A referendum aimed at putting same-sex marriage further out of reach in Romania was invalidated Sunday after a quick tally showed too few voters cast ballots, election officials said. The weekend vote on a constitutional amendment that would have changed the definition of family to make marriage a union between a man and a woman instead of between “spouses” required voter turnout of at least 30 percent for the result to stand. Election officials said after polls closed that only 20.41 of eligible voters participated. The turnout threshold never was close to being reached all day, a trend that gay rights group Accept said showed citizens “want a Romania based upon democratic values.” “We have shown that we cannot be fooled by a political agenda that urges us to hate and polarize society,” the group said in a statement before the turnout number was final.
Romanians will be asked this weekend whether they want to redefine marriage as only being between a man and a woman rather than “two spouses”, in a referendum that LGBT activists say is fuelling homophobia. The result will have little practical effect, given that same-sex marriage is not legal in Romania, and critics of the referendum, which was brought by a conservative NGO called Coalition for the Family, say it has been seized upon by politicians as a distraction tactic. “The idea is to distract public attention from corruption allegations, and they are doing it at the expense of the LGBT community,” said Teodora Ion-Rotaru of Accept, a rights organisation. She said there had been an increase in hate speech over the past two weeks, worsening an already difficult situation for the LGBT people in a very conservative country.
Romania’s left-leaning Social Democrats have easily won parliamentary elections a year after a major anti-corruption drive forced the last socialist prime minister from power. Election authorities said on Monday that with 99% of the votes from Sunday’s balloting counted, the Social Democratic party had about 46% and the center-right Liberals were second with over 20%. The chairman of the Social Democrats, Liviu Dragnea, spoke on Sunday after exit polls were published showing similar results, saying: “There should be no doubt who won the elections. Romanians want to feel at home in their own country and I want Romania to be a good home for all Romanians.”
Hundreds of customers rush out of high end stores in one of Romania’s biggest shopping centres, clutching Christmas gift bags and pushing trolleys through the busy car park. If any are troubled by the murky history of this once quiet farming community, 7km north of Bucharest city centre, they do not show it. Just across the street from the gleaming Baneasa shopping complex is a Communist-era collective farm now at the centre of a bribery probe linking minor royalty with senior politicians poised for success in Sunday’s general election. The Baneasa farm case is one of thousands that Romania’s powerful anti-corruption agency has opened this year, in what has become the largest ever anti-graft clampdown in eastern Europe. According to prosecutors from the DNA, the national anti-corruption agency, officials were bribed to sign the valuable land over to Prince Paul-Philippe, who claims ancestral ownership, as part of illegal land restitutions she estimates cost the state €145m. The prince has denied any wrongdoing.
Romania’s government said on Wednesday it decided to move forward to December 11 the date for regular parliamentary elections, fearing low turnout. The elections were initially to be held either on November 27 or December 4, a few days before or after the country’s national day, December 1, prompting concerns that many Romanians would be away on vacation. The government has allocated a total of 227.7 million lei ($57 million/51 million euro) to the organisation of the elections, it said in a statement. The pre-election campaign will run from November 11 to December 10.
Dozens of candidates standing for office in Romania’s local elections on Sunday are either already subject to graft investigations or have not been sufficiently screened for any past abuses of power, anti-corruption groups say. Data compiled by Reuters showed around a third of the some 350 local officials under investigation or sent to trial since 2012 are running — with many confident of securing office. Sunday’s voting stakes are high, with local administrations having an overall budget of 67 billion lei (11.5 billion pounds) this year — roughly a third of the country’s consolidated budget revenue — and access to European Union development funds.
Romania’s foreign minister resigned Tuesday, after barely a week in office, after thousands of citizens overseas were unable to vote in this weekend’s presidential elections. Teodor Melescanu stepped down following the weekend’s runoff vote. His predecessor resigned last week after similar problems with the first-round vote. Images have poured in of Romanians standing in snaking lines to vote all over Europe. Anger at the problems contributed to the surprise victory of Klaus Iohannis over Prime Minister Victor Ponta. Reacting to public anger, Parliament’s lower chamber on Tuesday scrapped a controversial draft amnesty law that would have freed politicians and other officials serving prison sentences for corruption.
