On 2 November, thousands of Romanians abroad were denied the right to vote in the Romanian presidential elections by their government. I was one of those who turned out at the embassy in London and stubbornly queued for six hours in order to cast their vote with no success. The embassy shut its doors at 9pm. The British police were called in to protect the officials from the rage of the people left out of the democratic process.
How exactly has this blatant infringement of civil rights happened? The long queues formed outside voting stations across Europe were due to poor organisation – some might even say deliberately poor organisation – although the Romanian prime minister denies any mismanagement of the elections abroad, claiming instead that procedures were put in place to avoid electoral fraud in the diaspora. The diaspora, previous elections tell us, tend to vote, at times decisively, against the PSD, the party that has inherited much of the infrastructure, mentality and collective memory of the former Communist party.
We could just call this “ineffective bureaucracy”, red tape, and move on. However, coming from Romania, a country that lived under 45 years of communism, I know that this “bad and slow bureaucracy” is a sign of a corrupt and oppressive state. For decades, the communist regimes in eastern Europe used the bureaucratic machinery of the state to make people feel incapacitated, fearful and keep them quiet and, on 2 November, I had the uneasy feeling that what I witnessed was a sophisticated oppression and electoral fraud masquerading as democracy gone bad due to poor management. For this reason, I cannot keep quiet and I want the world to know that I was denied my constitutional right to vote.
Dr Diana Silvia Stirbu