The Constitutional Court decided on Wednesday that the distance voting law adopted on 28 October was constitutional, declining ALDE and UDMR’s motions.
The constitutional judges addressed two motions on the distance voting law, one put forward by 30 senators and one by 50 deputies.
Following deliberations, the Constitutional Court declined the unconstitutionality claims raised in connection with the law on distance voting amending and completing Law 208/2015 on the election of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies, as well as the organisation and operation of the Standing Electoral Authority.
The decision is final and generally binding and is to be communicated to the two Chamber of Parliament. The arguments retained in the motivation of the decision will be presented in the body of the decision which will be published in the Official Journal of Romania.
The law was adopted on 28 October by the Chamber of Deputies, the decision-making legislative body in the matter. On 19 September, the Senate had also adopted the bill.
On 3 November, ALDE said its political group at the Senate, alongside the UDMR group, some UNPR and PSD senators and an independent senator had filed a contestation against the distance voting act with the Constitutional Court.
The Chamber of Deputies adopted the bill as it came from the Electoral Code Commission, with the note that this type of voting procedure would only apply to the parliamentary elections.
The draft law adopted by the Senate contained the provision that the distance voting applied to presidential and European parliamentary elections as well, but the PSD representatives proposed that it should be restricted to parliamentary elections. UDMR, on the other hand, wanted the type of vote to be only valid for the presidential election.
‘The presidential election has its own particular features and 2019 is far away, this is a pilot-project. We will see what happens until then. It is not that we do not want to do it, but we think it’s best to wait and see how it goes in the autumn of 2016 when the distance voting is to be used for the parliamentary election’, Commission Chair Gabriel Vlase (PSD) explained why the distance voting would not be applied to the presidential and European Parliament elections, but just for the parliamentary election.
The Electoral Code Commission has decided, at PSD’S suggestion, to also remove from the draft law the option to register online with the electoral register for distance voting, the PNL MP Mihai Voicu criticising the removal and pointing out that ‘online registration was the big concession, the core of the draft law’.
The members of the Electoral Code Commission also decided, still accommodating a PSD proposal, that the disclosure of the vote would be prohibited subject to criminal sanctions and that the exercise of the distance voting is personal and the exercise of the distance voting on behalf of another person shall also be banned subject to criminal sanctions.
ALDE says that the modification of the electoral legislation ‘violates principles stipulated by the Constitution of Romania’.
‘First of all, the direct nature of the vote. The Constitutional text imperative attributes a direct character to the vote, which means, in the intention of the constituent, the actual presence of the citizen at the polls for the exercise of the right to vote without an indirect procedure or an interposed person’, reads an ALDE press release.
ALDE also says ‘it has repeatedly warned about the fact that the distance voting formula was a bureaucratic and difficult one and, instead of smoothening the process of voting abroad, it will have the opposite effect’ and, in addition, ‘it poses major issues of possible fraud’.
‘These are arguments that add to the considerations of a Constitutional nature raised by this contestation’, ALDE notes.
‘ALDE has tabled amendments to renounce the distance voting and move to the direct vote, similarly to the system in Germany or France. Unfortunately, these amendments have not been considered, and that led to today’s initiative’, the release further notes/
UDMR leader Kelemen Hunor was also announcing at the time that the distance voting law would be challenged in the Constitutional Court. UDMR was unhappy that the form adopted by the Senate did not safeguard the secrecy of the vote under the Constitution.
PNL’s Gorghiu: Alternative voting method for Romanian diaspora as of 2016
Co-Chair of the National Liberal Party (PNL) Alina Gorghiu says that at the elections next year the Romanian diaspora will have an alternative voting method at hand after the Constitutional Court of Romania ruled that the postal voting law is consistent with the Constitution and also rejected the relevant challenges of several MPs.
“Green light for the postal voting law! The Constitutional Court’s decision is clear, the law passed by Parliament is constitutional and can be referred for promulgation. At the parliamentary elections next year the Romanian diaspora will have an alternative voting method at hand. This was a highly important project for PNL, which passed after a build-up of tension and pressure. The fact that the last obstacle has been removed is excellent news,” Gorghiu wrote on Facebook on Wednesday.
Permanent Electoral Authority welcomes enforcement of postal voting law in 2016 as democracy gain
The Permanent Electoral Authority (AEP) welcomes the decision of the Constitutional Court of Romania that ruled that the postal voting law is constitutional, and considers that the enforcement of this piece of legislation for the parliamentary elections of 2016 represents a real gain for democracy.
“This piece of legislation, as well as the new law on parliamentary elections, provides to our fellow citizens from outside the country the conditions and practical tools for exerting their right to vote. Observing this right is the cornerstone of democracy and represents the main goal of our activity,” AEP president Ana Maria Patru said in a release to Agerpres on Wednesday.
The AEP president considers that depending on the political decisions and the assessment of the impact of the implementation of the postal voting law for the 2016 parliamentary elections, this method needs to be expanded and gradually implemented for the enfranchised citizens in the country who cannot turn out to the polls for objective reasons.
The AEP reminds that the technical project on the postal vote was drafted by AEP experts and referred to the Houses’ joint Committee on drafting the legislative proposals on election laws, accompanied by a written presentation and a comparative study.
Klaus Iohannis: Postal voting law is passable
The postal voting bill is passable, says President Klaus Iohannis, pointing out that on Thursday afternoon when he returns from Bratislava he will promulgate it if the procedures are met.
“Today the Constitutional Court considered the challenges and found them groundless. The law is passable. It will return to me and, if the bureaucratic procedure is done quickly, tomorrow afternoon, when I get back to Bucharest, I will promulgate it,” said the head of state , who participated in a meeting with young Romanians working in Bratislava.