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October 1, 2020

Senate passes pure uninominal voting law

PDL abstains from voting, UDMR a votes against.

Senators passed yesterday the USL bill stipulating deputy and senator mandates to be won by those candidates with the highest number of votes in the electoral colleges where they run under a single-ballot majority uninominal system. The draft law passed 77-9, and 17 abstentions. The Democrat Liberal Party (PDL) announced it was going to abstain from voting, while the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) voted against the bill. The legislative proposal was originated by Social-Liberal Union (USL) co-presidents, Crin Antonescu, National Liberal Party (PNL) and Victor Ponta of the Social Democratic Party (PSD). The text stipulates that, at the level of uninominal colleges, a mandate is assigned to the runners affiliated with an electoral opponent that met the electoral threshold and got the highest number of votes expressed in the uninominal college where they run. Under the bill, the mandates of deputy and senator are assigned in a single phase at uninominal colleges. The bill’s originators also propose a second ballot being held two weeks after the first, only where candidates have reached a tie. The candidate with the highest number of freely expressed votes will be declared the winner of the runoff ballot. The bill will be tabled in the Chamber of Deputies, the decision-making House of Romania’s Parliament. The original version of the bill banned political defection and stipulated the number of MPs being cut down, yet, both provisions were out of the final form of the document. Victor Ponta, who attended the Senate plenum, sad that the pure uninominal voting  formula will allow the access to Parliament of “ responsible political forces “ with voters “to really feel a direct connection with the runner that comes first in the electoral race, according to the will of voters”. Moreover, this formula is useful, Ponta argued, in the face of rising populist movements in Europe, which could “win a legislative representation that will have a negative effect on the carrying on of the democratic process and the political decisions that Romania will adopt in future”. In his turn, Liberal President Crin Antonescu said that, although he personally considers list voting, in force until 2008, “healthy politically speaking, the 2008 formula proved being the worst, as it makes everybody discontented” and turns elections into an “unacceptable lottery”. “The political class has to choose between a formula where the bulk of accountability goes to parties, the list formula, and that where responsibility falls with the voter, which the formula proposed today (…) Opting for such formula (pure uninominal), we at least clarify the responsibility issue,” Antonescu said.At the beginning of the session, Marius Necula (PDL), chairman of the administrative Commission, and UDMR Senator Cseke Attila, took advantage of the voting of the day’s agenda opportunity to call for the bill being taken out of the agenda and sent back to commissions, yet their request failed through. PSD Senator Ioan Chelaru said that the commissions had enough time to draw up the legislative proposal report. Later on, PDL abstained from voting, with Cristian  Radulescu, leader of the Democrat-Liberal senators, arguing that the pure uninominal voting system proposed by the USL eliminates any proportionality in Parliament and raises major constitutionality issues, since it would allow a party that wins, let’s say, 45 pc of the votes, to accede to Parliament with no less than 80 pc of the mandates, which is unconstitutional.UDMR Senator Marko Bela, too, said that the Union was the only political grouping that opposed the change in the initial electoral system, that until 2004 namely, right from the start and that since “pure uninominal voting eliminates the likelihood of  proportional electoral representation.”

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