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By Roxana – Elena Sava, Correspondent in Romania

These are exciting times to live in Romania. It is a wonderful country – and this is true, whether you give the sentence an ironical twist or not. The last month has been full of events in the political life.

More precisely, we had elections. Parliamentary as well as Presidential. The two strongest forces competing for the majority and for the Presidential chair were: the Union between the Social-Democrat Party and the Humanist Party of Romania, on one hand, and the Alliance between the Democrat Party and the National Liberal Party, on the other.

None of the sides lacked earthquakes. The Social Democrat Party had had the Government (the Prime Minister, Adrian Nastase, was also the candidate for Presidency of this group), and also had a lot of support from the President, Mr. Ion Iliescu. But this year there have been many scandals in the press about corruption within the party so, about a month before the elections (around the end of October), the Social Democrat Party signed a protocol with the Humanist Party of Romania, to run on common lists for the Parliament.

This move was, in a way, a consequence of the Alliance between the Democrats and the Liberals, both parties of the opposition, both trying to offer a credible alternative to the electors. The analysts think that these parties actually became active only this year, but their evolution was good – they won an important part of the local elections that took place in June. This weakened the Social Democrat Party, but not enough to make them lose their confidence about winning both the Parliamentary and the Presidential elections. But the Alliance – named the Alliance for Truth and Justice (”Alianta Dreptate si Adevar”, D.A.”, that means ..”yes”, in Romanian) was yet to face other problems. In August, the designated candidate for Presidency, Mr. Theodor Stolojan, a former Prime Minister, announced he was withdrawing from the electoral competition, maybe even from political life, due to some severe health problems – as he declared. It was a strong kick for the Alliance. Despite this, they managed to react promptly, and the next day they announced their new candidate for the Presidential elections – Mr. Traian Basescu, a quite controversial character, at that time the Mayor of Bucharest.

The campaign was difficult for both sides. The Social Democrat Party was starting to be overwhelmed by the scandals related to corruption, while the Alliance was struggling hard to gain electors in the rural areas, where lack of informational means and low level of education was working in favor of the Social Democrats.

So came the first round – it took place on the 28th of November. So passed the first round, with a lot of controversy regarding the possibility for the elections to have been subject to fraud. There was a mistake in counting the cancelled votes; two different numbers were reported in consecutive days, and the difference was not little: about 150.000 votes.


For the Parliamentary elections, the Social Democrat Party won, having about 5 percents more than the Alliance. But for the Presidentials… there would be a second round, having Mr. Nastase and Mr. Basescu as opponents.

Before telling the story of the second round, there are some things that need to be explained. In the first round, the suspicion was very strong, because it proved to be pretty easy for someone to cheat, and vote more than once. The identity cards in Romania are plasticized; the proof of having voted was a sort of stamp that would stick on the card; it has the date of the election round written on it.

Obviously, it is quite easy to remove it. Moreover, if someone was not in the town where he/she was registered, he/she could vote in any of the voting sections nearby. Since there were more than 12 hours in which someone could vote, it would have been easy to vote in his/hers hometown, then take a bus to another town and vote again, then to another town, and so on, and so forth. There have been rumors that buses full of people, supporters of the Social Democrat Party, were being driven around the country, to artificially increase the number of votes given to this party. Mr. Traian Basescu even filed in a request to repeat the elections because, he said, they hadn’t been just. In the end, the result was validated, the decision was taken to organize a second round, for the function of President, and things went on…

The second round – on the 12th of December - was really ‘fun’. Again, this is true, no matter what connotations the word may take in the context. One of the important changes was that there have been established special voting sections for the people that were not in their home town, but transiting another town. They said this was done to minimize the risk of fraud. But the Social Democrat Party was aware of the hundreds of thousands of people working or studying in Bucharest, but having ids from other towns, which would definitely vote for Basescu. So, it’s also possible that one of the purposes was to discourage some of the voters for the Alliance’s candidate.

Well, it didn’t happen. In Bucharest there have been at least two enormous cues of about 1000 people, waiting to exert their democratic right: one in the North Station and one at the ‘Mihai Viteazu’ National College, in the 2nd sector of the capital.

HOW DID I VOTE?

As I am one of the students in Bucharest that have identity cards from other towns, so I had to vote in one of the special voting sections. I chose the one in the ‘Mihai Viteazu’ National College, as it was the closest to my home. Guess what? I had to wait for 3 hours and 40 minutes. I don’t know where I found the patience or the power to wait outside, stand a temperature of 3 degrees Celsius for so long, only to put a stamp on a piece of paper. Yet, I did it. I was there, in the crowd, joined the common voice, when it started to shout ‘we want to vote’, I listened the discussions, the protests against Mr. Nastase and the increasing degree of injustice, in all the aspects of life in Romania.

The news reported that several hundreds of people still hadn’t voted, in the North Station, at 21.00 hours, when the elections were ending and the voting section was closing. A bad mark for the ‘management’ chapter, in this matter.

It seems waiting for more than 3 hours was worth it. The winner for the Presidential Elections is Traian Basescu, a former sailor and Mayor of Bucharest. The score was, though, very tight: the winner had 51.3 % of the votes, while his opponent had 48.7%. The evening of the election day was very interesting; at 21.00 the first results of the exit-polls were that both candidates had 50%. In a burst of joy, supporters of the Alliance went out to the streets in several important cities of the country, and in Bucharest they gathered in the University Square, where an important part of the Romanian Revolution from ’89 took place. They were dancing and singing, songs that were heard also in ’89; mostly young people, they had no restraint in showing their happiness. There is the belief that this particular reaction kept the Social-Democrats from attempting to fraud the elections, so the counting of the votes was correct. I tend to agree with this opinion.

Now the problem will be to form the Government. It’s a difficult task, but the general feeling seems to be confidence in the capacity of Mr. Basescu to be a better President. The new Constitution gives him a 5-year mandate (unlike previous regulations, that a President has the right to rule for just 4 years before the next elections), and somewhat more prerogatives.

Anyway, most of the people think that having this Democrat as President is a huge step forward on the path to democracy. I don’t dare to start describing the enthusiastic opinions expressed by the most prestigious daily papers of Romania, joyful and confident that from now on we shall have a truly free press in the country, and take effective action against corruption. The Former President, Mr. Iliescu, had an obvious communist way of thinking in many important matters, criticized even by foreign representatives, and Nastase would have been a true successor of his. He proved that in 4 years of mostly talking and not doing as much as he should have, as a Prime Minister.

These days Mr. Basescu is highly appreciated and praised, for his victory as well as for what he did until now (the citizens of Bucharest, at least, thank him and like him for his charisma, even if he’s been criticized for not always being a diplomat). But he has a very big burden on his shoulders, by becoming the President he tok a great responsibility. And it will be even harder having a Parliament ran by his opponents – both the presidents of the Senate and the Deputy Chamber are members of the Social Democrat Party.

The ones who elected him are confident. The statistics say they are mostly people from urban areas, having college studies, and aged between 18 and 40, so… their judgement is very important for the future of this country. Anyway, now we have more hope for a normality from which everyone will benefit. Europe, here we come!