A center-right mayor scored an upset victory Sunday in Romania’s presidential runoff after the prime minister’s early lead evaporated in the wake of public anger over a marred first round of voting. Prime Minister Victor Ponta, a Social Democrat, conceded defeat to Klaus Iohannis, a former physics teacher turned politician who campaigned on strengthening the justice system and reducing the role of the state in the economy, which grew dramatically under Mr. Ponta. State debt has risen to about 40% of gross domestic product from 19% in 2009. During that time, economic growth has averaged about 1% annually.
Romania’s presidential runoff sees Prime Minister Victor Ponta facing off against Klaus Iohannis, the ethnic German mayor of the Transylvanian city of Sibiu. Ponta, a former prosecutor, led Iohannis by 10 points in the first-round voting on Nov. 2, and polls indicate Ponta is likely to win, despite corruption probes and convictions of some of Ponta’s senior aides. Here is a brief rundown of the people and issues involved in Sunday’s vote. “Pugnacious” Ponta, 42, became Europe’s youngest prime minister in May 2012 just before he turned 40. An amateur rally driver, Ponta married Daciana Sarbu in 2007. She’s a European Parliament lawmaker and the daughter of a bigwig in the powerful Social Democratic Party. Ponta’s career has mostly been plain sailing since then, even though he’s been accused of plagiarizing his doctoral thesis and of being an undercover spy by outgoing President Traian Basescu — allegations he denies. Since taking office Ponta has overseen economic growth and political stability. He says Romania will remain a U.S. ally and rejects claims he’ll cozy up to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Critics say that as president Ponta could grant an amnesty to political allies imprisoned for corruption, and that his party would have far too much power.
For Luciana Bizgan, Romania’s presidential race could mean she’ll never again turn up for work wearing rubber boots. Across the nation of 20 million, the second-most populous of the European Union’s newer members, Romanians are witnessing Prime Minister Victor Ponta’s bid for president triggering a spending glut on streets, schools and churches. Bizgan, 36, a seamstress, wants her dirt road in the southern town of Turnu Magurele asphalted so rain doesn’t dictate her footwear. “I just hope this time it’s my street’s turn,” she said. The EU’s second-poorest member, whose post-communist transformation has pushed bond yields to record lows, is loosening the purse strings a year after exiting monitoring by the bloc for fiscal slackness. Next year’s budget shortfall may balloon to double the government target, leaving a headache for Ponta’s successor, should the prime minister turn his poll lead into victory in a Nov. 16 runoff.
Romanian Foreign Minister Titus Corlatean resigned on Monday after thousands of people rallied at the weekend in support of compatriots abroad who were turned away as they tried to vote in the first round of a presidential election. Corlatean had been told by leftist Prime Minister Victor Ponta to ensure the Nov. 16 runoff vote ran smoothly or risk losing his job after Romanians living abroad complained of long queues at embassy polling stations and shortages of a form that had to be signed before a ballot could be cast in the Nov. 2 vote. Ponta won the first round of the election by a 10 percentage point margin over Klaus Iohannis, an ethnic German mayor backed by two center-right opposition parties. Ponta is likely to win the runoff vote, opinion polls showed. On Saturday, as thousands of people rallied in cities across Romania, Corlatean said there would be no increase in the number of polling stations abroad. Some protesters called on Ponta to resign, saying he had failed to ensure all citizens could exercise their right to vote.
