Monday, May 21, 2007

The price of abstention

As you may be aware, on Saturday there was a referendum in Romania as to whether to impeach President Basescu. This measure was supported by pretty much every political party bar his own, and it failed spectacularly. Basescu got 75% of the vote (or technically the answer "no" to the question "do you want to impeach him?" got 75%, which is not exactly the same thing)

This huge defeat to the sponsors of the referendum was, however, not as conclusive as it might have been (though to my mind it is pretty damned conclusive) because the turnout was only 43% of the electorate. Harghita County (i.e. here) registered the lowest turnout of any county in the country. Now, those who lost in this election are coming out and assigning a reason as to why so many people didn't vote. It shows that they don't care enough about Basescu to vote for him, was one thing I heard, for example.

This is why not voting is a mistake. It allows people to assign you a position. Those 57% who didn't vote? "They tacitly supported us, and that's why they didn't show up". There are of course numerous reasons why people don't vote, many of them very valid. Here are some.
  • I couldn't be bothered to get off my lardy arse.

  • I think Basescu is as corrupt as the rest of them and see no reason to support one or other side in this ridiculous charade

  • I don't support him, but I can't bring myself to vote for a measure sponsored by Iliescu/Vadim Tudor/Marko Bela/Tariceanu (delete as appropriate)

  • I don't support him, but I can't bring myself to vote for a measure sponsored by the PSD/PRM/UDMR (delete as appropriate)

  • I do support him, but I can't go against my party's line, so I'd rather not vote at all*

  • This whole argument between Basescu and Tariceanu is a complete waste of time. I'm not going to dignify it

  • I have much more important things to do with my Saturday than voting (this was almost certainly true in many rural areas since this is a very busy time of the year agriculturally and polling booths were only open in daylight hours. It seemed counties containing big cities had higher turnout than those that don't)

[*This reason by the way is the one that it is suggested to me which is the reason why Harghita and Covasna had the lowest turnout across the country - that is that people here typically vote UDMR (and vote as the UDMR tells them), but that the UDMR were telling them to do something they didn't want to do. So rather than go aganst the party, they just didn't vote. Even then, though, the graph on this page shows that 58% of UDMR supporters voted "No", and I read somewhere else that Covasna, although it had the second lowest turnout, was the most pro-Basescu county of the whole country. (Anyone know where I can get a detailed breakdown of the turnout/vote?)]


Dan Anghel said...

The final results will be published here, the website of the National Electoral Bureau. Interesting point about the reason why the turnout was so small in Covasna and Harghita, but what about those who went to vote? Were they supporters of the UCM instead of UDMR? Since we know that the UCM rallied for president Basescu. Another thing, it's difficult to say that 58% of the UDMR supporters voted "No" since the total number of UDMR supporters exceeds the number of UDMR supporters which voted on Saturday from what you said:) Those are of course true figures as far as the UDMR voters turnout is concerned, but they don't represent much because we all know that the turnout for presidential or legislative elections is substantially higher. In the meantime those are figures that president Basescu will use ceaselessly (starting with his speech on Saturday evening in Piata Universitatii) to build his new strategy upon, to build a majority in the Parliament by breaking up the political parties.

Andy H said...

Yeah, maybe I wasn't clear, Dan. What I assume that graph from Cotidianul shows is the breakdown of the how those UDMR supporters who voted voted. (if that makes sense (ie I assume it's data compiled from an exit poll, and therefore only refers to those people who actually went to the polls)

Dan Anghel said...

OK, I understand perfectly, nevertheless it is subject to confusion, especially when the turnout in Harghita and Covansa was so low, below 30% in Harghita according to the latest news:) Nevertheless, I'm interested in how you see the votes of those who participated. I mean, are they considered as a whole as UDMR voters or are they split between UDMR and UCM voters? Because I tend to think that the figures presented by Cotidianul and praised by president Basescu don't take into account this separation of the voters, between UCM and UDMR supporters, which makes the figure of 58% even more false. As far as I know the UCM is not yet registered as a political party.

Andy H said...

Hi again Dan. I think it's common practice amongst those doing exit polls to ask the people they interview "Which party do you support/are you a member of?" which is what I'm presuming happened in the exit poll figures quoted by Cotidianul - thus 58% of those polled who self-identified as UDMR, voted "no" in the referendum.

By the way, a friend passed this on to me: which sums up the results, and shows that only 27.39% voted in Harghita. That's a staggeringly low turnout. Especially given that only 3 counties had lower than 35%
HR 27.39%
CV 31.15%
SM 33.75%