Raluca Caranfil, pictured, was among the Romanian nationals who voted at the Romanian embassy in Luxembourg on 26 May
Photo: Matic Zorman/archives
Romanian national Raluca Caranfil talks about the humiliation her fellow citizens endured after sacrificing their Sundays to vote.
I was one of the Romanians who queued for hours for my right to vote at the European elections on 26 May, 2019 in Luxembourg.
We went through the same experience in 2014 when we also queued for hours in Luxembourg to vote for the Romanian presidential elections. Knowing the importance of this year’s vote, we woke up early so much so we were in front of the embassy at 10.05 a.m. There was already a long queue and the last people were close to the road crossing. It was there where we joined the queue.
As hours passed, we discovered friends who were also queuing with us, we held their dog while they were voting, someone went and bought coffee for everyone, another person gave me a fruity bar because I was hungry, my husband and another man we never met before went to buy water from the nearby gas station. It was a nice spirit of togetherness.
Finished in less than 2 minutes
Of course, there were people who took advantage of the queue, people who cut in front, whole families who voted in front of everyone because they had children, but somehow, I was left with that beautiful feeling about the Romanians living in the area.
After 5 hours spent in the sun, almost exhausted, we reached the voting station. Inside there was a desk where two people scanned our IDs to see if we voted on elections in another country. Once we were cleared, we entered the voting room. During those minutes we were instructed to read an example of the ballots to familiarize ourselves with them, so we would speed up the process, giving as many people the possibility to vote.
There were 5 voting booths and we were handed three ballots and a voting stamp. I entered the booth, and after just skimming through the ballot sheet, I cast my vote. It took me half a minute to see exactly where each ballot would go into its distinct voting box, I signed for my ID and went out. In this time a person would hand write the dates from my ID. It all finished in less than 2 minutes.
2 handwritten lists
Some explanations are required at this point. In Romania, different from Luxembourg for example, we do not register to vote. There isn’t a database with Romanians living in Luxembourg and the Great Region, so to make it legal, we all voted on additional lists. That is why members of the voting commission had to hand write our name, address and ID number. Also, because on 26 May we cast our ballot for the European Parliament election but also for a referendum called by president Klaus Johannis, there were two handwritten lists.
After we voted we spent some time with our friends who were still queuing, we encouraged them and went home.
It was there I discovered I was severely insolated, but it did not matter, I was in contact with my friends who were still queueing at the embassy. Basically, the people who came to vote after 2 p.m. did not vote and obviously were disappointed.
The voting process closed at 9 p.m. and after that time everyone who was on the embassy grounds could still vote. Now it depended on what the people at the embassy considered embassy grounds. Apparently, they considered just the building of the embassy and they let only 15 people vote after 9 p.m. I read that the same night in Munich the local police helped Romanians to vote and they could still vote up to 9.30 p.m. when the ID scanning software was stopped from Romania. In the Hague, the consulate personnel closed the gate to the building and there were people who climbed the fence to be inside the garden at 9 p.m. In Zurich, the IDs were scanned for most of the people queuing so they could vote even after 9.30 p.m.
In Luxembourg, my friends said the police were called at about 8.30 p.m. and they protected the people inside “because the voters became agitated and started calling names” (quoting the message sent to us three days after Sunday, on Facebook by the ambassador of Romania in Luxembourg). It was strange to see how many police officers were called to the scene; my friends counted 15 police vans. Did they expect a riot? And where was the concern for the people who queued all day on the street or very close to the street? Were they not Romanians, were they not worth protecting?
Around 9 p.m., the president of the voting station escorted by a police officer went on the roof of the embassy and told the people that he was sorry for what happened, but it was not exactly their fault as they did not anticipate that people from across the border in Germany, France and Belgium would vote in Luxembourg. What a horribly bad joke!
An end to corruption
From home, I watched in disbelief as my friends started singing the anthem in front of the embassy, tears rolling down my cheeks, we were hopeless. I remembered the atmosphere at the queue, the sense of togetherness, the sense of familiarity, we all speak the same language, we all had to adapt to the Luxembourgish reality leaving the other life at home and starting afresh. For me it was horrible that the Romanian government would treat its citizens in this way.
From the outside people reading this might wonder why all the effort, why would Romanians choose to sacrifice their Sunday to vote? Because we all live here, and we see the difference between living in Luxembourg or Germany or any other country in the region and living in Romania. We all want the end of corruption, we all want a good road infrastructure, good medical and educational systems and although the social-democrat government won the elections in 2016 with a staggering 40%, nothing much changed, and people are still choosing the migration path to escape Romania.
And we all remember that on 10 August of last year the diaspora came to Romania to show their support for the people still living at home and was met by the corrupt government with tear gas and brutality from the police force. We want that to never happen again.
Despite the fact that we were humiliated, as people wrote by hand for 15 hours into pointless tables, while we queued for hours in the sun or in the rain and cold all over the world where Romanians choose to find a second home, the effects of our actions could be seen starting the next day. We hope it was all worth it.