Romania’s foreign minister Titus Corlatean said on November 10 that he submitted his resignation after renewed protests in Romania and abroad demanding his resignation and the opening of more voting stations outside the country for the presidential election run-off on November 16. The first round of the election on November 2 was marred by accusations that the foreign ministry failed to ensure a smooth voting process and that voting stations outside Romania did not have enough booths, staff and voting stamps. Several hundred people gathered for a protest outside the ministry’s building on the evening of November 2, while reports claimed that at some voting stations abroad, scuffles broke out between staff and people waiting to cast a ballot at closing time. New protests against the ministry’s decision not to open new polling stations were held on November 9. Some reports in Romanian media even accused the ministry of sabotaging the process by closing stations in areas with large immigrant communities while offering voting locations elsewhere in order to keep the number of voting stations unchanged, at 294, from the 2009 elections.
As the first round of the Romanian presidential election has passed, many legal irregularities and troublesome voting procedures cast uncertainty over the second round. Euractiv.ro reports. The two candidates that have moved on into the second round of the Romanian presidential election are Victor Ponta (PSD) and Klaus Iohannis (ACL). The latest partial results presented by the Central Electoral Office show Ponta with 40.33% of the number of valid votes and Iohannis with 30.44%. Although Ponta is leading by 10%, nothing is certain for the second round. An important element that stands to influence the second round is represented by the actions of the former candidates. Combined, all the other 12 candidates have gained almost 30% of the votes, half of which were cast for the first three, including Călin Popescu Tăriceanu (independent, a former liberal Prime Minister), Elena Udrea (PMP, a former Liberal Democrat Minister of Development) and Monica Macovei (independent, currently a member of the European Parliament).
Romania’s presidential election is set to enter a run-off after exit polls suggested no candidate had won an overall majority. Initial polling data indicated that current PM Victor Ponta has topped the poll with 38-40% of the vote. His main challenger, Klaus Iohannis, is said to be trailing him on about 32%. Romanians are voting to decide who will replace President Traian Basescu, who is stepping down after serving his two-term limit. The election in the ex-communist nation has occasionally been marred by bitter recriminations. Mr Ponta, a social democrat, often feuded with centre-right President Basescu, who he served under for two years while premier.
Romanians will head to polling stations on November 2 to elect a new president, with incumbent Traian Basescu stepping down after serving the maximum two terms allowed by law. The field to replace Basescu features 14 candidates, but only two are seen as realistic challengers – prime minister Victor Ponta, leader of the Social-Democrat party, and the mayor of Sibiu Klaus Iohannis, leader of the National-Liberal party. Ponta is seen as the favourite, with various opinion polls giving him between 38 per cent and 43 per cent support, while Iohannis ranked second with support between 30 per cent and 33 per cent. All other candidates were polling in the single-digit range. In the likely scenario that no candidate wins the presidency in the first round of voting, a run-off would be held on November 16. A win by Ponta would consolidate the Social-Democrats’ hold on government and bring a degree of stability after a decade marked by repeated conflicts between the presidency and parliament during Basescu’s two terms in office.
Romanians are likely to move Prime Minister Victor Ponta into the presidency in elections that start on Sunday, offering one of Europe’s poorest countries political stability but raising concerns about judicial independence. Backed by a well-oiled party machine, Ponta has led opinion polls in the run-up to the Nov. 2/16 vote, trumpeting a record of easing the painful spending cuts and tax hikes Romanians endured in a 2009-10 recession. A Ponta win would consolidate his leftist Social Democrats’ hold on power. His combative rival, incumbent President Traian Basescu, steps down after two terms, which should end constant feuds over policy.
After the controversial and pressure-filled referendum to oust President Traian Basescu in July 2012, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the OSCE carried out a “Needs Assessment Mission Report” and issued its findings on the upcoming “Romanian Parliamentary Elections 9 December 2012” in Warsaw on 18 October. The OSCE concluded from its research that “While the mission would visit a limited number of polling stations on election day, systematic observation of voting, counting, or tabulation of results on election day is not envisaged.” The 9 December parliamentary elections in Romania, in fact, seemed not to have been as shot through with fraudulent practices as those in July. After the elections took place, there were very few protests about abuses at the polling places.
