3 November 2014

The Evil Nudge of Romanian Government

Yesterday, November 2nd, there was the first round of voting for the new Romanian President. Nothing special for most European democracies. Yet, the Romanian Government managed to screw-up once more by using what I believe to be an Evil Nudge.

The particularity about Romania, though not only, is that after joining the EU in 2007 about 15% of the population moved abroad, mainly in other EU countries. 15% of the population is large in both percentage and absolute numbers: 3.000.000 (three millions). To get an order of magnitude, Bucharest, the capital city, has a population of about two millions. So the number of Romanians living abroad is 1.5 times larger than the population of the capital city.

Throughout the last few years, Romanians who live abroad were criticized for not being engaged enough in the country’s life and for not being aware of the Romanian reality. Apart from the fact that objectively this is crap, yesterday Romanians who live abroad went to vote in large numbers. So large that, once again, “authorities were caught by surprise”.

Pictures taken by Georgiana Socianu in London UK

What happened was that people cued up to seven hours to vote. Many didn’t get to vote because the elections schedule ended (by law at 9:00 PM). In Paris and London, the Romanian embassies called the French and British Police to “restore order” because there were hundreds or thousands of people who wanted to cast their vote and were turned away.

Apart from this being an utter insult to Democracy, it is another proof that Romanians who live abroad are feared. They can’t be bought and they can’t be fooled by populist measures.

The evil nudge that I was talking about was making voting more difficult. Although the act of voting is simple – one has to put a stamp on a piece of paper – the process was so slow that it took forever to do it. We had to fill in a form declaring that we have not and will not vote again. This is because in the age of technology and in a country with outstanding IT professionals, in 25 years the government didn’t manage to create an IT system that checks if someone voted only once. The number of voting locations, voting stamps, and voting booths was utterly insufficient.

So by making things more difficult and more bureaucratic, the Government managed to nudge people into not voting.

Surprisingly or not, the current prime-minister is a candidate in the elections for president. Surprisingly or not, usually Romanians who live abroad tend to not vote for the socialist party which is headed by the current prime-minister, candidate for president.

However, voting at the embassy in North Korea went smoothly. All FIVE votes were casted in order and discipline without any incidents. Three of the five votes were for the current prime-minister.

On November 16th there is the second round of voting. There are only two candidates left, including the current prime-minister. Let’s see if “it was an honest mistake” or if “winter is coming”.

The foreign affairs minister should get a copy of Nudge signed by R. Thaler with “Nudge for Good” 

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