Romania: Technical Assistance to the Central Election Bureau

Publication Date: 
31 Oct 1996

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Executive Summary

The Romanian national elections which occurred November 3 were conducted in a markedly improved atmosphere. Most observers characterized the elections as transparent and relatively fair, although many irregularities were reported. The administrative confusion noted in the past persisted but to a lesser extent. There were numerous reports of fraudulent activities but thus far no evidence of a widespread or systematic campaign of fraud has been detected.

For approximately one month, the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) provided technical assistance to the Romanian Central Election Bureau (CEB) through IFES consultant Daniel Finn who worked together with IFES local staff. The presence of Finn helped ease tensions in the CEB, a temporary body composed of seven judges and 16 party representatives, and helped it surmount several particularly difficult problems.

The main contribution made by the IFES team was in developing a sophisticated computer lottery system to accredit domestic observers whose names had been put forward by various nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The principal Romanian NGOs had invested a considerable amount of time and effort to recruit thousands of potential observers and distribute them widely throughout the country.

The lottery became necessary when several bogus NGOs appeared in the weeks prior to the election and sought accreditation for thousands of observers. Under the 1992 Romanian law which governed these elections, only one domestic observer may be accredited to each polling station. In the event of multiple applicants, the assignment is made by lots.

At the request of the CEB President Ionescu, IFES developed a multi-stage lottery system that provided for an initial, random selection of observers from the names submitted by the various NGOs; a reassignment process by which unsuccessful nominees were awarded secondary assignments; and a third round in which surplus observers, if any, could be accredited as alternates.

The IFES proposal was accepted by the CEB and IFES was required to provide further support, including computer equipment .and programming services, in order to conduct the lottery. In a highly public proceeding, over 13,000 domestic observers were assigned to a total of over 15,000 polling stations nationwide.

The presence of such a large amount of domestic observers, as well as the greater openness of the recent elections in other respects (i.e. debates in the CEB and press reporting) played an important role in minimizing the potential for fraud and enhancing public confidence in the electoral process.

The success of the IFES technical assistance program to the CEB illustrates the importance of external assistance in the ongoing democratic transition of Romania.

With the elections recently concluded, IFES believes there is an important opportunity to advance electoral administration through supporting the creation of a permanent electoral body.

Since the elections have resulted in a considerable change of power, the present is also an appropriate time to consider support for democratic institution-building in other areas, including parliament, civil society and the judiciary.

The IFES consultant particularly wishes to express his sincere appreciation to Judge Costica Ionescu, President of the CEB, and other members of the CEB and its staff, for the extremely cordial treatment that was extended to him personally and the high level of professional confidence that was placed in his work. The consultant believes as a result of his contact with the CEB that the President and members did an outstanding job of attempting to create the conditions for transparent elections despite formidable legal, political and administrative obstacles.

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