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May 11, 2021
POLITICS

Committee of inquiry into the 2009 presidential elections continues hearings. Blaga on meeting at Oprea’s house: They had no way of influencing elections, they couldn’t have had any involvement

Ex-Interior Minister Vasile Blaga stated on Tuesday, after the hearings of the committee of inquiry into the presidential elections of 2009, that he found out from the press about the meeting that Gabriel Oprea hosted on the evening of the runoff, but that he does not believe the persons present there could have influenced the result of the elections.

Vasile Blaga said he does not know whether such a meeting took place and who took part in it, having found out about it from the press. Asked if those present at Gabriel Oprea’s that evening could have influenced the result of the elections in any way, Blaga answered negatively: “Not at all. They couldn’t have.”

“Based on what I’ve read in the press, they allegedly met in the evening, right? The voting ended at 9 p.m. in the evening. The [vote tally] statements already started flowing at half past nine. There were only two candidates. It wasn’t the situation seen in the first round, when we worked until half past five in the morning. (…) It was very simple, from this standpoint,” he explained.

The ex-minister emphasised that “they couldn’t have had any involvement” in changing the result of the elections. Blaga explained his statement by pointing out that all the data matched, both the vote tally statement data and the data obtained from the parties’ representatives within voting stations, and no challenges were filed in this sense.

 

 Opris: I had a premonition: when someone needs to be suspected, we’ll be the top candidates. I decided that, no matter what STS does, we should leave traces

 

On Tuesday, Special Telecommunications Service (STS) Director Marcel Opris (photo) presented the committee of inquiry the anti-electoral fraud measures taken with the help of the Service, including providing all voting station presidents with mobile phones, thus allowing them to report incidents and election data. The mobile phones used the 112 emergency number’s infrastructure in order to have recordings and “traces” of STS’s actions, in the idea that the Service might be accused of carrying out various “activities” and will need evidence.

Opris told the members of the committee that more than 22,000 mobile phones were handed over to the presidents of voting stations, mobile phones that were used to transmit two types of data: voter turnout data via text message and any kind of incident via phone call. Also assured was communication between voting stations, in order to remove from permanent voter lists the persons who cast ballots in special voting stations, thus preventing multiple voting.

In what concerns reporting via phone calls, the STS Director explained that the 112 emergency phone number infrastructure was selected, considering it was the only system that “allowed legal recordings usable in court.”

“We preferred to boost the 112’s capacity, to receive them in 112, precisely in the idea of having evidence that what was being done was being done in good faith; (…) 112 was especially organised to receive alerts from the presidents of voting stations and, for this, the mobile phones of all voting station presidents were specially marked within 112, and when they used the phones to notify an incident they were automatically recognised,” he said.

The presidents of voting stations were called via 112 too, when needed. “We also had several stations in which we had to bring satellite communication devices, precisely in the idea that a person who voted on a permanent list should no longer be able to vote on a special list. (…) [The identity of] a person who voted in a special station would be communicated to the permanent station the person was allotted to, to be erased from the permanent list,” Opris said.

The STS Director explained that the calls did not go to the 112 dispatch but to a special call-centre that used the infrastructure of the emergency phone number.

Marcel Opris explained that these measures were demanded of the Service, with him deciding that their implementation would be made in a manner that would ensure the existence of some “traces” of STS’s activity.

“The moment we were asked, we said yes, we’ll do it, but on one condition: that there should be a trace somewhere. We always tried to keep traces of the institution’s activity, because I had a premonition. I knew that when someone will have to be suspected of activities we’ll be the top candidates, so then, if we accepted doing something we were asked to do I always preferred to do it so that we would keep the evidence,” he explained.

“Any kind of document or note regarding STS’s involvement in the elections exists and will remain there at least as long as I’m in office, regardless of their character, whether they are public, classified or highly classified,” Marcel Opris added.

The STS Director also explained the system used to transmit the voter turnout data, which worked via a service that the National Statistics Institute (INS) had required. The data was transmitted via text messages sent with the mobile phones that the STS had handed over to the presidents of voting stations.

“For text message transmissions, those that really contained let’s say confidential data or data that must be protected had a system of protection by certification. All terminals that were connected to this system received a message warning them that they must report based on a standard format, and all presidents of voting stations responded to that message, filling-in the figure they had tallied up to that point,” Opris explained.

He pointed out that, in order to avoid data corruption, text messages were accepted only from the phone numbers registered with the system, within a period of 15 minutes from the moment the INS requested the data.

“I remember well that back then the INS came up with several elements meant to eliminate mistakes or errors. There was an algorithm that allowed for automatic assessment, based on the reports on the number of participants, and which automatically triggered a mechanism of discussion with the president of the voting station. For instance, if 2,000 people were to cast ballots in a voting station over a period of two hours, an alert would have been automatically triggered, the County Electoral Bureau’s and the INS’s representatives automatically getting in touch with the voting station president, asking what happened, whether the figure is correct,” Opris added.

 

 

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