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Poor organization of the ballot denied many Romanians in UK a chance to vote in presidential run-off

Many Romanians in the UK were denied the right to vote in the just concluded presidential elections because of poor organization of the ballot.

Romanians line up to vote in LondonAn ethnic German mayor Klaus Iohannis defeated Prime Minister Victor Ponta in the country's presidential run-off over the weekend.

Romania's large diaspora may have decided the outcome of the election because of their disillusionment with Mr Ponta’s Social Democratic party.

At least four million Romanians are believed to be living abroad, especially in the EU countries.

The incumbent Traian Basescu could not stand for re-election after serving two terms.

Throughout the UK there were only 11 polling stations, three of them in London.

After the first round of voting when thousands of Romanians in the UK were unable to vote because of few polling stations, Ziarul Românesc, the newspaper for Romanians in the UK and MY Romania Group, an NGO collected 1,000 signatures asking the government of Romania to open more polling stations.

Mircea Maer, UK Editor of Ziarul Românesc said they even found locations for the new polling stations but the government of Romania said the law did not allow setting up new polling stations between the two rounds of voting.

Ziarul Românesc is published by My Own Media, the publisher of Foreignersinuk and several other ethnic newspapers including Rodina News – the newspaper for Bulgarians in the UK and The AfroNews, the newspaper for the Black community.

During the presidential run-off, many Romanians in the UK who queued for hours were unable to vote. In London people queued for up to six hours in order to vote. In other cities, Mr Maer said, some queued for more than 11 hours but still could not vote while those who were tired of queuing simply walked away.

Mr Maer is disappointed that many Romanians in the UK did not have a chance of electing their president. Eager to cast their votes, some went to queue outside the polling stations as early as 2:00 am. The polling stations opened at 7:00 am.

“I think more than 5,000 Romanian citizens in London did not vote at the second round,” Mr Maer said. “Romanians have a right to vote and this cannot be taken away from them. That’s why they were frustrated because the government denied them the right to vote.”

Many suspected that the prime minister purposely refused to open more polling stations abroad in order to bar many Romanians abroad from voting against him. This motivated them to come out in large numbers to vote for Mr Iohannis.

While in the first round only about 10,000 Romanians in the UK voted, in the presidential run-off more than 26,000 voted.

Many people in the UK voted under pressure and there were protests at polling stations. A child was almost crushed at the door in a polling station in London while a woman was struck by an object thrown from the crowd, Mr Maer said. Those who came to serve tea to people on the queue were sent away and accused of bribing voters.

“Such a poor organisation of the vote does not honour Romania, an EU country. The only consolation for those who queued for honours to vote is that their favourite candidate won.”

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