As you (probably) know, the local elections are being held across the country this Sunday, June 10th. As an American, it’s always interesting to see the difference in how elections are being held here versus the country where I was born.
The obvious difference is that there are strict laws on when campaigning can even begin. In America there are no time restrictions and theoretically I could announce tomorrow that I’m running for President (or mayor, etc) for the elections of 2024 and it would be perfectly legal. Here in Romania the campaigns are shorter, more intense and sometimes more hilarious.
Reading this article (in Romanian) this morning made me laugh because it’s a summary of all of the things the political candidates are handing out to prospective voters in order to influence (buy) their support on Sunday.
This has been outlawed in America for over 100 years but here in Romania apparently buckets are no longer “in fashion” but the giving away of frying pans is what’s trending (along with promising to “fry” the opposition candidate). There are also a lot of cheap pens and lighters being given away (with the candidate/party’s name on them). According to the article, each vote in the countryside “costs” the respective party 50-100 lei in gifts.
Other popular gifts to prospective voters are (house) slippers and eyeglasses (presumably the “cheaters” you can buy in a store without a customized prescription). One thing I’ve seen myself is that the parties will set up little tents and offer free tests such as measuring your blood pressure, etc, and that this is particularly popular as it’s kind of like a free visit to the doctor. One of the candidates for mayor in Bucharest also famously gave away fly swatters as he pledged to “drive out” the current mayor (makes more sense in Romanian).
The article also goes on to state that “money never goes out of fashion” and that several candidates are offering a host of vouchers to their supporters (if they win, of course) from the local government for everything from kids who get good grades (marks) to vouchers for a whole host of services, especially for seniors (retired people) so that they can get reduced prices for their rent, medicine and other things (like meals at the city cafeteria).
What’s cool about all of this is that it’s perfectly legal. If candidate X hands a wad of cash to someone to vote for him/her then that is illegal but handing out frying pans or bicycles or pens or promises of future city government vouchers is all perfectly permissible. It truly does remind me of the “old days” in America when candidates would hand out free whiskey on election day in order to “buy” votes and in England when they used to have the hustings and each party would have a pretty girl who would kiss every man who voted for their candidate.
Sadly, because I am not a voter or even a prospective voter, all I got was some cheap fliers in the mail. I did however get a telephone call from a TV station who wanted to film me and interview me if I were going to vote but alas since I’m not (yet!) a citizen, they politely thanked me and hung up the telephone as quickly as possible.
Ah well, what can you do? :P