Letter: Romanian voting fails to add up

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Sir: Jonathan Eyal ('Romania prolongs its nightmare', 14 October) is right to cast doubts about the counting process in the Romanian elections but is, I hope, wrong to suggest that Western observers may have 'bestowed a mantle of respectability on a still deeply flawed electoral process'. As one such observer, my report on the conduct of the parliamentary elections on 27 September shares points raised in his article.

Among my comments was the observation that some returning officers appear to have been prompted by a reflex of the Communist past to 'do what was expected of them' by failing to respect the provisions of the electoral law, in one district going so far as to validate the award to just two of the six presidential candidates of votes which taken together exceeded the total number of registered voters.

Other discrepancies were reported in the Romanian press, supported by affidavits from representatives of various political parties present at the count. In the system of proportional representation adopted in Romania these irregularities may well have played a vital role in taking extremist parties above the 3 per cent threshold of total votes cast necessary for parliamentary seats.

The explanation offered by the Romanian Central Election Bureau for the unusually high number of spoiled ballot papers - that voters were confused by the complexity of the ballot papers - is vitiated by the fact that on this occasion there were far fewer parties on the lists than two years ago. A further cause for concern arises from the exceptionally large proportion of voters (20 per cent in some areas) who were allowed to cast their votes in areas beyond their place of residence. This proportion again exceeds that recorded in the May 1990 elections.

In my view, the sum of these unanswered questions and unrectified anomalies in the count gives any claim that the elections of 27 September were 'reasonably free and fair' a hollow ring.

Yours faithfully,


Senior Lecturer in Romanian


School of Slavonic and

East European Studies

University of London

London, WC1

14 October