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News 19 Jan 16

Liberals Demand Change in Romania's Local Elections

Party urges new government to reinstate two-round mayoral elections - which civic activists agree would be fairer to the smaller parties and so more truly democratic.

Marian Chiriac
Bucharest

Romanian government is asked to change electoral law just few months ahead of crucial local elections | Photo: BIRN

Romania's National Liberal Party, PNL, says it will formally ask the new "technocratic" government of Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos. to pass an emergency ordinance amending the electoral law, so that elections for mayors and county council presidents take place in two rounds.

Local elections are scheduled for the middle of 2016.

"We need this change as there is a strong demand for it from civil society. People want to be better represented and a two-round vote is the best solution,” PNL head Alina Gorghiu said.

"The PNL proposed a draft law in parliament late last year but most parties oppose the idea. The only solution now is for the government to amend the electoral law,” Gorghiu added.  

Many analysts agree that two-round mayoral elections would be more democratic as they say the current one-round system favours the big established parties.

"Civic organisations always backed two-round votes in local elections as the sole way to make real change in Romanian politics,” Sorin Ionita, from Bucharest-based EFOR think tank, said.

"Ironically, many Liberal MPs supported last year's change to the electoral law when the one-round vote was introduced," she added.

"Now the PNL seems to understand they will lose in the local elections and so it seeks a new change to the law."

Romania's former governing party, the Social, Democratic Party, PSD, is against the move, however.

The PSD president, Liviu Dragnea, recently said that making a fresh change to the electoral law, "just a few months since the elections, would be undemocratic”.

The PSD remains the largest party in Romania's parliament.

The new government, a mixture of experts, diplomats and civil society activists, was formed in November after the previous Social-Democrat-led government of Victor Ponta collapsed.

Ponta quit following mass protests over a nightclub fire that killed 63 young people.

The new government has already announced plans to change the electoral law, but it is not clear which changes will be made.

Experts say Romania should eliminate the minimum threshold for political parties to get elected to local councils, reduce number of signatures that independent candidates need to gather to compete in elections and allow independent candidates to get on local election lists.

The government should also open more electoral wards abroad, to allow all Romanians living abroad to vote. It should also allow people to get more involved in coming up with legal initiatives, making it easier for groups of citizens to get such initiatives discussed by parliament.

Another measure is to digitalize the electoral lists, and to make the whole electoral process digital, to avoid electoral fraud.

Ciolos’s administration is set to run the country until general elections are held in December 2016.

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