EFOR analyzed the legislation that will be used for the organization of the European Parliamentary elections and drew some conclusions about the issues it brings. Overall, the legislative framework is not uniform and clear. Law 33/2007 is very outdated, strongly at odds with modernized legislation and technological innovations or structural changes that have taken place concerning the organization of elections and that did not exist in 2007. The lack of interest in this updated legislation may also reflect the low level of interest of the governing parties in the EP elections in general. It is impossible to predict at this stage how Law 33/2007 will apply in practice unless changes are made urgently, as the law contains references to other now repealed legislation.
The report highlights the key issues that need to be amended as soon as possible to allow for the safe conduct of the EP elections while safeguarding voters’ rights. It does not analyze each article, as in our opinion the law should be urgently revised as a whole and republished. We recall that many of these problems are linked to the lack of a uniform Electoral Code, which has been recommended by ODIHR for more than 20 years and to which EFOR and other civil society organizations have constantly drawn attention.
EFOR calls on the political parties to take steps as soon as possible to clarify the legislation to ensure that elections are conducted with integrity and predictability.
In short, the main issues are the following:
- The law has not been updated, although many of the problems mentioned in the report were also identified in the 2019 elections. Law 33/2007 refers to legislation that has been repealed or is no longer relevant, which could lead to unclear implementation. It is not sufficiently correlated with the rest of the electoral legislation, does not detail some of the new tools used in the organization of elections, and these differences may create serious difficulties in the organization of elections, but may also affect the public perception of the process. Moreover, the correlation with Law 208/2015 through art. 120 is not a good practice and can create confusion at times, and this mechanism for resolving deficiencies generates more unclarity in practice.
- Many essential elements of the electoral process, including those related to the publication of results or the election technology, are regulated by secondary or tertiary legislation although they should be regulated by law.
- The role of the authorities involved in the process is not always clear, and some of the tasks performed by the PEA in recent years are attributed to the Ministry of Interior or the Government. How the organization of elections is financed is not sufficiently detailed.
- Certain provisions pertaining to the Corps of Electoral Experts contradict with the procedure for setting up electoral commissions regulated by Law 33/2007. There are also differences between the different types of commissions in the law when it comes to how political parties are represented. For organizing out of country voting, the procedure is deficient.
- The meetings of the election commissions are not public, which reduces the transparency of the process. The deadlines for publishing the decisions and rulings of the electoral commissions are not clearly specified.
- The number of supporting signatures for the submission of candidates is very high (1% of the number of voters) and there is no clear and regulated methodology for their verification, which raises questions about the integrity of the process. The verification process cannot be observed.
- The observation procedures are very cumbersome and bureaucratic – accreditation is approved for each county by the county electoral commissions – and the practice in previous elections of publishing lists of observers with personal data on the websites of these commissions violates data protection legislation. Observers can only monitor election day and not the whole election process, contrary to international standards.
- Elections abroad are held in one day, as opposed to two in the parliamentary and three in the presidential ones. Postal voting or alternative voting methods are not in place. This lack of measures could limit the voter turnout.
- The law does not encourage the publication of data regarding the electoral process, and much of the communication is done through offline posting (including on-site) or radio and TV channels. The legislation does not mention the publication of detailed data on candidates or other stages of the process, and this is at the discretion of the CEB.
- The regulation of the electoral campaign does not strongly sanction extremist behavior or any other type of behavior that may affect the electoral competition.
- Parties represented in the EP have disproportionate access to radio and TV broadcasts. The provisions on election campaigning are at odds with those of Law 334/2006 regulating election campaign financing. For example, Law 33/2007 refers to methods of outdoor promotion that are prohibited under Law 334.
- Access for voters with disabilities is not as flexible as in parliamentary elections, where they can also vote in another polling station if the one where they are assigned is not accessible. Registration for voting with a special ballot box can only be done within a very short timeframe and is not provided through electronic means. It is not specified whether those in hospitals can vote with the special ballot box.
- Voting ends at 21:00, regardless of whether there are still voters in line. This was one of the reasons for major dissatisfaction in previous elections. On the contrary, those voting in the presidential election in 2019 and were in line at 9 PM were allowed to vote.
- The law does not provide for the publication of financial contributions to the election campaign during the election process but for the publication of income and expenditure reports after election day. Although in practice, in previous elections, the PEA has published this data during the campaign, there is a risk that the information will not be available in time.
- The lack of transparency regarding the financing of political parties from subsidies will also affect the integrity of the elections, especially since the pre-campaign period is not subject to other rules than the usual ones for party financing. The lack of rules regarding the marking of political promotional materials and their reporting will affect the level playing field and the impact of information on voters.
- Campaign finance oversight is largely limited to the financial component. The PEA needs to be given more powers to carry out real-time controls, audit campaign activities, on the ground, and not only to perform oversight from a financial perspective.
- Campaign control reports are published only in summary and not in full, which reduces transparency and access to information on the detection of irregularities in campaign financing by competitors.
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