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August 4, 2021

Uninominal voting system goes through Lower Chamber

NGO representatives protested yesterday from the balconies of the Lower Chamber’s plenum hall against the Ponta-Antonescu draft, shouting: “We want democracy, this is a sham.” PDL will attack the law at the Constitutional Court.

The Lower Chamber adopted on Tuesday the draft law on the uninominal voting system, with 180 votes “in favour,” 30 “against” and 26 abstentions. The draft was initiated by USL leaders Crin Antonescu and Victor Ponta. According to it, the winner of most votes in an electoral college will win a seat in Parliament, while the counties in which minorities represent over 7 per cent of the population will receive an extra seat in Parliament. The amendment on the ethnic minorities’ representativeness will hike the number of seats in Parliament by 10 at most.“Those that represent over 7 per cent of a county’s population will receive a seat in the Lower Chamber. For example, there are four seats for Harghita and Covasna. If all four are Magyars the Romanians will receive a seat in the Lower Chamber too. In Brasov and Cluj, where Hungarians represent over 7 per cent of the population, they will automatically receive a seat if they fail to win one,” Florin Iordache, the Social-Democrat Deputy Chairman of the Juridical Commission, explained. The second amendment adopted by the Lower Chamber eliminates the 5 per cent electoral threshold, thus allowing independent candidates to enter Parliament without being dependent on a party’s backing. UNPR directly benefits from this change since the party was not forecast to surpass the electoral threshold, Hotnews informs. USL’s draft law also proposes a single-round majority uninominal vote system. The uninominal system means that the candidates that obtain most votes in their electoral colleges are declared winners. In case of a tie, a new round is organized two weeks later, a round in which only the candidates that are in a tie would take part in.

The candidate that wins the highest number of votes in the second round is declared winner. PNL President and Senator Crin Antonescu presented and backed the draft law in the Lower Chamber, dismissing the claims that this system is undemocratic, unconstitutional and unrepresentative. “It’s a voting system that is being used, and the best-known example is that of Great Britain, without anyone questioning the solidity of the British democracy. It is representative to the extent that the voter’s direct will and the same criteria – that of the candidate winning most votes in an electoral college – wins a seat in any situation and without exception. I don’t see how this would be anti-constitutional or anti-democratic as long as it doesn’t infringe on someone’s right to run in the elections on behalf of a party or as an independent candidate or on the voter’s right to vote whom he wishes,” Antonescu stated. He admitted that there will be votes that will not find their representation in Parliament. According to Antonescu, the system’s most important advantages at this moment, in the current political context, have to do with “the painful yet categorical” simplification of the political scene and with offering a chance to a solid and coherent majority and, consequently, to governments that would have powerful Parliamentary backing.The favourable vote on this law was in fact predictable since the Democrat-Liberals had announced ever since yesterday morning’s debates that they will not vote the draft unless the amendment on lowering the number of MPs to 300 is adopted and unless the electoral threshold is maintained. Mircea Toader, leader of PDL MPs, stated that his party cannot agree with the form of this draft because its application will lead to a “motley Parliament” and to a rise in the number of MPs. During the afternoon the former governing party announced its intention of attacking the law at the Constitutional Court. The Democratic Union of Magyars in Romania (UDMR) abstained from voting, since “the voting system proposed in the draft law initiated by USL leaders Victor Ponta and Crin Antonescu will destroy the political and electoral system,” UDMR President Kelemen Hunor stated during the general debates. The group of UNPR MPs and ethnic minority MPs voted in favour of this project. Varujan Pambuccian, the leader of ethnic minority MPs, argued the following: “it’s good to reach a point after which it will be understood that the system has to be rethought and the uninominal idea will disappear completely.” It has to be pointed out that during the debates several NGO representatives protested against the law from the balconies of the hall. During Crin Antonescu’s speech, the representatives of several NGOs, including Pro Democratia, APADOR CH, ActiveWatch, the Press Monitoring Agency and the Centre for Independent Journalism, shouted: “We want democracy, this is a sham!” and lifted several placards reading: “We want real democracy now,” “We want democracy, this is a sham,” “There will be many of us in our great minority,” Mediafax informs. The Lower Chamber had the final say on this draft law and the law will now be sent to President Traian Basescu for promulgation.

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