POLITICS

Thousands of Romanians attended street protests for better voting conditions for Diaspora

Thousands of people gathered in several Romanian cities on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, condemning the conditions of round I of the presidential election for voters abroad, on November 2. Then, a record number of Romanians living abroad attempted to attend round 1 of presidential elections, yet, in many European capitals, rows were huge and people protested against the closing of the gates in front of those who were unable to vote.
The procedure of voting was complicated by the necessity to fill out a form – intended to reduce the chances of vote fraud – and the insufficient number of voting stations and stamps. At the closing of the ballot boxes, hundreds of Romanians who wanted to exercise their voting right in Paris, London, Munich and Vienna could not act accordingly because voting sections were closed. Discontent with having to wait for hours in a row and with the difficulties of the electoral process, people even broke into the headquarters of the Embassy, in Paris, hoping that they would he allowed to vote if they enter the building of the institution.
‘Vote, Vote, Your Vote Counts!’
In Bucharest, over one thousand persons gathered in University Square on Saturday and Sunday in order to express their support to Romanians abroad who could not vote in round 1 of the presidential elections. On Saturday, after approximately two hours of protesting, the attendants started marching towards the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yelling: ‘Come out to vote’, ‘Wake Up, Romania!’, ‘What We Want  Concerns You, Too!’, ‘Stop Corruption, Here’s The Revolution!’, ‘Vote, Vote, Your Vote Counts!’. When they arrived to Victory Square, the protestors stopped for a short time in front of the Government, and then headed over to the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where they demanded the resignation of Minister Titus Corlatean.
Among the protesters, there was also Monica Macovei, candidate to round I of the presidential elections.
In Ramnicu Valcea, the gendarmes estimated the a number of 200 protesters gathered on Saturday in Mircea cel Batran Square for a couple of hours; they asked the Prime Minister to help emigrants vote. They claimed they had no political affiliation and just represented the ‘European spirit of their city. They reminded their similar protests against President Traian Basescu. No incidents were reported. Protesters promised to come back every day until November 16, the date of the presidential election runoff.
Approximately one thousand persons took part on Friday evening in central Sibiu in a meeting of solidarity with those Romanians living abroad who were unable to vote in the first round of presidential elections, asking Romanians everywhere to vote and “choose their future.”
In Timisoara, approximately 2000 people voiced their solidarity with Romanian emigrants that were unable to vote in the first election round. They reminded that Romanian democracy was born in Timisoara’ and chanted pro-monarchy slogans. Speakers warned against offenses or inciting to violence, and said any attempt to politicize the rally would result in terminating it. The gendarmes took away seven young people who shouted obscenities addressed to the candidates; six of them were fined 200 lei each for verbal offenses, and one was taken into custody for inciting to violence.
In Cluj-Napoca, approximately 5000 of people, especially young, gathered in the central Unirii Square before marching the streets. Some were carrying signs in protest against the government or in support of the emigration. Local leaders of the Christian Liberal Alliance joined the protest.
In Iasi, approximately 500 people answered the Civic Action Initiative Group’s call on a social network, and gathered to protest in the Culture Palace Square. For two hours, they shouted against the government and listened to songs already heard in historical protests in Bucharest’s University Square. They also showed support to voters abroad who could not use their right. Some political figures were also present.
Demonstrations in London, Paris, Madrid, Dublin, Vienna and Milan
On Sunday, protests in the country were followed by protests abroad, as Romanians of the Diaspora also went out on the streets to demand that their right to vote would be respected. They asked for foundation of additional voting stations in all cities where voters were unable to cast their votes, the doubling of the assisting personnel, the number of the voting ballots and the extension of the voting program until 11:00 PM at local time.
There were demonstrations pro-democracy in London, near the Romanian Embassy in Kesington Court, in Paris, in the Human Rights Square, Trocadero, and in Madrid, at the Romanian Embassy. Also, Romanians protested at the Romanian Embassies in Dublin and Vienna, as well as in Centro Civico di Morengo in Milan.
Romanians’ protests were also presented in the international press.
Iohannis: ‘Victor Ponta fears the votes of Romanians abroad’
ACL candidate to presidency Klaus Iohannis demanded on Saturday, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the increase of the number of voting sections abroad, pointing out that this measure could have been taken during round I as well, but the Government did not want to cooperate. ‘We are in the unexpected situation of finding out that the Government has lied to us. The Central Electoral Bureau has announced that the Government could have increased the number of voting sections abroad, but they were not disposed to.’ ‘Victor Ponta fears the votes of Romanians living abroad, because they know to make a difference between me and a candidate who has lied even as a Prime-Minister’, Iohannis declared. He pointed out that ‘it is a sad situation of a candidate taking advantage of the public position he presently has’ and requested MAE to increase the number of voting sections for the Romanians living abroad.
