By Daniel Stroe – Bucharest
Teodor Melescanu, Romanian minister of Foreign Affairs, has today resigned, two days after the presidential runoff, marred by a myriad of organization problems which left thousands of Romanians abroad unable to vote in the elections which ended in the victory of Klaus Iohannis.
His resignation comes only a week after a similar decision taken by Titus Corlatean, his predecessor, following an uproar sparked by the same bureaucratic hurdles voters faced in the Diaspora. “I regret all these malfunctions in the second round. I apologize to all the Romanians who, showing a good civic spirit, stood in queues for hours. Since we live in a country where nobody takes responsibility, I am assuming this responsibility”, Melescanu said in a press conference today. He said he would inform social-democrat PM Victor Ponta, who was surprisingly defeated on Sunday.
He said he had done his best in his very short term to ensure a smother voting process abroad. About 360,000 Romanians voted abroad on Sunday, here times more than in the first round, but tens of thousands were left outside the polling stations when they closed at 9 pm. Protests erupted in Turin and Paris and police used tear gas to remove furious protesters who saw deliberate obstacles set by Ponta’s government so the Diaspora is prevented from voting. Traditionally, voters abroad choose center-rightist candidates and reject social-democrats seen as heirs of the former Communist Party.
President-elect Iohannis called on the acting president Traian Basescu to recall those ambassadors in the countries where the voting process was disrupted and asked lawmakers to start proceedings on introducing the electronic and correspondence voting. “I don’t want to ever witness what happened to the voting in the Diaspora. It is unacceptable. This has to be stopped urgently”, he pointed out.
A wave of uproar followed on social media after voters abroad were left out in the cold and rain after, in some cases, 12 hours of standing. The outrage gained proportions after furious voters clashed with police in Italy and France who used tear gas and batons to disperse protesters asking for their constitutional right to be observed.
On Sunday evening, President Basescu called on PM Victor Ponta to pass an emergency decree for polling stations to remain open till midnight so all the people in the long queues can vote. But Melescanu said today that would have encroached upon the law and would have paved the way for elections to be legally contested.
Observers say the flawed elections in the both rounds catalyzed public anger against Ponta and hence the large support for Klaus Iohannis who had deployed a dull electoral campaign. The ethnic German, whom the international media has praised, is set to have a troublesome political coexistence with PM Ponta who has refused to resign after the resounding defeat on Sunday. Both Melescanu’s and Corlatean’s resignations are used by Ponta to temper the wave of public indignation, analysts say.