Romanian prosecutors launch investigation into flawed elections in the Diaspora

Romanian prosecutors launch investigation into flawed elections in the Diaspora


By Daniel Stroe – Bucharest

Romania’s Prosecutor-General Tiberiu Nitu (photo) has revealed today that a criminal investigation had been launched to clarify under which circumstances thousands of Romanians’ constitutional right of voting had been encroached upon in the two rounds of presidential elections on November 2 and 16.

Nitu said a number of complaints had been submitted against ministers who claimants say had legal prerogatives in organizing the elections.

“There’ve been many complaints submitted by different persons. We started the criminal investigation against the offense and we have asked for information from other state bodies and the investigation will continue against the offense, namely encroaching upon the right to vote (…) The complaints are directed at ministers who, according to the petitioners, had competences in organizing the elections”, Nitu said.

Asked for details, the prosecutor-general said complaints had also been lodged by certain institutions, but most of them had come from citizens, especially from Diaspora. He added he had no information about the number of complaints and gave no further information on the course of the investigation, with a calendar pending.

Nitu also refused to answer whether the law in force now allowed the Romanian Government to set up more polling stations abroad, saying the case prosecutor will have to determine that.

About 360,000 Romanians voted abroad on Sunday, three 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 the Romanian Government led by social-democrat Victor Ponta 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. Ponta lost on Sunday to the liberal candidate Klaus Iohannis.

Two foreign ministers, Titus Corlatean and Teodor Melescanu, resigned due to the poor organization of the two rounds of elections. They both pointed out the law doesn’t allow the government to set up more polling stations abroad, even if the country’s Central Electoral Bureau said it is possible. On Sunday evening, acting President Traian Basescu called on PM Ponta to pass an emergency ordinance to prolong the voting schedule so all the Romanians could vote.

Today, Livia Stanciu, president of the High Court of Justice and Cassation, confirmed the Romanian Government could have passed the emergency ordinance to set up more stations abroad, putting more pressure on Ponta who refused to do so despite countless calls from the civil society and the opposition.

Speaking last night in a press conference, Basescu said ambassadors from France, Italy, Germany and Britain had done their job by asking for the permission to open more polling stations, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ignored their requests. Ponta, who refused to resign after losing the elections on Sunday, may have a hard time explaining what happened in the two rounds of elections as pressure mounts.