Publication | Report/Paper

Romania in the Wake of Ceausescu: An Assessment of the Romanian Electoral System on Election Eve

Scope and Purpose of the survey

From March 31 to April 7, 1990, a three-person team sponsored by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) conducted a survey of the legal, institutional and political framework for the May 20 election in Romania. The project was funded by a grant from the united states Agency for International Development. The team was comprised of John Sur ina - Staff Director of the us Federal Election Commission, Merrill Wigginton - Chief Electoral Officer of Prince Edward Island, Canada, and Anca Hassing, a Romanian-American linguist with continuing ties to the academic community in Bucharest. Prior to arrival in Bucharest, the team studied pertinent official and press accounts of both the events that shaped the provisional government and the Decree Law on Elections under which the upcoming elections are to be held. While in Romania, the team conducted nine interviews with electoral officials, spokesmen for several major political parties, and members of social organizations with a vital interest in the process. Meetings were also held with the Canadian and us Ambassadors. A schedule of meetings and attendees is shown as Appendix B to this report; summaries of those meetings are provided as Appendix C.

The team set several objectives for its research. First, the team had to master the technical intricacies of the Decree Law and the role of the administrative organizations created to conduct the elections. The former proved no little challenge given the complex allocation methodology that drives the proportional representation scheme under the provisional law. The latter was interesting in that the embryonic Central and District level electoral bureaus were established only the week before the team arrived. The Central Electoral Bureau (CEB) was moving into its offices as the first post-revolution occupants of the old Headquarters of the Communist Party Central Committee on Monday, April 2. The team met with the seven Supreme Court justice members the following day. The Bureau members, both in Bucharest and in the one District visited, were themselves still studying the Decree Law and defining their own scope of responsibility.

The team also addressed the "tightness" of the law and the procedures contemplated by its administrators to guard against election fraud or manipulation. Beyond the objective assessment of the vulnerability of the process from a technical point of view, the team interviewed several political parties to ascertain their confidence in a fair election. The political parties, as the contenders in the election, have the greatest vested interest in the integrity of the process. In particular, the perception of the opposition parties as to how freely and fairly the election would be run would prove to be the acid test to the team members. Beyond our concern with the election law, the principal and peripheral players in the election were asked to comment upon the manner in which the election campaign is being conducted. The campaign, by law, commenced on March 20 and must conclude two days prior to the election.

Discussions with the Central Electoral Bureau went beyond interpretations of the law and contemplated procedures. On behalf of IFES, the team offered a willingness to consider lending material assistance to the CEB's task. An extensive "wish-list" of hardware was provided and it is outlined in Appendix I. The team was pleased with the receptivity of the CEB to extensive observer participation in the election-day and post-vote tabulation processes.

It is the final objective of the team that this report will serve to provide observers with a fundamental understanding of the election they will be witnessing. The experience of the survey team leads us to believe than an ill-prepared observer delegation would otherwise likely waste two or three days retracing the same ground as did we. An English translation of the law is included as Appendix A. The law is very specific and, therefore, can be relied upon to answer many questions regarding specific election-day procedures.

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