The Romanian Elections: to Fraud or Not to Fraud?
by Mike Miroiu, SUNY Cortland, December 23, 2004
The first round of the Romanian elections on November 28th, 2004 has come and gone with a result that was to be expected: the governing party, the Social Democrats (PSD/PUR), won this round of elections by a narrow margin over the opposition’s Justice and Truth Alliance (PD/DA). The Romanian elections have been monitored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) election observers; by Romania’s Central Election Bureau; by the local, national, and foreign media; and by the European Union. The opposition has demanded that the parliamentary and presidential elections on November 28th, 2004 to be annulled amid voter fraud claims. In a supposedly democratic country, a country that is heading towards integration in a modern Europe, the Europe of the year 2004, we are seeing election fraud on a large scale.
According to a partial count of the votes by the Romanian Central Election Bureau as of November 30th, 2004, Social Democrat (PSD) Adrian Nastase gained 40.1% of the votes for president, while National Liberal Party (PNL) candidate Traian Basescu gained only 33.86% of the votes for president, and Greater Romania Party candidate Corneliu Vadim Tudor gained 12.57%. So how did the ruling party – the Social Democrat Party (PSD/PUR)--gain more votes than the opposition, the National Liberal Party (PNL/PD), and what were the methods those extra votes were gained through? The quick answer would be that the government stole votes both through multiple voting and, on Tuesday November 30th, 2004, through electronic fraud. But a more detailed look is necessary as these are important issues; we’re talking about a democratic country expressing its opinion as to who should rule it for the next four years.
The multiple voting that the governing party is accused of happened by the bussing of people – the voters--from polling station to polling station throughout the country, in order for these individuals to put their names down on supplementary lists so that they could give that extra vote to the governing party. It is estimated that through this method, the Social Democrats (PSD/PUR) ‘won’ around 300,000 votes, and these supplementary lists weren’t made available to the opposition, the Justice and Truth Alliance until Wednesday, December 2nd, 2004.
The second method employed by the governing party (PSD/PUR) to get more votes was through altering the number of electronic votes with the help of a computer software program that would count a certain number of votes in the Social Democrats’ favor. The Romanian Central Election Bureau (BEC) had the Social Democrats’ (PSD/PUR) computers containing the software installed in their main office in Bucharest ahead of the elections, as well as in the regional offices giving the Social Democrats “the edge”.
As the opposition brought up the issue of fraud during the November 28th, 2004 parliamentary and presidential elections in Romania, the Central Elections Bureau snapped back at Justice and Truth Alliance (PSD/DA) candidate Traian Basescu saying that it doesn’t see any elections fraud, even though it has admitted that there had been mistakes, and said on Wednesday, December 1st, 2004 that mistakes in counting ballots had since been corrected. That’s all good, but the Central Elections Bureau president Emil Ghergut and the main authority in charge of making sure the elections are 100% fair is not acknowledging, nor is he expressing surprise and not questioning why there are hundreds of thousands of votes on the supplementary lists, and that the “electoral tourism” – or bussing of voters from polling station to polling station had occurred.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which had 18 international observers from 13 European states present in Romania at the time of the elections, raised a number of issues regarding voting irregularities. According to OSCE ambassador Stephen Nash, “Romania has a democratic election process, but some procedural concerns have been raised regarding the suspension of the use of voter cards.” As the elections neared, the Romanian government introduced a computerized electoral roll system for voters, thus suspending an expansive EU plan to introduce “foolproof” voting cards before the elections. The result was that voters were allowed to go vote at any polling station across the country – with the new laminated plastic ID’s, introduced in the past five years – by affixing a stamp on the ID card, a stamp that can be easily removed. Thus one can see that the system is flawed, and that laws offering Romanians the possibility to vote in any polling station around the country, created a large scale election fraud.
The European Union has given its opinion on the November 28th, 2004 elections in Romania by saying that they were conducted in an orderly manner and will not affect EU membership talks. But my dilemma is, how an organization such as the EU be able to admit into its ranks a country that has got such serious issues in the justice and home affairs front – concerning corruption, and the inadequate border controls – and now an election that was rigged by the governing party, so it could rule and drain the Romanian people for four more years?
Fifteen years have passed since the fall of communism in this impoverished Eastern European country, but Romania has once again failed to face its problems and express its true feelings towards the term called ‘democracy.’ We are still riding in a horsedrawn cart on the road toward a 21st century Europe, and we’ll have to work very, very hard at getting to where we want, and it has to start with the individual – we’re in need of a real wake up call.
DESIGNER: Greg Montano, New Media Design, SUNY Cortland, USA
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