Romanians stayed away from the polls on Sunday in parliamentary elections where the governing Liberal Party is hoping to build a comfortable majority.
The low turnout could impact the outcome with the opposition Social Democrats doing much better than polls predict.
By 8pm (1800 GMT), one hour before polls closed, some 5.66 million voters had cast their ballots, about 31.1% of the electorate of more than 18 million. That’s much lower than in 2016 when turnout was 38.65% at the same time.
Voter apathy, partly caused by the coronavirus pandemic, will mean a lack of legitimacy for the future Parliament and there could be an upset in the final result.
Prime Minister Ludovc Orban urged Romanians to vote. „Dear Romanians, four years ago, low turnout led to a Parliament lacking legitimacy, a parliament which undermined the rule of law and democratic institutions.”
„There are three hours left until polls close, enough time for you to express your fundamental right to vote…. so we don’t repeat the mistake of 2016,” when the Social Democrats scored a substantial victory due to low turnout.
The closer the results are, the more unpredictable and complicated the post-election situation becomes.
The left-leaning Social Democrats, which have a disciplined electorate, are most likely to be favored if voters stay away. Although the party has lost support it has strong roots in rural areas and among Euro skeptics.
The center-right Liberals need a higher turnout to guarantee a clear win and seek to head a coalition.
In any case, no party is expected to win an outright majority.
Liberals are leading in the polls but have lost support in the last month due to coronavirus fatigue and frustration with restrictions.
The Social Democratic Party won 2016 elections and spent much of its time in power weakening anti-corruption laws, before seeing its leader Liviu Dragnea jailed for abuse of office.
It was ousted by a no-confidence vote a year ago. The Liberal Party has been hamstrung by parliamentary minority.