Romanian general election, 1946


Romanian general election, 1946

report cited by Petre Ţurlea.] The Romanian general election of 1946 was a general election held on November 19, 1946, in Romania. Officially, it was carried with 79.86% of the vote by the Romanian Communist Party (PCR), its allies inside the Bloc of Democratic Parties ("Blocul Partidelor Democrate", BPD), and its associates — the Hungarian People's Union (UPM or MNSz), the pro-government splinter group from the opposition National Peasants' Party (PNŢ), formed around Nicolae L. Lupu, and the Jewish Democratic Committee ("Comitetul Democratic Evreiesc"). [Ştefan, p.9; Tismăneanu, p.323] The event marked a decisive step towards the disestablishment of the Romanian monarchy and the proclamation of a Communist regime at the end of the following year. Breaking with the traditional universal male suffrage confirmed by the 1923 Constitution, it was the first national election to witness women's suffrage, and the first to allow active public officials and Romanian Army personnel the right to vote. [Ştefan, p.10; Ţiu] The BPD, representing the incumbent leftist government formed around Prime Minister Petru Groza, was an electoral alliance comprising the PCR, the Social Democratic Party (PSD), the Ploughmen's Front, the National Liberal Party-Tătărescu, the PNŢ splinter group of Anton Alexandrescu and the Union of Patriots. [Ştefan, p.9; Tismăneanu, p.323]

In general, commentators agree that the grouping carried the vote through widespread intimidation tactics and electoral fraud, to the detriment of both the PNŢ and the National Liberal Party (PNL). While there is disagreement over the exact results, it is contended that the BPD and its allies did not receive more than 48% of the total (according to several estimates, the actual votes for the PNŢ allowed it to form government, either on its own or as part of a coalition). [Frunză, p.290-291; Giurescu, "«Alegeri» după model sovietic", p.17; Tismăneanu, p.113; Ţurlea, p.35, 36; Weiner & Özbudun, p.386] Instead, the elections awarded the BPD a crushing majority inside the new and unicameral Parliament — it had 348 mandates on its own (379 with its allies), whereas the PNŢ was awarded 32 mandates and the PNL only 3. [Ştefan, p.9]

Carried out upon the close of World War II, under Romania's occupation by Soviet troops, [Ştefan, p.9] the 1946 Romanian election has drawn comparisons to the similarly flawed elections held at the time in most of the emerging Eastern Bloc (in Albania, Bulgaria, , and Poland), [Ţârău, p.33-34] being considered, in respect to its formal system of voting, among the most permissive of the latter. [Ţârău, p.33-34]

Official results

Context

Following its exit from the Axis in late 1944, Romania became subject to Allied supervision ("see Romania during World War II, Allied Commission"). After the Yalta Conference in February 1945, Soviet authorities had increased their presence in Romania, as Western Allied governments resorted to expressing largely inconsequential criticism of new procedures in place. [Tismăneanu, p.113] After the Potsdam Conference, the latter group initially refused to recognize Groza's administration, [Cioroianu, p.61-64, 159-161] which had been imposed after Soviet pressured. [Cioroianu, p.156-157; Frunză, p.181-182; Weiner & Özbudun, p.386]

Consequently, King Michael I refused to sign legislation advanced by the cabinet (this was the so-called "Greva regală", "Royal strike"); on November 8, 1945, authorities repressed a spontaneous gathering of Bucharesters in front of the Royal Palace — demonstrators flocked to the plaza in front of the palace as a means to express their solidarity with the monarch (on the Orthodox liturgics Saint Michael's Day). [Cioroianu, "Pe umerii...", p.61-64, 159-161; Frunză, p.233] Depicting the event as a coup d'état attempt, authorities fired on the crowd, killing around 10 people. [Cioroianu, "Pe umerii...", p.62; Frunză, p.233] In January 1946, the "Royal strike" itself ended with Groza agreeing to include politicians from outside his electoral alliance, appointing two members of opposition parties (the National Liberal Mihail Romaniceanu and the National Peasants' Emil Haţieganu) as Ministers without Portfolio (the gesture also brought it Western Allied recognition). [Cioroianu, "Pe umerii...", p.63, 159-160; Macuc, p.39; Ţiu]

In mid-December 1945, the representatives of the three major Allied Powers — Andrey Vyshinsky from the Soviet Union, W. Averell Harriman from the United States, and Archibald Clerk-Kerr from the United Kingdom — visited the capital Bucharest and agreed for elections to be convened in May 1946, on the basis of the Yalta Agreements. [Cioroianu, p.63; Ştefan, p.10; Ţiu] Nevertheless, and despite opposition protests, [Ţiu] the pro-Soviet Groza cabinet took the liberty to prolong the term, passing the required new electoral procedure on June 17. [Cioroianu, p.64; Ştefan, p.10; Ţiu]

