CRITICISMS of Romanian corruption and democratic improprieties are common enough in Brussels. But on Sunday the criticisms came not from EU functionaries, but from Romanian expatriates. Thousands of Romanians living abroad had lined up outside their country’s embassies in Brussels (and other European capitals such as London, pictured) to vote in their country’s presidential elections, but many were turned away when the polls closed at 9 pm, and Romanian authorities refused to extend the deadline. Those shut out were furious—not just because their voices were not heard, but because they feared that back in Romania, someone might be voting in their name. „I want to make sure my identity is not misused back home, or at least try,” said one Romanian in Brussels, where some stood in line for four hours in the hope of casting a ballot.
Fraud is on everyone’s mind in Romania, even 25 years after the fall of Communism. Prime Minister Victor Ponta argued that the long waiting times were caused by extra measures to prevent voting fraud, which he said had been significant in the 2009 elections. But several hundred protesters outside the foreign ministry in Bucharest disagreed. They accused Mr Ponta’s campaign of deliberately making it hard for better-educated, more cosmopolitan Romanians abroad to vote, knowing they were less likely to support him than rural, less-educated voters back home. The 161,000 expatriate ballots, compared to 9.5m votes cast in Romania, would hardly have dented Mr Ponta’s comfortable majority in the first round. Preliminary results showed Mr Ponta had taken just over 40%, against 30% for Klaus Iohannis, mayor of the Transylvanian town of Sibiu. But because no candidate won an outright majority, the two men will face each other in a run-off on November 16th, and if that contest is close, the expat vote could be important.