Elections 2016: Why Romanians living abroad did not register with Electoral Roll

The expiration of the deadline for Romanians living abroad to file their requests to register with the Electoral Roll shows that the law was not convincing enough.

The Standing Electoral Authority (AEP) announced early this week that a little over 9,000 registration requests filed by Romanians living abroad have been validated. Of those, 6,673 were requests for postal voting, while 2,443 were requests to cast ballots in polling centres.

Romanians can also cast their votes in polling centres opened at the headquarters of diplomatic missions, but also in supplementary polling centres opened in cities where at least 100 requests were filed by Romanians living there.

Daniel Tecu (photo), President of the Federation of Romanians’ Associations in Europe, stated for RomaniaTV.net that there are several explanations for the fact that Romanians living abroad did not register with the Electoral Registry.

“We have heard from many Romanians living abroad that the reason they do not register is that, apart from a copy of their Romanian IDs, the Romanian state is also asking for their documents of residence. They are afraid this information would end up in the hands of the Romanian Tax Authority and they would be targeted by financial investigations,” Daniel Tecu said.

Daniel Tecu also said that the electoral law is bad and seems to have been deliberately drafted in such a way that Romanians living abroad would be unable to vote.

“The public service announcement campaign that should have let Romanians living abroad know that they have to register with the Electoral Registry in order to vote by mail was weak and expensive. More than 70 percent of Romanians living abroad do not know that they have to do something in order to be able to vote,” the representative of Romanians living in Spain added.


Voting abroad in the parliamentary elections of 2008 and 2012


Four years ago, a little over 61,000 Romanians living abroad voted in the parliamentary elections, out of 441,769 Romanian voters registered as living abroad.

Out of the total number of valid ballots cast for the Senate (59,989), the Right Romania Alliance (PDL, PNTC and Civic Force) won the most, namely 24,088, followed by USL (PSD-PNL) with 17,309, and PPDD (13,707).

Out of the total number of valid ballots cast for the Lower Chamber (60,044), the Right Romania Alliance won the most (25,600), followed by USL (16,686) and PPDD (13,491). The Foreign Affairs Ministry opened 306 polling centres in 95 countries.

In the parliamentary elections of 2008, 20,500 Romanians living abroad cast their ballots in 221 polling centres opened abroad.


Romanians living abroad – higher voter turnout in presidential elections


In the presidential runoff in 2014, 377,551 Romanians living abroad cast their ballots, according to Central Electoral Bureau data. 147,000 Romanians living abroad cast their ballots in the presidential elections of 2009. The battle between Iohannis and Ponta doubled the voter turnout in 2014 compared to 2009.

Both in 2009 and in 2014, the massive turnout of Romanians living abroad was decisive in electing the winner – Traian Basescu and Klaus Iohannis respectively.

Leontin Cojocea, President of the Centre of Assistance and Services for Romanian Citizens in Italy (CASCRI), has mentioned several reasons why Romanians living abroad have not registered with the Electoral Registry:

  • The failure to simplify the legislative provisions adopted and their lack of clarity, the belated and partial amendments brought to them, amendments that disregarded the demands of representative Romanian organisations abroad and the requirements of Romanian citizens living abroad;
  • Failure to guarantee, through the methodology adopted, the universal, equal, direct, secret and freely-expressed character of the ballot, on the basis of the legislation currently in force and the subsequent amendments brought to it, in line with the provisions of law no.299/2015, Article 2, Paragraph 1;
  • The competent authorities’ failure to respect the Parliamentary representation norms for Romanians living abroad, stipulated by law no. 208/2015, Article 5, Paragraphs 2, 3, 4 and 5;

The representative of Romanians living in Italy is basically complaining of the fact that the representation norm within the Lower Chamber is one MP per 73,000 citizens, while in the Senate the norm is one MP per 168,000 citizens. The norms are allegedly not being applied for Romanians living abroad, who are currently represented by 4 Lower Chamber MPs and 2 Senators, while their number is at least equal to the population of Bucharest, which is represented by 13 Senators and 29 Lower Chamber MPs.

Leontin Cojocea also pointed to the authorities’ public service announcement campaign’s lack of efficiency.


