If it’s not on paper, it’s not printed material – Romanian campaign questions

Romania is preparing for a new round of presidential elections scheduled for November (read more about the candidates here and here), so the political parties do their utmost to maximize their chances and votes, and to disparage their opponents. The election and the battle of the parties has led to some very ridiculous cases, like when Romania’s Central Electoral Bureau (BEC) had to define what printed campaign materials are.

The Electoral Bureau of Máramaros/Maramureș County admitted on October 18 a complaint from the Social Democratic Party (PSD) and ordered the removal of campaign prints of the USR-PLUS Alliance from a car spotted in Nagybánya/Baia Mare. According to BEC, the campaign inscriptions on the car urged people to vote for presidential candidate Barna Dan (the candidate of the above-mentioned political alliance). The car showed the face of the politician and a clear specification of the position for which he was running.

The county bureau not only admitted thecomplaint, but it also ordered the County Police Department, the Romanian Border Police, the Romanian Gendarmerie, local policemen, and the mayor of Nagybánya to enforce the decision.

A similar notification arrived to the Electoral Bureau of Vaslui County from the Barlád/Bârlad PSD; the social democrats spotted a car with a “Vote for Barna Dan” inscription in their town, and they didn’t like it.

Of course, the Alliance appealed the decision, stating that they used the car exclusively for the local electoral campaign and only after they obtained prior approval from the Permanent Electoral Authority. The Alliance underlined that a car with printed political ads does not fit into any category of propaganda materials, as it was stated in the decision of the Electoral Bureau of Máramaros County.

The parties claim that according to the law (Article 36 para 2., lit. e) in an “electoral campaign … other printed materials can be used,” and it does not forbid printed materials on vehicles, such as self-adhesive foil. According to the Alliance, admitting the complaint of the social democrats violates the principles of the law: Where the law does not distinguish, nor must we distinguish – all that is not forbidden by law is allowed.

But on Wednesday, the Central Electoral Bureau(BEC) rejected the USR-PLUS appeals against the decisions of the County Electoral Offices in Máramaros and Vaslui. BEC states that, from the interpretation of the legal texts, it follows that it is not allowed to inscribe vehicles with messages of electoral propaganda nor to place electoral posters on them.

“It could not be argued that ‘other printed materials,’ under Law No. 334/2006, Article 36 (2) letter e), would have the meaning of self-adhesive foil for vehicles, as long as Article 22 paragraph 3) of the Guide of Financing the Electoral Campaign for the Romanian Presidential Election of 2019 defines text as printed materials on paper”, the BEC stated.

Title image: The car with political inscriptions. Photo: Digi24

Author: Orsi Sarány