009, four of the five political groups in the Parliament, excluding the Democratic Liberal Party of then-President Traian Basescu, proposed him as a candidate for the office of Prime Minister of Romania; however, Basescu refused to nominate him despite the Parliament's adoption of a declaration supporting his candidacy.
He was again the candidate for Prime Minister of the National Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party in the elections in the same year.Iohannis is the first Romanian president to come from an ethnic minority.
He is a Transylvanian Saxon, part of Romania's German minority which settled in Transylvania in the 12th century.
He was re-elected in the 2019 Romanian presidential election.
Personal and professional life
Born in the historic centre of Sibiu (German: Hermannstadt) to a Transylvanian Saxon family, Klaus Iohannis is the eldest child of Gustav Heinz and Susanne Johannis. He has a younger sister, Krista Johannis (born 1963). His father worked as a technician at an enterprise, while his mother was a nurse. Both his parents as well as his sister emigrated from their native Sibiu (German: Hermannstadt) to Würzburg, Bavaria in Germany in 1992, acquiring citizenship there under the right of return granted by German nationality law, as most other Transylvanian Saxons after the fall of the Iron Curtain. However, he chose to live and work in Romania. As of 2014, his parents, sister and a niece live in Würzburg. Iohannis has stated that his family settled in Transylvania in present-day Romania 850 years ago. After graduating from the Faculty of Physics of the Babeș-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca in 1983, Iohannis worked as a high school physics teacher at various schools and colleges in Sibiu, including, from 1989 to 1997, the Samuel von Brukenthal Gymnasium in Sibiu, the oldest German-speaking school in Romania. From 1997 to 1999, he was Deputy General School Inspector of Sibiu County, and from 1999 until his election as mayor in 2000, he was the General School Inspector, head of public schools in the county.
Alongside his native German and Romanian, Klaus also speaks fluent English. The original German spelling of his name is Johannis, but the name was registered by a Romanian official as Iohannis on his birth certificate and he has used both spellings interchangeably. In 1989, he married ethnic Romanian Carmen Lăzurcă, an English teacher at the Gheorghe Lazăr National College in Sibiu. They have no children. Iohannis is also a member of the Evangelical Church of Augustan Confession in Romania, the German-speaking Lutheran church in Transylvania.
He joined the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania (FDGR/DFDR) in 1990, and served as a member of its board of education in Transylvania from 1997, and a member of the local party board in Sibiu from 1998. In 2001, he was elected President of the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania.
In 2000, the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania in Sibiu (FDGS) decided to back him as a candidate for mayor. Despite the fact that Sibiu's German minority had shrunken to a mere 1.6%, Iohannis was elected with 69.18% of the votes and has won three re-elections in a row, getting some of the largest electoral scores in the country: 88.69% of the vote in 2004, and 83.26% in 2008. He is the second ethnic German mayor of a Romanian city since Albert Dörr, who served from 1940 to 1945 (the first was Otto Helmut Mayerhoffer, who served as elected mayor of the city of Roman, between 1992 and 1996).
Throughout his tenure as mayor, he has worked to restore the town's infrastructure and to tighten the city administration. Iohannis is also widely credited with turning the city into one of Romania's most popular tourist destinations thanks to the extensive renovation of the old downtown. During his first term, Iohannis worked with a city council which was formed by PDSR, FDGR, PD, CDR, and PRM. Since 2004, during his second and third terms, his own party, FDGR, had the majority. Since 2008, FDGR has 14 out of 23 councilors, PDL has 4, PSD has 3, and PNL has 2.
Iohannis established contacts with foreign officials and investors. Sibiu was declared the European Capital of Culture of 2007, along with Luxembourg (the bearer of the distinction in 1995). Luxembourg chose to share this honourable status with Sibiu due to the fact that many of the Transylvanian Saxons emigrated in the 12th century to Transylvania from the area where Luxembourg is today. Sibiu, or Hermannstadt in German, was built by the Transylvanian Saxons, was for many centuries the cultural centre of that group, and was a predominantly German-speaking city until the mid 20th century. Many Germans left the city after World War II, and especially in 1990, within months of the fall of the Iron Curtain.
