Romania’s foreign minister Titus Corlatean said on November 10 that he submitted his resignation after renewed protests in Romania and abroad demanding his resignation and the opening of more voting stations outside the country for the presidential election run-off on November 16.
The first round of the election on November 2 was marred by accusations that the foreign ministry failed to ensure a smooth voting process and that voting stations outside Romania did not have enough booths, staff and voting stamps.
Several hundred people gathered for a protest outside the ministry’s building on the evening of November 2, while reports claimed that at some voting stations abroad, scuffles broke out between staff and people waiting to cast a ballot at closing time. New protests against the ministry’s decision not to open new polling stations were held on November 9.
Some reports in Romanian media even accused the ministry of sabotaging the process by closing stations in areas with large immigrant communities while offering voting locations elsewhere in order to keep the number of voting stations unchanged, at 294, from the 2009 elections.
Corlatean reiterated the ministry’s position that there were no legal grounds to open new polling stations abroad, but said that the ministry would add more staff for the run-off, as well as making the form – in which voters casting ballots abroad say that they will not vote multiple times – available online in order to speed up the voting process.
“I cannot accept to break the law for the electoral benefit of [incumbent president Traian] Basescu and [Sibiu mayor Klaus] Iohannis and I cannot accept the prospect of giving grounds for challenging the run-off outcome because of new polling stations being set up abroad,” Corlatean said at a news conference on November 10, as quoted by Romanian media.
Basescu, who won re-election by a narrow margin in 2009 thanks to the ballots cast abroad – with such voters traditionally opting for rightist candidates – was among the first to demand Corlatean’s resignation. The coalition of centre-right parties backing Iohannis in the election has asked for new polling stations to be opened outside the country.
Iohannis will face prime minister Victor Ponta in the run-off, but faces an uphill task in having to make up a 10-point gap to Ponta from the first round.
(Titus Corlatean announces his resignation as Romania’s foreign minister at a news conference on November 10 2014. Photo: mae.ro)