The instruction concerning the organization of the presidential elections issued by the CEC, by which the electoral commissions and the voters are warned to obey the protection rules, should be modified. “We should oblige the members of the electoral commission and voters to wear masks and, if possible, gloves, to have disinfectant and pen. If we only warn, we risk having a very large number of infections after the elections,” stated public health expert Ala Tocarciuc.
In IPN’s public debate “Elections in times of pandemic: necessity, risks, scenarios, solutions”, the expert said the local elections held in Romania on September 27 led to an upsurge in the number of infections with COVID-19, from 1,400 new cases daily to 4,000 cases. “We should do the homework here. We prepare for elections on November 1, but should be also ready for what will be on November 7-8. What will we do with the wave of infections as, if we have runoffs on November 15, the problems on November 1 will seem insignificant to us,” stated Ala Tocarciuc.
According to her, the authorities didn’t use the opportunity to digitize or to replace the voting method with postal voting or electronic voting. With the developing IT industry, we could have done this at small costs.
Each election campaign generates particular stress in society and this is measured by the size of polarization of the vote and the dimension of the electoral option of the population. The greater is the competition between candidates, the high is the level of stress and the risk of accusations and suspicions about fraud. In the current situation, we also have the pandemic risk or the risk of stigmatization of a part of population, influenced by the fear of becoming infected, of death. These risks should be assessed correctly and should be diminished.
Ala Tocarciuc urged the authorities and the people not to enter false positivity and think that everything is prepared and there are no risks. “The commission members will be most exposed. It’s known that the virus lives in the air for many hours. Each voter will come, will take off the mask to identify themselves and they will anyway interact with the commission members who will remain in the room for over 12 hours. There is a risk that in a week all the commission members will be sick. I see big risks here. The dangers for the voters are not so big. They will come and will leave in five minutes and if they throw the mask and gloves and disinfect their hands, the risks will be diminished.”
Ala Tocarciuc anticipated that the number of infected persons will rise and not only because of the elections, which are an additional factor. “I think the elections will accelerate the uprising trend. It’s good that we all realize this and have now some time to prepare. There are two weeks before the elections and those who will contract the virus in the elections will have an incubation period of a week. So, we have three weeks ahead and the authorities, the health system, those who manage the local public authorities responsible for these processes should think now what we will do with the patients, how we will treat them and where we will accommodate them at the local level, where we will find medical, human resources in particular,” she stated.
“The responsibility is borne by those who are in power. I expect the Ministry of Health, the Prime Minister, the CEC to tell us clearly wheat shall we do, how shall we do, where there are reserves, how many beds had been prepared and how many beds will be yet activated. We should have coherent communication so as to diminish panic and stress.”
The public debate “Elections in times of pandemic: necessity, risks, scenarios, solutions” was the 157th installment of the series “Developing political culture through public debates” that is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation.