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January 23, 2021
POLITICS

Parliamentary elections 2016: Election campaign starts under sign of many novelties

*The party list voting system is reinstated; more polling stations opened abroad; vote counting process to take place under video surveillance

 

The campaign for the December 11th parliamentary elections, which mark the reinstatement of the party list voting system, started on Friday. Political parties and independent candidates will have 29 days to convince voters to choose them. Their campaign budgets are limited to 60 gross minimum salaries.

The elections campaign started on Friday morning. 6,506 candidates will try to win seats in Parliament.

For 29 days, political parties and independent candidates must convince voters disappointed with the political class that they deserve to represent them in the new Parliament. The latter will have around 466 seats, in contrast to 588 seats following the 2012 elections, back when the uninominal voting system was used.

A Lower Chamber MP will represent 73,000 citizens, while a Senator will represent 168,000 citizens.

Candidates must adapt to the new manner of electioneering. Offering electoral handouts in the form of money, goods or any other benefits to persuade voters to cast ballots for or against certain party lists or candidates is punishable by 6 months to 3 years in prison and the suspension of certain rights, in line with the legislation in force.

Organising shows, festivities and fireworks is no longer allowed.

The law no longer allows candidates to distribute pens, mugs, watches, t-shirts, jackets, vests, caps, plastic bags, buckets, cigarette lighters, food, items politicians relied on for many years when electioneering.

Candidates will no longer be able to use vehicles with campaign stickers or vehicles with loudspeakers.

Likewise, banners, meshes, mobile ad panels, ad flags, publicity screens, ad indicators, self-propelled ad structures, publicity means, ad panels, special ad projects, lighted ads, outdoor ads as well as vehicle-borne ads are no longer allowed.

Just like the local elections this past summer, the parliamentary elections must take into account the new legal provisions concerning the financing of political parties and campaign contributions.

Thus, candidates will have at their disposal a maximum budget of 60 gross minimum salaries.

Expenditures cannot be higher than the campaign contributions registered, the Standing Electoral Authority (AEP) points out in the guide it has placed at the candidates’ disposal.

“Expenditures on electoral propaganda items are covered exclusively by the electoral competitors! For instance, if the cap for a candidate’s expenditures is 60 gross minimum salaries, however the candidate registered campaign contributions worth 20 gross minimum salaries, the maximum value of electoral expenditures will be 20 gross minimum salaries,” the source informs.

In contrast to previous years, the size of the electoral posters will be smaller.

“They have to measure 500mm by 350mm at most. The electoral posters convening a campaign rally have to measure 400mm by 250mm at most and will be posted only in special locations established through a mayor’s order,” the current legislation reads.

Electoral posters that combine colours and other graphic elements that evoke Romania’s national symbols are forbidden, according to the source.

 

Main novelties in the electoral process

 

The postal voting system, video and computerized monitoring in polling stations, the opening of more polling stations in the diaspora – these are the main novelties of the election process in 2016, compared to the legislative elections of 2012.

This year’s parliamentary elections will be carried out on December 11, while the previous parliamentary elections took place on 9 December 2012.

Four years ago, 18,248,414 citizens were enrolled on electoral rolls.

Currently, the numbers of voters enrolled in the Electoral Register, including citizens who will turn 18 years by election day, namely December 11, is 18,906,721, according to the data provided by the Standing Electoral Authority (AEP).

The total number of Romanian voters with the domicile or residence in Romania, valid on November 8, is 18,297,431, and there are 8,889 postal voting requests filed by Romanian citizens living abroad.

The elections held four years ago saw 306 polling stations opened abroad and 18,456 in the country.

This year, the Foreign Affairs Ministry (MAE) proposed the opening of 417 polling stations abroad, in over 90 countries, higher by 111 compared to the parliamentary elections of 2012 and higher by 123 compared to the presidential elections of 2014.

A first in the electoral process held on December 11 is that Romanians in the diaspora can vote by mail. The postal voting law was adopted by Parliament in October 2015.

Romanian citizens living abroad could register with the Electoral Register by September 14 and had the possibility to choose postal voting or to request that a polling station be established in their locality.

Another novelty is that the current parliamentary elections will be using video cameras in the polling stations and the information system for monitoring the voter turnout will be further used, a system which was implemented for the local elections held in June and which guarantees that multiple voting will be avoided. In this manner, voters will no longer have to sign a statutory declaration that they did not vote in other polling stations.

This system will be introduced in the December 11th legislative elections also in the polling stations abroad.

In 2012, voters could cast ballots only in the polling station to which their domicile was assigned, based on their identification documents. Romanian citizens having their domicile or residence abroad could vote in the polling stations opened in the respective country.

Four years ago, the uninominal voting system was used, MPs being elected in 452 constituencies, from which 315 for the Lower Chamber and 137 for the Senate. The current election system reverts to the party lists system.

The election campaign will take place from November 11 to December 10. The permanent electoral rolls will be written at least three days before the election date, on December 8 respectively. For organizing the elections, the amount of 227,7 million lei was approved, and the necessary funds are stipulated in the budgets of the Interior Ministry (MAI), the Foreign Affairs Ministry (MAE), the Standing Electoral Authority (AEP), the Special Telecommunications Service (STS) and the National Institute of Statistics (INS), ordered by categories of expenses.