A motley alliance of socialists, liberals and conservatives won the 9 December Romanian parliamentary elections. What they clearly share is profound dislike for the country’s once-powerful president, Traian Basescu, whose five-year mandate continues into 2014. What is less obvious is how they will govern the country. The Socialist-Liberal Union (USL), made up of the Social-Democrats, the Liberals and the Conservatives, won the majority in both chambers of the Romanian parliament, with about 60 percent of votes for each house. The great loser was the Right Romania Alliance (ARD), president Basescu’s political family, which got just 16 percent.
Returns from Romania’s parliamentary elections on Monday gave an overwhelming victory to the center-left alliance of Prime Minister Victor Ponta, leaving the country poised for Round 2 of a political standoff that has destabilized one of the European Union’s newest and poorest members. The governing alliance won about 59 percent of the vote in in Sunday’s elections, making Mr. Ponta the leading contender to return to the job. With almost all of the votes counted, a center-right group linked to President Traian Basescu had received just 16.5 percent of the vote. The two men cannot stand even to be in the same room with each other, according to aides, and their acrimony has poisoned Romania’s politics since Mr. Ponta pressed to have the president removed from office last summer.
Romania: Anti-graft agency says faces political intimidation in run up to election | The Star Online
A Romanian anti-corruption watchdog has said it is under political pressure to drop its investigations of senior figures in the run-up to a December parliamentary election. The head of the National Integrity Agency (ANI) said politicians were trying to intimidate his organisation after it notified three ministers and a state official last week that it was investigating them for possible conflicts of interest.
Romania’s Constitutional Court on Tuesday struck down a referendum to impeach President Traian Basescu, foiling a drive by the leftist government to oust its chief political opponent months before a parliamentary election. The government said it would accept the decision, but the acting president said Basescu was now an “illegitimate” leader. Several hundred people gathered in two main Bucharest squares in the afternoon, one crowd supporting the president and the other protesting against him. Both remained peaceful.
Romanian President Traian Basescu appears to have survived a referendum on his impeachment. As polls closed, preliminary figures indicated turnout was less than the 50% required to make the result invalid. Basescu, who has been suspended by parliament, had asked his supporters to boycott the vote.The center-left government had accused the center-right president of exceeding his authority and of meddling in government affairs. Polling stations closed at 23:00 local time (20:00GMT). First results are expected on Monday. Three hours before the polls were due to close, the election bureau said turnout so far had been 37.7%, the BBC reported. Initial polls put the turnout at about 44%. As voting ended, Basescu said that Romanians had “rejected a coup” by staying away from polling stations.
Romanians will vote Sunday on whether to oust their country’s president as part of an impeachment process that the European Union says threatens to undermine the former communist-bloc nation’s young democracy. The nationwide recall referendum comes amid a partisan feud between a resurgent left, led by new Prime Minister Victor Ponta, and center-right politicians, including President Traian Basescu, whose popularity has been severely dented by austerity measures and a weak economy. Recent legislative and political maneuvers carried out by Mr. Ponta’s supporters and designed to make it easier to remove Mr. Basescu have drawn fire from critics inside and outside Romania who say the moves endanger the rule of law and judicial independence. Under pressure from the EU, which Romania joined in 2007, Mr. Ponta, a 39-year-old Social Democrat, agreed to roll back measures the regional group found objectionable. However, a parliamentary vote to impeach Mr. Basescu, which triggered Sunday’s ballot, remains in force. EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said Wednesday that Brussels is “still very much worried on the state of democracy in Romania.”
Romania’s opposition Democratic Liberals urged voters who support suspended President Traian Basescu to boycott a referendum on July 29 to help win his reinstatement by invalidating the impeachment vote. The opposition said voters should stay away from the polling stations because the ruling coalition won’t meet the same organizational standards as in the 2009 presidential election, increasing the possibility for electoral fraud, Democrat Liberal leader Vasile Blaga told reporters in Bucharest today. The ruling Social Liberal Union don’t understand that they “should set up the vote under the same conditions as in 2009, when we also had surveillance cameras, so we ask citizens to stay away from this masquerade” Blaga said.
