In Romania, voting – as democracy’s fundamental sign and right – was and continues to be a hard test and an Achille’s heel.
At each round of elections, we witnessed the same “dilemma.” That of the advisability of voting or not voting. And debates and arguments between those who do not vote and those who are trying to convince them of the erroneous character of their decision.
There would be a lot to say in an analysis on the traits and the act of voting in Romania. However, particularly of interest at this moment are the dynamic and characteristics of the vote and of voters, which define the way things enfolded this time.
The distinct mark of this moment was represented by the ever-growing number of people who stated they will not exercise their right to vote in this round of elections either.
And the justification for not doing so was not only that most of them claimed they have no one or no longer have someone to vote for. Instead, it mostly represented an increasingly more visible effect – with clear trends of becoming chronic – of oversaturation, of boredom, mistrust and even fear of a political class such as the current Romanian political class.
Thus, the conclusion was and still is that, regardless whom each of us votes for, the choice would subsequently be not only pointless but especially disappointing. As every time.
The “choose the lesser evil” term, which basically maintained the negative rating of non-voting in past years, has been eliminated. Being replaced this time with a new definition of popular disappointment – I have no reason to vote and no one to vote for. In my opinion, an essential level of civic-political coming of age has been attained in this way, in a dramatic manner that included an important sacrifice. In fact long expected in the meantime, but which unfortunately does not do anything to improve the current situation. I would dare say on the contrary.
Whom or what do Romanians vote for?
What are the voter typologies that have taken shape in almost three decades and that have stood out in these elections? And how did they express themselves now?
What I must point out from the start and I consider extremely important to emphasise in this analysis remains the fact that, in our country, a continuous and stable voter typology and pattern are yet to be determined.
And that is because both the civic-political and voting tradition, but also the configuration of the current political class and of the political parties it consists of at this moment, regardless of the part of the spectrum they position themselves on, do not make them possible.
Nevertheless, so far, depending on the way each Romanian citizen related in terms of level of meaning and understanding of the mechanism of voting and of its results as sum and part of the political phenomenon, one can identify the following typologies:
The first typology and the one that became this year, contrary to appearances, the most unstable and least representative against the backdrop of the massive devitalisation of parties, is what I would call the matrix voters. This typology includes and represents those who have voted continuously for the same political party or group ever since they gained the right to vote. They completely identify themselves with what they understand to be an ideology, doctrine or left-wing or right-wing political leader (most often!).
They are the ones who have voted, this time around too, for PSD or PNL or for Traian Basescu. However, contrary to expectations, this ossified and completely predictable electoral pool did not manage and will never manage to be sufficient for “parent” political parties to create a parliamentary majority and to govern with the support of this part.
The second typology is that of the Pavlovian voter – I don’t know whom I’ll vote for but I definitely know I have to do it.
These are the ones for whom voting is not just a conditioned reflex but mostly an act of absolute, almost ritualistic solemnity.
Voting becomes for them the supreme gift and grace of democracy. Which, in the unanimous opinion of this segment of voters, is conferred and legitimised by the politicians they are voting for.
This segment of voters is the one that also exhibits online and media hyperactivity as receptors. The extremely long time they dedicate to political (strictly political) “analyses and debates” defines this segment. True camps of pseudo-political and pseudo-social crusaders. The ones who consider themselves opinion makers and makers of social trends nobody should or could overlook. Connoisseurs, down to the detail, of backstage and high-level politics, outright conspiratorial through the screen of the television set or of the personal computer.
This category was prior to these elections, is and I believe will continue to be, unfortunately, the widest electoral segment on which political parties always staked by manipulatively inoculating the idea that their opinion matters, that their virtual vote makes a difference and that defending the security of the vote is their responsibility.
Campaign levers extremely valuable for political party machineries took root and were born in this category, such as: queues outside polling stations in the country but especially abroad, the imminence of electoral fraud and the idea that election boycott is an indirect vote cast for the wrong party and, consequently, proof of irresponsibility and even of national and social betrayal.
The same model of mirrored psychology has been staked on in these elections too. The call to go out and vote, so that a dominant political party which is considered to be negative would not win, has in fact represented the act of hypnotism and illusionism carried out by political parties for voters. And here I’m talking about the fact that, just before the end of the elections campaign, all political parties launched more or less desperate calls for voters to go out and vote. And whose turn was it this time to be the negative image representative of imminent danger? An anti-democratic PSD’s.
This category is the most volatile of all. As I was saying, it honours voter turnout, however no political party can rely on it categorically, from the standpoint of the result, being the category that, despite showing up to vote, has lately used its vote against anyone. Namely spoiled ballots.
The third voter typology I have identified is the one for which voting is a selective act. An act whose value as exceptional and superior endorsement for this or that political party becomes a symbol in itself – the political mystics.
Because this extremely exclusivist and sublimed category of voters usually follows a politician who has a messianic character. A character whose name has been, over the years, Emil Constantinescu, Traian Basescu, Crin Antonescu, Klaus Iohannis and, more recently, Dacian Ciolos.
They are the main segment, in fact numerically significant and on the rise, for which politicians and their strategists are coming up with all kinds of appearances, trends and images that would press that button of overnight glory reached by a person who appeared from nowhere and which would lead to a historic electoral result.
And, finally, there is also a fourth typology, I don’t know if the last one, those who are not voting, the politically depressed passive voters.
They never voted or if they did it was purely by chance or most often a sad and pathetic bet with persons close to them, usually members of the other categories of voters. A challenge for or a backsliding out of the political depression area. And this happened only once or twice in their entire lives as voters. Invariably, the result was disastrous. An even bigger disappointment than before, which (probably) removed forever the chance that these voters would ever again show up at a polling station.
Likewise, this category also includes those who are convinced that voting is just a virtual act, completely meaningless as an effect, as well as those who are completely indifferent or aware that the solution is not to vote for someone who, although they fail to meet your expectations, must be voted at the expense of someone else who seems to cause more damage – the political cynics. After all, they are the closest to reality, I would say, in their sad philosophy.
Consequently, a single notable thing results from observing these four categories which I have personally identified but which could be more or less open to interchange and combination.
Sunday’s vote has reached a social and political high point, a threshold of anarchy. A place from which, from now on, the political class will have to refresh itself or to resort to an upload. The same goes for the country’s electoral structure.
Because, four years from now, when the next local and parliamentary elections will be held, things will definitely no longer be the same.
I believe the political cycle which started 27 years ago has reached the upper threshold and has ended with these elections.