Romanian Parliamentary Elections 1990–2012

Stability and Stir

by Cosmin Gabriel Marian (Author)
©2014 Monographs 136 Pages


This is a book about parliamentary elections in Romania in the two decades that followed the collapse of the one-party rule. It charts how the electoral rules developed, it looks at how people voted, and takes stock of the long term effects of the electoral system. Despite commotion and experimentation in the electoral rules and stir in the political arena, the Romanian election outcomes over the past two decades are surprisingly monotonous. Twenty years after they entered the first electoral cycle in 1990, the Romanian political parties and partisan groups were about in the same condition: quarters united against themselves.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • The Transition Set
  • Rules that govern electoral choice in Romania Electoral design and re-design
  • Turnout in Romania: something about the electoral formula,the people and the society
  • Consequences of the electoral designs in 1990s and 2000s
  • Citizens and elections
  • Supply side: parties
  • Parties and Voters
  • Supply side: candidates
  • Right, Left and Wrong in Romanian Politics. Making Sense of Ideological Labels
  • Conclusions
  • References
  • Annex


This book was made possible by the contributions and efforts of several institutions and individuals. First of all, the Romanian Executive Agency for Higher Education, Research, Development and Innovation Funding (UEFISCDI), through a TE research grant (PN II-RU 311/2010, Micro and Macro Predictors of Electoral Behavior in Post-Communist Romania), funded the scientific work and data assembling. The Center for the Study of Democracy and the Political Science Department at Babeș-Bolyai University, Romania, housed the project and provided the research infrastructure. Soros Foundation Romania, the United States Information Agency (USIA), and the Ethnocultural Diversity Resource Center, Cluj-Napoca, Romania, generously provided a multitude of survey datasets on which most of the analyses were based. Hodiș Media SRL designed and created the Romanian Electoral Data web platform for this project.

I want to thank Professor Ron King, San Diego State University, U.S.A., for playing a key role in this book by encouraging my research in the field of electoral studies, sharing his insights into Romanian electoral politics, and providing sage advice on the overall approach to this project.

I am grateful for the help provided by the team of the Romanian Electoral Data Project: Romana Careja (University of Cologne), Claudiu Tufiș (University of Bucharest), and Toma Burean (Babeș-Bolyai University). I am thankful to Carmen Greab and Florin Feșnic for their research assistance. Deborah Buckley had the important role of proofreading and assisting with the editing process.← 7 | 8 →


A regime swap zeros in on electoral politics. Those Romanians who reached adulthood in the 1940’s, and were still alive in 1990, witnessed a return to political diversity unique in the country’s history. There was political diversity again. Old parties came to life and new ones were being formed by the dozens. Competitive elections were being organized. Many of those who had been politically persecuted and marginalized for decades, were now at center stage. Ordinary people seemed to have the floor. A variety of electoral strategies reached the voters, parties fought to gain legitimacy and electoral niches, while electoral spin doctors were ebullient.

The first multi-party elections were held in 1990, after almost half a century of a one-party rule. Roughly four out of five citizens voted and, to the surprise of observers, the political force that won was made up of second-level cadres from the communist regime. The historic political parties that were resuscitated in winter-spring 1990, barely managed to enter the parliament. In the second round of multi-party elections held in 1992, two out of three Romanians went to the polls enabling the same political forces to maintain their clout over the parliament. However, in each of the next five legislative elections – 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 – the fortunes of parties changed, the winners and the losers swapped, some left the political arena for good, some left their old ‘cloths’ to endorse the new.

Looking for legitimacy and consolidation through legality after the fall of the communist regime in late 1989, the newly and relatively little acknowledged political class had to devise an electoral system and put it to work rather quickly. They gained, or at least survived, the bloody uprising against Ceausescu’s regime. Now was the time to consider elections. The task was huge. People without political or electoral experience had to craft a set of optimal norms that were to govern, by first determining who and in what manner would compete and second, who and in what manner would vote. They settled for a system of proportional representation in multi-member districts that emphasized political organizations and sidelined the importance of individual candidates (Decree Law 92/1990). The choice for a formula of transferring votes into seats was based on a combination of a Hare Quota applied at the county level, a d’Hondt divisor applied at the national level, closed electoral lists, a relatively high threshold that operated at the national level and relatively small district magnitudes. Both ← 9 | 10 → chambers of the parliament – the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate – were elected based on the same rules, with the only difference being the number of votes needed for each of the two representative categories. While there was no special attention or interest given to the diaspora votes that were counted as part of the electoral district of the capital-city Bucharest, there were adopted special arrangements – reserved seats – to secure the political representation in the Chamber of Deputies of the minority ethnic groups. Before each election, the rules of the game were amended with regards to the national electoral threshold, the conditions to register candidates and the provisions for the registration of parties and electoral alliances (Law 68/1992, Law 27/1996, Government Decrees 63/2000, 129/2000, 140/2000 and 165/2000, Law 373/2004). In 2008, following five years of public and parliamentary debates, a new electoral law was enacted and innovative elements were added to the proportional representation system (Law 35/2008). The multi-member constituencies were divided into single-member ‘electoral colleges’. Seats were again allocated proportionally using the same logic of Hare Quota and d’Hondt divisor to which was added the principle that electoral colleges that were gained by a majority of votes were allocated to the respective individuals that run either as members of a party or as independents. The new system introduced a bonus-adjusted dimension for the party candidates that do better than the party machine. It emphasizes the role of candidates without diminishing that of the parties. The quota of representation for both chambers remained unchanged. Again, both deputies and senators were elected using the same formula. In 2008, for the first time, a separate constituency for diaspora was set. Parties or political alliances could gain representation if they passed the national electoral threshold or if they could win, with a majority of votes, at least six electoral colleges for the Chamber of Deputies and at least three for the Senate. The provisions for the ethnic minorities’ representation were kept.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2014 (January)
Parlamentswahlen Rumänien Übergang zur Demokratie Wahlverhalten Wahlmodelle Politische Parteien
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2013. 136 pp., 51 tables

Biographical notes

Cosmin Gabriel Marian (Author)


Title: Romanian Parliamentary Elections 1990–2012
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137 pages