Romania extended the voting hours to boost turnout and increase the chances of reaching a minimum threshold to make a July 29 referendum on removing President Traian Basescu valid. Lawmakers voted in favor of changing a referendum law to keep polling stations open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. instead of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Mircea Dusa, the government minister in charge with the relations with the legislature, told reporters today. Parliament’s two houses also voted to introduce a requirement of a minimum turnout to meet the terms of a Constitutional Court ruling and pledges to European Union leaders.
Romania: New law gives suspended president chance of surviving impeachment vote | The Washington Post
Romania’s interim president on Tuesday signed a new law that requires a majority of registered voters to take part in a referendum for it to be valid, giving suspended President Traian Basescu a fighting chance of remaining in office when his impeachment comes up for a public vote. The former communist country appeared to be signaling to the European Union that it is addressing concern about the state of its democracy, a key issue as it tries to attain greater privileges within the regional bloc, including access to its passport-free zone. Basescu was impeached by Parliament on grounds he overstepped his authority by meddling in government business and the judicial system. Critics accuse Prime Minister Victor Ponta of orchestrating the move as part of a power grab, and the political turmoil has dented Romania’s credibility, with the U.S. and the EU expressing doubts about the left-leaning government’s respect for the independence of the judiciary.
Romania’s Constitutional Court on Tuesday ruled that at least half the electorate must cast ballots in a recall referendum aimed at removing the president for the vote to be valid, a new twist to a bitter partisan feud between a resurgent left and a right no longer favored by an austerity-weary electorate. The government of Prime Minister Victor Ponta, a Social Democrat who took office in May, has drawn criticism from European capitals and local civil liberties groups for a series of rapid-fire maneuvers that set the stage for the impeachment of right-leaning President Traian Basescu. Parliament voted Friday to suspend Mr. Basescu. The national vote on whether he should be ejected from office is to be held July 29. The court upheld a new law lowering the threshold for removal to a majority of the votes cast, but added the turnout proviso, which could make for a close election.
Romanians voted strongly in favor of the new governing coalition of Social Democrats and Liberals (USL) in local elections on Sunday, after years of Democratic Liberal (PDL) government which applied a long series of austerity measures but which, according to rivals, had lost its legitimacy. USL claimed a strong lead across the country with major wins in Bucharest and other cities, while here and there a close vote remains to be settled. USL leader Victor Ponta pointed out on Monday morning that these were the best results the Social Democrats and the Liberals ever received in local elections.
Opposition parties and some civic organizations are protesting against a new election law which eliminates a minimum vote threshold for lawmakers and which, it is argued, could allow ultra-nationalists to enter parliament. “It isn’t normal to change an important law less than six months before parliamentary elections,” said Kelemen Hunor, president of UDMR, the main party for ethnic Hungarians in Romania. “Besides, it is expected to give to the current government a hefty majority after the November elections,” he added. Representatives of human rights organizations say the new law “will fail to stop populist and nationalist parties from entering parliament.” The center-right Democrat Liberal Party, PDL, on Wednesday announced plans to take their opposition to the law to the Constitutional Court.
Romania’s government has collapsed following weeks of protests against austerity measures, the latest debt-stricken government in Europe to fall in the face of raising public anger over biting cuts. Emil Boc, who had been prime minister since 2008, said Monday he was resigning “to defuse political and social tension” and to make way for a new government. Thousands of Romanians took to the streets in January to protest salary cuts, higher taxes and the widespread perception that the government was not interested in the public’s hardships in this nation of 22 million. President Traian Basescu quickly appointed Justice Minister Catalin Predoiu, the only Cabinet member unaffiliated with a political party, as interim prime minister to serve until a new government is approved.