Technical Election Assistance Project, Romania, March 1-9, 1992
In May 1990 IFES sent a team to observe the first multi-party elections in over forty years. The IFES team concurred with the judgment expressed by other international observer teams that this election was the first stage in Romania's transition to democracy.
Following the approval of a new constitution by referendum in December 1991, the local elections in February 1992 represented another stage in this transition. Observers noted the disappearance of the atmosphere of fear and violence that had characterized the May 1990 elections. The united opposition, the Democratic convention, succeeded in breaking the stranglehold of the National Salvation Front, which had won 66% of the vote in May 1990.
Despite the accelerating pace of Romania's transition to democracy a number of serious problems remain in the administration of multi- party elections. The IFES team, in analyzing the local electoral law and the draft electoral law for the forthcoming parliamentary elections in June 1992, made a number of recommendations for the improvement of the electoral administrative process.
The Central Electoral Bureau should become a permanent body to ensure professionalization of the administration of elections. Currently a new Central Electoral Commission is appointed for every election. Such a Central Electoral Bureau should be provided with adequate staffing and a permanent budgetary provision.
The Central Electoral Bureau should produce guidelines for the compilation of electoral lists. The responsibility for this currently rests with the Mayors who frequently resorted to obtaining lists from grocery stores where citizens register to obtain sugar. The Central Electoral Bureau should assume the responsibility of compiling and ultimately computerizing, these lists.
The lists should be compiled in alphabetical order of streets rather than names of the voters. This would facilitate the checking of the list for omissions. For the local elections, in many areas whole apartment blocks were left off the lists. These lists should be available prior to the election to political parties for canvassing purposes.
In order to assist with the standardization of election administration, the Central Electoral Bureau should produce a poll workers manual and administrative regulations supplementary to the Electoral Law should be adopted.
The current draft Electoral Law foresees the production of voter cards as the basis for identification of voters in future elections, rather than national identity cards. If this provision, considered by the IFES team to be an additional bureaucratic burden on an already overburdened election apparatus, is adopted, these cards should be produced and issued by the Central Electoral Bureau. The production of these cards should ultimately be fully computerized.
Ballot papers should be redesigned so that they are less cumbersome and easier for the voter to use (see examples in Appendix e). The team also recommends that the use of a stamp to mark the ballot paper be replaced by the use of a pen.
If the electoral administration is standardized according to the above recommendations, the problem of delays caused by too many voters being allocated to polling stations will be considerably alleviated. However the IFES team advocates that under the existing procedures no polling station should have more than 750 voters.
Finally IFES supports the addition of a provision for domestic, 'as well as international, observers to the draft parliamentary electoral law. These observers played a crucial role in reassuring, the voter of the secrecy and security of the vote in the May local elections. Given the prevalent and enduring mistrust of political parties in Romania, political party observers cannot currently fulfill this function.
Should the concept of domestic observers be added to the draft electoral law, the accreditation of these observers should be delegated to the level of the Judet (district) to avoid additionally overburdening the Central Electoral Bureau apparatus.
As the February local elections underlined, Romania is now moving at a steady pace towards democratization. IFES is proud to be making a contribution to this transition, both by sending a ten-day Technical Election Assessment team which produced the above recommendations and additionally by leaving one of the team members for three months in Romania to work with the Central Electoral Bureau and non-governmental organizations on questions of voter and poll worker training.