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Conclusions of the monitoring mission

Report on the constitutional referendum monitoring mission

FiecareVot Coalition has observed the constitutional referendum organized on the 6th and 7th of October with 841 independent observers, both in the country and abroad, mostly in polling stations in Europe. During the 2 days of voting, hundreds of irregularities have been identified through call center 0800 080 200, Code4Romania’s Monitorizare Vot smartphone application and www.votcorect.ro web platform. We covered almost 1800 polling stations.

Most of the irregularities were settled at the level of the polling stations (BESV) or with the support of the county electoral bureaus (BEJ), the Central Electoral Bureau (BEC) or the Permanent Electoral Authority (AEP). Several criminal complaints were filed over suspicions of multiple voting (Giurgiu County), suspicions related to broken seals (several counties), but also related to an incident that took place in Săbiesti, Dâmboviţa, where all four of the car tires of an accredited journalist have been slashed.

We have no solid clues to show that serious systemic issues that could seriously affect the results have produced. In the next period, we will analyse all notifications of observers and voters and we will look at how they will be settled by the competent institutions.

Still, EFOR has shown[1] before the referendum that there are serious problems with the legislation, as it was not clear enough in relation to many procedures and it did not allow the use of SIMPV, the electronic system for the verification of voters and prevention of multiple voting. Moreover, we have asked the prime minister to introduce SIMPV through emergency ordinance, but the system was not included, a fact that shows a lack of political will for the correctness of the referendum.

/English section at the end of the report

The main findings of the monitoring mission are:

Legislation

  • Unclear, old and lacunary legislation, with potential to favour one side of the referendum
  • Last minute arbitrary changes (OUG 86/2018) introducing two days of voting as exception

 

Campaign

  • Lack of real control on propaganda offline and online
  • National Council for Audiovisual had a low involvement and published an arbitrary decision through which allowed the continuation of the go-to-vote campaing during the referendum days; the decision was changed with very few days before the voting started
  • Very low involvement of political parties; high involvement of third parties such as NGOs or other supporters
  • Recurrent hate speech and fake news
  • Supression of media freedom of expression, as journalists have been eliminated from 2 events organized by CfP
  • No real, neutral voter education campaign

 

Financing

  • Unsufficient regulations on monitoring of financing for third parties; the law covered just the political parties, which opens the opportunity for abuse during the future electoral processes and referenda

Security

  • Massive vote on supplementary lists without the possibility to check the multiple voting. We have identified a high number polling stations where the vote was expressed predominantly on supplementary lists – see the interactive map of the votes here votcorect.ro/prezenta-la-vot/ .  Although in some situations there are justifications, as they are close to hospitals, prisons or monasteries, in other cases these percentages have no explanation.
  • The lack of the SIMPV (electronic verification and prevention system) determined a low trust in the process and generated situations where the presidents of the electoral bureaus had suspicions of multiple voting and could not verify whether they were real or not
  • Security of sealing procedures: In most cases seals are strips of paper over which the control stamp and the signature of the president are applied. Observers have reported many situations where the paper had been glued with duct tape, and could have easily been removed very easily.
  • Moreover, in some polling stations, the sealing of materials on the evening of October 6th did not follow the legal steps, which may raise concerns about the fairness of the referendum in those stations. The rules were not explicit enough and some presidents of the polling stations did not apply them accordingly, which means that it opens the potential for fraud

Voting days

  • Poor organization – the absence of presidents of electoral bureaus in several polling stations, which led to the disruption of the voting process as they were not opened in time, according to the law. Also, the training sessions for the presidents of the polling station electoral bureaus can be improved; we consider that the training of the presidents replaced on the short notice is deficitary
  • The massive continuation of the electoral campaign on the days of the referendum, through the display, distribution of propaganda materials and the call to vote, with the indication of the specific option. We have reported numerous cases to the county electoral bureaus or district offices. In some situations, the materials have not been removed or have been taken down with great delay. We do not have a record of the sanctions applied for violation of the law. We also received a large number of complaints stating that the clerical personnel and local government officials (mayors, vicemayors, councilors etc) have been actively involved in continuing the referendum campaign during the two-day voting, especially on the second day of the referendum

Results

  • Paragraph 18 of GEO 86/2018 establishes throughout annexes no. 2-6 that the phrase “The number of participants must be equal to the amount resulting from the addition of the figures in points 5, 6 and 7 ” shall be replaced „Pct. 2 >/= Pct. 5 + pct. 6 + pct. 7.” In other words, the number of participants must be greater than or equal to the sum of the valid votes expressed as YES or NO, as well as the null votes. While it is possible that the regulation also covers cases where a voter leaves with the ballot paper from the station, we believe that the formulation may generate confusing and risky situations. In the context of the low quorum for the referendum, we consider that this expression can facilitate its achievement in unfair and arbitrary terms.

Fraud and appeals

  • Unclear mechanisms for complaints regarding fraud. Law 3/2000 establishes in art. 25 (3) If BEC identifies an electoral fraud in a polling station or in an electoral district, it shall order the annulment of the results of the referendum within that polling station or, as the case may be, within the respective constituency. Article 12 of Law 208/2015 regulates the application procedure for the annulment of the results, but it is not clear who may be the actors who can ask for it, in the election being the electoral competitors who participated in the elections in the respective constituency. EFOR asked BEC to clarify the cancellation procedure, but the Bureau replied that it is a hypothetical situation and will take a decisions when there will be a concrete situation. Moreover, an answer to this question would amount to a pre-posting from the BEC and is not appropriate.

Transparency and observation

  • The access of the observers has been difficult in some polling stations due to bureaucratic barriers that are not specified in the legislation and abusive behaviour. The Central Electoral Bureau issued an order requesting the presidents of the electoral bureaus not to demand any documents that are not required by law. Moreover, we have observed that representatives of several NGOs supporting the YES side have been involved in influencing the voters and did not act in a neutral manner, as the legislation requiresThe press releases issued during the two days of the referendum can be found at www.votcorect.ro/comunicate-referendum

[1] https://expertforum.ro/en/disaster-referendum-law/


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