Voter turnout expected to be double than of 2012


“If we assess the voter turnover criterion on the basis of official data on the turnover of Romanian voters abroad and the number of Romanian voters living abroad, we will notice that this turnover represented around 7.5 percent of potential voters in the presidential elections of 2014 and just 1.2 percent of potential voters in the parliamentary elections of 2012. However, let’s not forget that in the 2014 elections voter turnout was much higher, but very many citizens were unable to cast their ballots because of the competent authorities’ lack of organisation and lack of necessary conditions. All this data certainly and concretely reflects the fact that both the legislation currently in force, the methodology adopted and the number of voting centres opened abroad have been inefficient at each election organised so far, the Romanian state and competent authorities not guaranteeing the exercise of a fundamental right: the right to vote,” Leontin Cojocea stated for RomaniaTV.net.

Daniel Tecu noted that the number of voters casting ballots doubled from one election to the next, when it comes to the same type of elections.

“While in the 2012 elections we had 60,000 votes in the parliamentary elections, we estimate that this time we will have at least twice as many,” the representative of Romanians living in Spain said.


How many Romanians are there in Italy and Spain


“According to official Italian statistics, in 2014 the number of Romanian citizens registered as residents in Italy stood at 1,131,839. The data offered by competent authorities and the Romanian National Statistics Institute (INS) are completely different. Which points to a completely unclear overall situation in Romania, which is reflected also in the way this year’s electoral process is organised. Unofficial data however points to the presence of around 1.7 – 1.8 million Romanian citizens in Italy, taking into account the category of Romanian citizens who live in Romania and are only temporarily abroad, who are engaged in declared or undeclared lucrative activities without registering with the population registry offices of local Italian authorities, a phenomenon we are seeing increasingly in recent years both in Italy and in other European states. This last category’s reasons not to register are easy to understand,” Leontin Cojocea stated.

On the other hand, Tecu says that “in Spain, at this moment, there are around 800,000 Romanians officially registered and we consider that some 30 percent more are not registered.”

“Postal voting is a very good method; however, I believe it should be technically improved. Likewise, I said it countless times, Romanians living abroad also want e-voting, so something should be done in this regard at least for the future elections.

I appreciate the fact that the Government finally listened to FADERE’s overtures and issued a Government Ordinance that will allow [the opening up of] voting centres wherever they are needed abroad. I believe Romanians living abroad are still being discriminated since in order to establish the number of MPs that represent them an algorithm other than the one used in the country is being used. In Romania, we have one MP per 70,000 citizens, while abroad we have one MP per 1,400,000 Romanian citizens. Around 20 times less. I would have liked for Romanian President Klaus Iohannis to defend the rights of the Romanians living abroad too. I don’t understand why when he was elected the Romanians’ vote had a certain value, and now it is 20 times less important,” the representative of Romanians living in Spain concluded.

Leontin Cojocea considers that the legislative measures have created a state of despair among Romanian citizens living abroad, all of them feeling not only humiliated and insulted, as happened in the presidential elections of 2014, but also still neglected by Romanian politics.

“If this political activity is and will continue to remain solely one of “temporarily winning over” the Romanian voters abroad, in order to win their votes, with them being once again abandoned to their fate in the next 4 years, I consider it not only inefficient but also destructive among Romanian citizens living abroad. Because of this reason, Romanian citizens have increasingly lost their confidence in the current political class and the latest Romanian Governments.

I would like each Romanian citizen to be able to cast the ballot regardless where he is. His location should not be a condition for the exercise of the right to vote and of his will to actively take part in the electoral processes organised by the Romanian state.

No matter how numerous those who will want to vote or who will vote are, considering the legislative measures adopted and what is foreshadowed in terms of being organised from Bucharest, their number in relation to the total number of Romanian voters living abroad will be fairly low and at any rate inferior to the one registered in the presidential elections of 2014,” Cojocea emphasised.


Foreign Ministry’s campaign not as successful as expected


The Foreign Affairs Ministry (MAE) carried out a public service announcement campaign on the methods of voting abroad. The campaign was carried out at the Otopeni Airport and at Romanian border crossing points. Flyers and requests to register with the Electoral Registry were distributed.

“The MAE is intensely collaborating with the Border Police in order to distribute (…) this information on registering with the Electoral Registry. (…) 100,000 flyers and 100,000 requests to register with the Electoral Registry are being distributed. We distribute them here, at the ‘Henri Coanda’ Airport and also at the Romanian border crossing points,” MAE Spokesperson Ionut Valcu stated.

He pointed out that flyers and requests were also distributed by Romanian embassies and consulates.

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