Corlatean: ‘We will increase the number of booths and stamps in each station’
Minister of Foreign Affairs Titus Corlatean on Friday stated that the law doesn’t allow the setting up of new polling stations abroad or extending the voting hours, yet he specified that the number of voting booths and the number of voting stamps can and they will be increased.
Corlatean announced that he had a ‘private talk’ at the MAE headquarters with the ambassadors, the general consuls and the chairmen of polling stations in several European countries – Germany, UK, Austria, France, the Republic of Moldova – and also with ambassadors and general consuls in Spain and Italy.
According to Agerpres, he specified that MAE is going to put in place a series of measures, some of which were decided by the Central Electoral Bureau (BEC) and the Electoral Bureau for the polling stations abroad (BES), among which the simplification of the procedure related to the filling in the statutory declaration that is mandatory for all those who vote by making use of the supplementary lists.
According to Corlatean, a decision was made to upload the statutory declaration form on the websites of the BEC and MAE, so that the voters will have the possibility to download it in time. Moreover, the Minister said that the aforementioned document will also be available at the polling stations, as before.
Corlatean added that the number of voting booths inside the polling stations and the number of voting stamps will increase. ‘The number of polling stations is for BES to decide, as it has always been, and not for MAE. However, what we can do, in terms of logistics, is to increase the number of booths and stamps in each station.’ He specified that the law doesn’t allow it to increase the number of polling stations through opening new ones. He explained that a whole process is required before opening new polling stations, starting with the approval that needs to be obtained from the authorities of the state where the polling station is accredited, continuing with logistical matters, practical and security measures.
The leadership of the Foreign Affairs Ministry (MAE) will go abroad in the week to come to check on the preparations for the presidential election runoff, Minister Titus Corlatean announced.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has assigned approximately 800 employees for the polling stations abroad, to assist the second round of the presidential election, according to a ministry’s release.
BEC: there are no legal impediments to the setting up of new voting centers
BEC’s answer however is different. According to a communiqué remitted on Friday, the setting up of voting centers abroad is the exclusive prerogative of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, BEC having no legal prerogatives in what concerns these activities. BEC representatives also pointed out that there are no legal impediments to the setting up of new voting centers and invoked Law 370/2014.
ACL First Vice President Catalin Predoiu stated on Sunday that ACL has taken note of BEC’s decision and observations, according to which the supplementation of voting centers abroad is allowed, but also of “MAE’s refusal based on Mr. Corlatean’s lie.” “This proves we were right to demand Mr. Corlatean’s resignation from the start and we reiterate this demand,” Predoiu added. He also pointed out that he salutes the demonstrations that took place in several cities on Saturday and emphasized that ACL had no involvement in these actions, thus answering candidate Victor Ponta’s and Liviu Dragnea’s accusations concerning ACL’s political involvement in the demonstrations.
Bogdan Mazuru: ‘It’s a measure that will have no effects in Paris’
According to Bogdan Mazuru, Romania’s ambassador to France, the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s decision to supplement the number of voting stamps and voting booths to a maximum level of seven will have no effects in Paris. ‘The decision is welcomed in what concerns other voting centers abroad, but it’s a measure that will have no effects in Paris. In Paris in the first round of elections, on November 2, we had the maximum number of stamps, the maximum number of booths and the maximum number of voting commission members,’ the ambassador stated in an interview for RFI. Asked what he expects in the runoff, Bogdan Mazuru stated that ‘the number of Romanian citizens that will want to take part in the November 16 runoff will be higher than that of those who took part in the first round.’ A reaction concerning the voting abroad also came from Paul Brummell, Great Britain’s ambassador to Bucharest. He did not comment on the way in which the elections were organized but he expressed his hope that on November 16 the queues will not be too long and all those willing to vote will be able to do so.
Traian Basescu called for the immediate dismissal of Foreign Affairs Minister
President Traian Basescu called for the immediate dismissal of Foreign Affairs Minister Titus Corlatean, whom he accuses of disinformation and of attempting to prevent Romanians abroad from voting. The head of state acknowledge the Central Electoral Bureau’s position stating that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had the possibility of opening more polling stations abroad to allow all the Romanian emigrants and foreign residents to exert their constitutional right to vote. Basescu claims that Corlatean misinformed when he asserted he could not increase the number of polling stations abroad.
The minister had issued a media statement on November 7, saying he ‘legally could not increase the number of polling stations abroad, although the BEC [Central Electoral Bureau] authorized it by its Decision No. 4H of November 4 2014, published in the Official Gazette,’ the release pointed out.
The president called to taking all necessary steps to allow all Romanians abroad voting.

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