On November 25, Romanians will have to choose one of two versions of the uninominal voting system: the version supported by the Romanian President Traian Basescu and the one put forward by PM Tariceanu and the Romanian Parliament.
The former is a more radical version of uninominal voting which is applied in France, but also by several authoritarian regimes. The latter would partially stick to what is known in Romania as the "dictatorship of the 322" - after the number of MPs elected on party lists who forced Basescu into a referendum over his dismissal earlier this year.
Five young researchers from the Babes Bolyai Political Science University in Cluj in collaboration with HotNews.ro discuss the main advantages and disadvantages of the two systems. They point out the lessons to be learnt from other countries’ experiences.
The voting system delineates the main lines of conflict between the two most important men in the state. If Basescu puts forward a tough version of uninominal voting, Tariceanu supports a milder one that keeps some of the characteristics of the current system.
Romanian President Basescu’s referendum proposal
The President’s version of the uninominal voting system is actually an electoral formula rather than a new electoral system. If applied, the Parliament may very well come to have only three political parties.
The system is majority-based, with two rounds of polls in which the winner obtaining an absolute majority wins all the votes. The constituencies will have only one mandate.
• The two rounds system is based on the principle of efficiency. A chosen representative is due to respect the wishes of the citizens but the final decision pertains to his own judgement
• The citizen can evaluate the work of the representative by re-electing him or replacing him at the end of his term
• Representatives are thus more responsible and parties cannot impose their own will
• The system encourages the two-three party system as opposed to the multi party system Romania has right now
• Small parties and other ethnic minorities loose any representation at national level
• The system allows a maximum of three parties in the Parliament
• The costs of organizing elections are higher and the process is complex
Romanian PM Tariceanu’s version of the uninominal system
The version put forward by the Romanian government plans to change the electoral system as it also puts forward the actual organization of the elections.
It is a single-round uninominal system. Therefore, half of the mandates are distributed directly to the uninominal constituencies while the other half will be reported at the level of the electoral constituency.
The system presupposes a proportional relation between the electoral support of every party and the number of mandates that it gets from each constituency.
• It also supports the small parties even though the distribution vote process is very complex
• The system does not resemble the German practice as said by some Romanian analysts and politicians because the Germans have a much simpler and transparent system
• Every voter casts two votes: one for a candidate chosen directly and another one for a list of candidates proposed by the party - as it is the normal practice in Romania
• The proportional system is thought to be impersonal and avoids any responsibility of the candidates
• The mixed system is very complex and rigid.
• Parties still impose a list of candidates
• Some parliamentarians are thus avoiding accountability
• The distribution system is very complex and hard to understand
The President’s version follows the French model and is used in 19 countries across the world, ten of which are authoritarian regimes like Congo, Togo, Belarus and North Korea. Tariceanu’s version is used in several countries like Albania, Bolivia, Germany, Lesotho, Mexico, Hungary.