The parties that filed lists of supporters with the Central Electoral Office (BEC) are: National Liberal Party, Democratic Union of Magyars in Romania, Social Democratic Party, Popular Movement Party, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats Party, United Romania Party, Our Alliance Romania, Save Romania Union Party, Romanian Socialist Party, Greater Romania Party, Romanian Green Party.

 

Video monitoring and information system for turnout in diaspora

 

In the parliamentary election that will take place on December 11, video cameras in the polling stations, as well as the information system for monitoring voter turnout will be used, a system that was implemented in the local ballot held in June.

The Government has decided that the existing application must feature a video camera which will be used to record the vote counting process, and the paperwork is to be filled in without interrupting the video recording, General Director of the Special Telecommunications Service Marcel Opris explained.

On parliamentary election day, the voting itself, from the moment the ballot boxes are opened to the moment they are closed, will not be video monitored. Video monitoring will be provided only when the ballot papers are counted, Interior Minister Dragos Tudorache underlined.

This year’s local elections, held in June, used for the first time an information system for monitoring voter turnout and preventing instances of multiple voting. This system was implemented by the Standing Electoral Authority (AEP), together with the Special Telecommunications Service (STS). This way, voters will no longer be forced to sign the statutory declaration that they did not vote in another polling stations.

This system will be used in the December 11th parliamentary elections and in polling stations abroad, as Director of the Directorate for organizing the electoral process abroad within the AEP Iulian Ivan mentioned.

“In the local elections it has been introduced for the first time an information system that monitors the turnout and prevents multiple voting, a project that was a success. Together with the STS and the AEP we have implemented this system, so that in every polling station there was an information terminal, a tablet through which every voter who turned out was identified in the system, thus not being able to go and vote somewhere else. The system will be extended in the same way in polling stations abroad,” the AEP representative explained.

Any Romanian in the diaspora can request to become an operator for a polling station, which is to be created in the locality where one has the residence or domicile, and will be paid for the activity performed.

The Government decided in October that recording the vote counting process in polling stations opened in the country and abroad will be mandatory in the parliamentary elections.

The tablets, which all polling stations are equipped with, will be used to video record how the vote counting process is carried out. The recordings will be made by tablet operators, but they cannot be used as evidence in court.

Government members and politicians compete in making grandiose promises

With the start of the elections campaign, political parties have entered the last stretch in the feverish race of making promises supposed to convince Romanians to cast their ballots. Thus, PSD, PNL, ALDE, USR and PMP have competed in coming up with the most tempting platforms or offers for voters.

 

PSD PROPOSALS

  • VAT lowered to 18 percent
  • Social contributions lowered to 35 percent
  • 0 percent tax on pensions and salaries lower than RON 2,000
  • 10 percent tax on pensions and salaries higher than RON 2,000
  • Minimum salary of RON 1,400 starting in 2017

 

PNL PROPOSALS

  • VAT lowered to 16 percent
  • Social contributions lowered to 16 percent
  • Tax on pensions eliminated
  • Lowering by 50 percent the number of taxes and fees

PNL promises to eliminate the tax on all pensions, not just on those lower than RON 2,000 as proposed by PSD in its governance platform, against the backdrop in which it criticised this idea in the Senate.

At the same time, according to their economic platform, Liberals promise to eliminate the tax on all pensions in Romania, “not just on pensions lower than RON 2,000.”

 

ALDE PROPOSALS

  • 500,000 new jobs
  • “First Business” – no tax and no social contributions for 3 years
  • Net average salary – RON 3,000 starting in 2020
  • EUR 50,000 for those who return to Romania and open a business

 

USR PROPOSALS

  • The modern reindustrialisation of Romania
  • Romania – industrial, logistical and transport hub
  • Professional retraining programmes

 

PMP PROPOSALS

  • Lowering the fiscal burden
  • Lowering the state’s involvement in the economy
  • Stimulating SMEs

Even before the official start of the elections campaign, the Government made grandiose promises: zero down payment in “First House” programme and higher funds for the programme next year. These are just some of the facilities the Government wants to adopt in the following period.

Postal voting already starts in the Diaspora

Voting has already started in the Diaspora, Agerpres informs, since the Romanian citizens living abroad who registered with the Electoral Registry have received their ballots from the Romanian Post and can thus vote in the parliamentary elections. The envelopes with the ballots will be tallied at the Constituency Office no.43 for Romanian citizens living abroad.

The Romanian Post has announced that most ballots are mailed to Romanian voters in Spain (2,794), Italy (1,228), the Republic of Moldova (880), Germany (618), United Kingdom (594), France (561), Switzerland (237), Austria (250), United States (226), Denmark (169), Canada (162) and Australia (115).

Romanians living abroad who chose the postal voting option have received by mail the following documents required: a prepaid exterior envelope, an inner envelope, a sticker reading “voted,” the voter’s certificate, the postal voting ballot and instructions on how to vote. The Romanian Post had to mail the documents to voters 30 days before election day at the latest.

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