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BETWEEN DISPROPORTIONALITY AND ABSENTEEISM: RECENT EVOLUTIONS OF THE ROMANIAN ELECTORAL SYSTEM
In 1990, Romania opted for an electoral system of proportional representation (PR) which remained in place until the 2004 elections. During this time, every electoral cycle had been marked by different reforms and/or amendments to the electoral law. The electoral reform from 2008 and the subsequent transition to an alleged single-member majority electoral system (SMP) which still retained a major component of proportionality occurred in an environment characterized by a sense of profound disappointment with the activity of the parliament, the quality of the political representation as well as with the acute levels of disproportionality generated by the previous electoral system. Having said this, the new electoral system led, in turn, to an even greater public dissatisfaction which renewed the political debate spurred by a series of perceived dysfunctionalities with the new electoral system. Among them, the provision which enabled a candidate to win a seat in Parliament from a runner up position in a given electoral college represented one of the main points of contention. Consequently, beginning with the 2016 elections, Romania reverted to PR. In this paper, we seek to analyze the impact of the electoral system on political representation and the composition of the parliament. The working hypothesis we are operating with is that the degree of disproportionality characterizing the electoral outcome of Romanian parliamentary elections has been high irrespective of the type of electoral system. We posit that it was also influenced by other factors such as electoral absenteeism. The electoral turnout reached an alarming 39% at the parliamentary elections from 2008, when the SMP electoral system was first used (a historical low in Romanian democratic history), but, surprisingly, remained almost the same in the 2016 elections, after the return to PR. This shows that absenteeism remains an important factor which affects the final electoral results and accentuates the disproportionality generated by the electoral system. Moreover, we will also argue that a return to the electoral system of PR and the modification of different legislative mechanisms did not succeed in fixing the problem of disproportionality as seen with the results of the parliamentary election from 2016 and, for various reasons, may have even further accentuated it.