The signatories criticise the PSD and PNL’s intention to merge the EP and local elections in June and consider that this limits certain voters’ rights and affects electoral competition, as well as the principles of legal security. We call on the PNL and PSD to abandon such plans and to organise the elections in a manner that does not affect fundamental electoral rights, in accordance with constitutional principles and international standards.
Merging the elections will have negative effects in several respects. Amending the legislation on major issues less than five months before the elections runs counter to international standards. The Venice Commission’s Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters indicates that legislative changes with a major impact should be avoided one year before the elections. Such changes could affect the credibility of the electoral process. Although they are not forbidden and positive measures can be introduced, in this case the merge generates negative impact on voters’ rights.
We also recall that the previous local elections were held at the end of September, the term of office of local elected representatives is four years, and holding an election in June could create confusion about the taking over of their mandates. According to the Administrative Code, local councils are constituted within 60 days of the election date, and the merge could actually shorten their terms, also affecting the start of exercise of the mayors’ term of office. The merge would imply changes or derogations from the legislation on the time limits for taking office less than four months before election day, which affects the principle of legal security and stability, as it would involve the amendment of an organic law.
The right to vote will be affected. A serious consequence of this decision is that for local elections the right to vote at the address of residence would be de facto removed for voters who have not registered their residence at least six months before the election date, i.e. at the beginning of January. This regulation, introduced in 2023, was in any case restrictive, but in this context it only further extends the number of those who will not be able to use this option, which amounts to restricting the exercise of a fundamental right.
Among the rights affected is also the right to stand as a candidate and to be elected, as holding elections in parallel would eliminate the possibility of standing for both types of elections.
The merging of elections will cause legislative confusion for voters and possibly for election organisers. The laws used to organise the two types of elections are not harmonised. One such example is the way in which electoral commissions are set-up, where the rules are different. The authorities organising elections are different. For example, for the EP elections, the Ministry of the Interior has roles that the Permanent Electoral Authority performs for the local elections. The accreditation of observers is done according to different rules, at different levels, which could limit the possibility to monitor the process and therefore reduce transparency. EFOR drew attention to the serious problems with Law 33/2007, which can affect the organisation of the elections and has not been a priority for politicians from 2019 until today. The merger of elections could generate other last-minute legislative changes, which would further complete this scenario of legislative instability.
The merge affects the fundamental principles of legislative clarity and stability by overlapping different electoral rules, a higher number of ballots (5 ballots), voting in different constituencies could affect informed voter participation. This last point is important, as voters could be confused about how they are allocated to polling stations, especially as in the EP elections they also vote abroad and in the local elections they are strictly dependent on their home or residence address.
The EP and local elections follow different electoral logics, and the overlap of campaign topics would be confusing. In practice, European issues would overlap with local community issues, which can be very specific. Moreover, the funding of the two electoral campaigns could be intertwined, which could make it more difficult to ensure oversight and transparency. Then, the merge would favour large, traditional parties with generous resources from state subsidies (314 million lei in 2024/some 62 mil. eur), to the detriment of those with political and electoral objectives at regional or local level only.
We believe that the arguments put forward by the two parties in the public arena are unsubstantiated and are strictly political calculations based on party interests, carried out to the detriment of democratic principles and voters’ rights. The savings that would result from these elections are not an argument in support of the PSD and PNL’s intention. Moreover, reducing costs – which were predictable – to the detriment of democratic balance is not desirable. We recall that the Constitutional Court stated in Decision 51/2012, which ruled unconstitutional the law proposing the merge of local and parliamentary elections, that the savings to the budget do not justify such a decision. Last but not least, we believe that this is an important decision, and it is unacceptable to take it abusively without consulting other actors in society.
Contact: Septimius Pârvu, Electoral Programme Coordinator, [email protected], 0787.638.315
Expert Forum, Asociația CIVICA, Centrul pentru Resurse Civice – members of the VotCorect Coalition
Centrul pentru Inovare Publică
Romanian Quantitative Studies Association
Átlátszó Erdély/Transilvania Transparentā
Fundația pentru Dezvoltarea Societății Civile
Asociaţia Voci pentru Democraţie şi Justiţie – VeDem Just
Fundația Comunitară Timișoara
CeRe: Centrul de Resurse pentru participare publică
Mișcarea pentru Dezvoltarea Moldovei
Sanda Foamete, activist civic, observator la vot, voluntar Coaliția Cod Electoral Acum
Maria Krause, expert electoral, voluntar Coaliția VotCorect
Claudiu Tufiș, Conferențiar Facultatea de Științe Politice, Universitatea din București
Oana Marinescu, Consultant Comunicare Strategică