Thousands of Romanians around the word began casting ballots in the presidential election Friday after a new law went into effect extending voting hours for voters who live abroad, following chaotic and angry scenes at polling stations from previous elections.
By mid-afternoon Friday, more than 60,000 people had voted, most in Brussels, in the Moldovan capital Chisinau, and Limassol in Cyprus, G4Media reported.
Romania’s presidential election is on Sunday with an expected runoff two weeks later.
It is the first time that Romanians who live abroad will be given three days to cast their vote after the problem became a political issue. Parliament passed a law in July allowing the extra time, after thousands complained they were unable to vote in successive elections due to long lines and insufficient polling stations, the last time being the European Parliament elections on May 26.
This time, three times as many polling stations have been set up in Western capitals for Romanians abroad after accusations of poor organization forced two foreign ministers to resign.
Romanian voters who live abroad generally support pro-European candidates such as the incumbent, President Klaus Iohannis or Dan Barna, who is running for the Union to Save Romania.
The Romanian diaspora of 3.6 million is counted as the fifth largest in the world, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development OECD.
Romanians lined up in Italy where there are 142 polling stations, in towns around Germany where 79 polling stations have been set up and in France where there are 50 places where Romanians can vote,
The foreign ministry said that at 1300 Romanian time (1100 GMT), voting was ongoing in 770 polling stations out of a total of 835. Voting had finished in polling stations in New Zealand and Australia.
Iohannis said new law would allow early voting and voting by correspondence and represents “the first step to creating the conditions for the exercise of this right by all citizens who are (now) standing in queues outside polling stations even after 9pm”.
In other election-related news, the National Penitentiaries Authority said that 15,000 inmates out of a total of 20,000 had applied to vote on Sunday.