On 7 November 2005 Iohannis was nominated as the "Personality of the Year for a European Romania" (Romanian: Personalitatea anului pentru o Românie europeană) by the Eurolink – House of Europe organization.
On 14 October 2009, the leaders of the opposition parliamentary groups (the National Liberal Party, the Social Democratic Party, the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania, the Conservative Party led by Dan Voiculescu, and the group of smaller ethnic minorities), proposed Iohannis as a candidate for the Prime Minister of Romania, after the government of Prime Minister Emil Boc fell a day before as a result of a motion of no confidence in the Parliament. Coming from outside the national-level politics of Romania, Iohannis had an image of an independent politician, although his party (i.e. FDGR/DFDR) consistently allied itself with, and Iohannis campaigned in the prior European Parliament elections for, the National Liberal Party (PNL).
Subsequently, the National Liberal Party (PNL), the Social Democratic Party (PSD), the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR), and the group of small ethnic minorities in the Parliament subsumed Iohannis as their common candidate for Prime Minister of an interim government. On 14 October, Iohannis confirmed acceptance of his candidacy. However, on 15 October President Traian Băsescu nominated Lucian Croitoru, a top Romanian economist, as Prime Minister, and charged the latter with forming the country's next government.
After the second round of negotiations, a day before Croitoru's nomination, Băsescu noted: "Some parties have proposed Klaus Iohannis. I would like you to know that I have not rejected the possibility for him to become Prime Minister in the condition that my options would be directed towards other [national unity government] solutions. But I have rejected such a proposal because it comes from PSD or another party [PNL]", referring to his alleged constraint to consider a proposal of the largest party (PDL), constraint disputed by the other parties. The opposition criticized the President for not designating Iohannis. Social Democrat leader Mircea Geoană accused Băsescu of trying to influence the upcoming presidential elections by having them organised by a sympathetic government. Crin Antonescu, the leader of the National Liberals, vowed his party would derail other nominations but Iohannis'. After the nomination of Croitoru, Antonescu, a candidate in the presidential election, stated that he would nominate Iohannis as prime minister if elected president. Three days later, on 18 October, Geoană suggested Antonescu was trying to use Iohannis as an "electoral agent" for Antonescu's bid for president. In response, Antonescu told the press that Iohannis "is not the type of person that would let himself be used". Geoană and PSD leadership has held a second meeting with Iohannis in Bucharest in the evening of 18 October. UDMR, which the previous day announced it would also attend, declared in the morning that all their leaders were not in the city. PNL was present at the meeting with lower level representatives, after Antonescu announced in the morning that he was campaigning in Cluj-Napoca. On 21 October the Parliament adopted with 252 votes in favor (PSD, PNL, UDMR, and minorities groups) and 2 against a declaration requesting the President to nominate Iohannis as Prime Minister.
On 20 February 2013, Klaus Iohannis joined the PNL, announcing this during a press conference with Crin Antonescu. At a PNL extraordinary congress, he was elected First Vice President of the Party. In the meeting of 28 June 2014, he was elected President of the PNL with 95% of the votes.
In 2009, Iohannis had stated that he might possibly run for the office of President of Romania, although not in that year. In addition, former Prime Minister Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu also stated on 27 October 2009 and again on 23 April 2010 that he would like to see Iohannis become either Prime Minister or President of Romania sometime in the future.
PNL and PDL started in the summer of 2014 procedures to strengthen the political right. The two parties will eventually merge under the name PNL, but went for elections in an alliance: the Christian Liberal Alliance (Romanian: Alianța Creștin-Liberală). On 11 August the alliance chose Iohannis as its candidate for the presidential election in November and so he was registered as an official presidential candidate. In a late August 2014 interview, Iohannis described himself as a politruk who candidates for the presidency of Romania. He subsequently received 30.37% of the votes in the first round, finishing second and consequently qualifying for the second round. In the second round on 16 November he was elected President of Romania with 54.43% of the cast ballots.