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Quick reaction

Merging elections in EU countries: and why doesn’t it work in Romania?

Politicians cited in support of merging the elections the fact that this mechanism is also used by other European countries. Initially, Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu gave the example of Ireland and Belgium, and later declared that there are 9 countries in this situation.

EFOR has already criticized the merging of local and European parliamentary elections, for numerous reasons, related to legislation, practice and constitutional principles. Although there are some positive aspects, the negative ones are predominant and they tip the balance decisively in the direction of the non-completion of the elections. A positive aspect would be, for example, the fact that we would return to the normal calendar we had for local elections before the pandemic when local elections were held in June. It is possible that participation in the European Parliament elections will also increase in the context of the merger. But the big, traditional parties would gain, at the expense of small parties with local agendas. Last but not least, although the decrease in the costs of organizing the elections was invoked, we reiterate that in accordance with the legislation in force, separate polling stations for local and European parliaments will have to be organized, which will not lead to a decrease in costs. On the contrary, the organization of separate departments will aggravate the problems of insufficient spaces, the difficulty of identifying the necessary human resources. In addition, there is a significant risk of confusion among voters regarding the concurrent electoral processes.

In this context, EFOR consulted the electoral calendar from 2024 and analyzed some examples of countries where European parliamentary elections take place in parallel with local or regional ones . This material is not a complex and very detailed study, but rather a quick response to the positions expressed by the political parties.

Some conclusions:

  • EFOR has identified seven countries where local or regional elections take place in parallel with the European Parliament elections.
  • In several of these countries, the legislation does not appear to have been amended just a few months before the elections, as is the case in Romania. In no other state was the decision to merge arbitrarily taken, for the first time in 2024 and 4 months before.
  • In some countries, the regulations establishing the organization of elections on the same day can be found in the Constitution.
  • There are few examples (closest being Hungary and partly Italy) where elections are organized for a significant number of positions in local government.
  • In countries such as Malta, Belgium or Ireland, there are no elections for mayors.
  • Some countries, such as Italy or Germany, hold local elections constantly, for a limited number of local governments each round, not just once every four to five years, for the whole country.
  • In most countries, the election periods have been the same for many years and sometimes overlap with the European Parliament elections. So no decisions were necessarily made to move the election date specifically for 2024.
  • The closest case to the Romanian one seems to be Hungary. The reasons for the merger are similar, but there the Constitution was changed in 2022 for the 2024 elections. Even though the change was made ahead of time, there are criticisms regarding the negative effects these changes will bring. Hungary will still have overlapping mandates for mayors after the June elections (the incumbents stay for 3 months until the others come in), a FIDESZ innovation for which they are criticized by the opposition and external observers.

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