The referendum for justice organized in Romania at the same time as the elections for the European Parliament, on Sunday, May 26, recorded a turnout of 32.7% (as of 18:00), according to live data from the Central Electoral Bureau – BEC. The minimum turnout for having the referendum validated is 30%.
(Update: the final turnout at the referendum was 41.28% while the turnout in the elections for the European Parliament was 49%, without including the votes abroad).
The referendum was organized at the request of president Klaus Iohannis as a measure of last resort to stop the ruling coalition’s serial changes to the justice laws and criminal codes. The ruling coalition’s parties boycotted the referendum and advised their supporters not to vote in it. This is why the turnout at the referendum is lower than that at the EU elections, which was over 39% (also at 18:00). By comparison, the turnout at the EU elections of 2014 in Romania was only 32.5% and in 2009 - under 28%.
Romanians were called to answer two questions, namely if they agree to ban pardoning and amnesty for people convicted for corruption and if they agree to forbid the Government from changing essential legislation in the justice sector by emergency ordinance.
The many changes in the justice laws and criminal codes which started after the Social Democratic Party (PSD) came to power in December 2016 have sparked unprecedented protests in Romania and caused much dissatisfaction as they were seen as attempts to keep corrupt politicians out of jail. One of the beneficiaries of these changes is PSD leader Liviu Dragnea.
The result of the EU elections could thus reflect the Romanians’ growing discontent with the ruling coalition’s policies and their rhetoric rather hostile to the EU. The latest polls were already showing PSD going down rapidly but a high turnout could result in a clear defeat for the ruling party.
One sign that the PSD could suffer a significant defeat is that the counties with the highest turnout are the ones in Western Romania, where voters are generally anti-PSD. Ilfov, the small county around Bucharest, was first, with a turnout of over 48%, followed closely by Cluj (47.8%). Sibiu was third (45%), followed by Brasov, Salaj and Bihor. These counties also recorded the highest turnout for the referendum on justice. Bucharest also had a turnout above average, of 41.8%.
Meanwhile, PSD’s traditional fiefs in Eastern and Southern Romania had low turnout rates.
Moreover, there were over one million more voters in the cities than in rural areas, which also shows higher mobilization of the urban population, compared to the rural population which is traditionally more inclined to vote for PSD.
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The referendum on justice and the elections for the European Parliament, both taking place on May 26, will generate...