Academic journal article East European Quarterly

Irregularities or Rigging: The 1992 Romanian Parliamentary Elections

Academic journal article East European Quarterly

Irregularities or Rigging: The 1992 Romanian Parliamentary Elections

Article excerpt

All definitions of representative democracy require, at a minimum, regular, honest and reasonably fair elections to select rulers preferred by the majority from a reasonable choice of candidates. We might disagree about the meaning of these terms, or employ alternative criteria like the UN's "free and fair," the journalistic "credible" elections or the more idealistic "democratic" standard. Elections are held in most countries of the world, and a majority of them are "elections without choice." This is not surprising since a majority of regimes are authoritarian. However, elections during democratic transitions are supposed to become increasingly credible, if not free and fair or democratic.(2)

The 1992 Romanian elections were the most significant political event since the events of December 1989 when Ceausescu was overthrown. While democratic forms for rule have been established, the parliamentary votes, the second since the "revolution," single-handedly managed to deflate the nascent democratic opposition and consolidated the coalition supporting President Ion Iliescu, avoiding repeated threats of disruption from the communist leaders who lost power in the new regime; and brought into the party system and media attention three extremist elements that will remain a nationalistic threat of polarization instead of finding the oblivion that public opinion had demanded. Electoral fraud in at least five of the ten inter-War Romanian elections engendered political stability, and the same argument can be made now. There has rarely if ever been a democratic party system, with the majority now established by security agencies and the opposition (and the press) highly infiltrated as well; the cost of stability may be democratization. Furthermore, a destabilizing transition crisis, under such conditions of state-based parties, will inevitably occur in future elections.

In the parliamentary voting for the House of Deputies: the incumbent National Salvation Democratic Front (FDSN in Romanian)(3) received 3,015,708, 27.71%; the Romanian Democratic Convention (CDR) 2,177,144 or 20.01%; the National Salvation Front (FSN) 1,108,500 or 10.88%; the Romanian National Unity Party (PUNR) 839,586 or 7.71%; the Romanian Democratic Magyar Union (UDMR) 811,290 or 7.45%; the Greater Romania Party (PRM) 424,061 3.89%; and the Socialist Workers Party (PSM) 330,378 or 3.03%. The Romanian Democratic Agrarian Party (PDAR) did not qualify for the House because it did not receive at least three percent of the valid votes cast.

Chamber of Deputies

FDSN     3,015,708      27.71%
CDR      2,177,144      20.01%
FSN      1,108,500      10.88%
PUNR       839,586       7.71%
UDMR       811,290       7.45%
PRM        424,061       3.89%
PSM        330,378       3.03%

Senate

FDSN     3,102,201      28.29%
CDR      2,210,722      20.16%
FSN      1,139,033      10.38%
PUNR       890,410       8.12%
UDMR       831,469       7.58%;
PRM        422,545       3.85%
PDAR       362,427       3.3%
PSM        349,470       3.18%

A secret vote of both houses was taken to confirm the government nominated by President Ion Iliescu. It is generally believed that the parties supporting the government included: FDSN, PUNR, PSM, PDAR, and PSM. These five captured just over half the seats in both houses.

Complaints about fraud after the election by some in the opposition was deemed "sour grapes" or conspiracy-phobia by others. No accusations were permitted on television, and only a few remarks on national radio. There were several days of discussion of irregularities in Cotidianul and an entire issue of the weekly 22 devoted to a variety of suspicions. Most newspapers, from the best selling Eventimentul Zile to the largest weeklies, from the nationalist Romania Mare to the satirical Catavencu did not mention the issue. The experienced five hundred plus foreign observers concluded either that the elections were "free and fair" or at least did not conclude that the overall results would have been different. …

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