On the same day, Groza signed a decree to disestablish the Senate, turning the Parliament into a unicameral legislature, the "Assembly of Deputies" ("Adunarea Deputaţilor"). [Ştefan, p.10; Ţiu] The new legislation, breaking with the provisions of the 1923 Constitution, was made possible by the fact that Groza was governing without a parliament (the last legislature to have functioned, that of the National Renaissance Front, had been dissolved in 1941). [Ţiu] The Senate was traditionally considered reactionary by the PCR, [Ştefan, p.10] and its end was arguably meant to facilitate control over the legislative process. [Ştefan, p.10] The BPD government also removed the majority bonus, traditionally awarded to the party that had obtained more than 40% of the total suffrage. [Ţiu]

The election coincided with the deterioration of relations between the Soviet Union and the West at the start of the Cold War, notably marked by Winston Churchill's "Iron Curtain" speech at Westminster College on March 5, 1946, [Macuc, p.40] and the centering of Western Allied interest in turning the tide of the Civil War in Greece. [Tismăneanu, p.113] The intricate issues posed by the latter contributed to weakening ties between the Romanian opposition groups and their Western supporters, as the country appeared to be a lost cause for capitalism. [Tismăneanu, p.113]

The date of the election coincided with the fourth anniversary of Operation Uranus, the moment when Nazi Germany and Romania suffered a major defeat on the Eastern Front. [Macuc, p.40] According to his private notes, General Constantin Sănătescu, an adversary of the PCR and former Premier, presumed that this had been done on purpose ("in order to mock us"). [Sănătescu, in Macuc, p.40]

BPD

Following Romania's exit from the war, left-wing parties had increased their membership several times. The PCR, which held its first open and legal conference on October 1945, [Barbu, p.190-191; Cioroianu, "Pe umerii...", p.62, 91-93; Frunză, p.219-220; Ştefan, p.10; Tismăneanu, p.109] had begun a massive recruitment campaign, [Cioroianu, "Pe umerii...", p.297; Frunză, p.201-212] had benefited from an influx of former members of the fascist Iron Guard. [Cioroianu, "Pe umerii...", p.297; Frunză, p.208] By 1947, it grew to over 700,000 members from an initial 1,000 in 1944 [Barbu, p.190-191; Ştefan, p.10; PCR report, in Ţurlea, p.35. The Soviet Ambassador Sergey Kavtaradze placed the membership at 600,000 by the time of the election (Kavtaradze, Document 234, November 20, 1946, in Pokivailova, p.14)] (the constant growth in membership was by far the highest of all Eastern Bloc countries). [Barbu, p.190-191]

Similarly, the Ploughmen's Front, which Groza presided, was estimated to have 1,000,000-1,500,000 members [Kavtaradze, Document 234, November 20, 1946, in Pokivailova, p.14; Ştefan, p.10] or just 800,000. [PCR report, in Ţurlea, p.35] In early November 1946, Communist sources show that the BPD counted on 60 to 65% of its projected gains to be obtained from the Front's electorate (the poorest peasant categories). [Pauker, quoted by D. Yakovlev, Soviet Embassy Document of November 6, 1945, in Pokivailova, p.12, 13] By the time of the election, Groza's party had just been pressured into supporting Communist tenets, after it a brief conflict had erupted over the PCR's designs of collectivization. [Cioroianu, p.161-162]

The Social Democratic Party (PSD), which had been drawn into close collaboration with the PCR as early as 1944 (as part of the Singular Workers' Front, "Frontul Unic Muncitoresc"), had also seen a steady growth in numbers; [Frunză, p.271-272] the PSD was by then dominated by the pro-PCR wing of Ştefan Voitec and Lothar Rădăceanu, who purged the staunchly Reformist group of Constantin Titel Petrescu's in March 1946 (leading the latter to establish his as a minor independent group). [Cioroianu, p.93-94; Frunză, p.259-286] The Communist Ana Pauker noted with dissatisfaction that certain members of the PSD continued to remain hostile to her party (she cited the example of an unnamed intellectual and low-ranking member of the PSD who, during a BPD meeting, shouted a slogan in support of the PNŢ's Iuliu Maniu). [Pauker, quoted by Shutov, Document 234, November 20, 1946, in Pokivailova, p.13]

As a representative of the middle class, the National Liberal Party-Tătărescu itself had an uneasy relation with the PCR, having declared its support for capitalism. [Cioroianu, p.96-97]

According to a Communist report by the time of the election, the Hungarian People's Union (UPM or MNSz), which represented the Hungarian minority, was in relatively tense relations with the PCR (who suspected it of "chauvinism" over the issue of Northern Transylvania). [General Precup Victor, Nr.7 (November 23, 1946), in Troncotă, p.19] It was, however, instrumental in securing Transylvanian votes for the government coalition, as admitted by the PCR itself. [PCR report, in Ţurlea, p.35] The other ethnic grouping inside the BPD, the Jewish Committee, was created on April 22, 1946, when PCR representatives organized an intrusion into the representative bodies of the Jewish-Romanian community. [Wexler, p.83]

At the time, government-backed Communists had infiltrated the vast majority of the media and cultural institutions. [Cioroianu, "Pe umerii...", p.77-93, 106-148; Macuc, p.40; Frunză, p.240-258] On one occasion, the Red Army general Ivan Susaykov warned Nicolae Carandino, editor-in-chief of the PNŢ's "Dreptatea", to tone down his criticism of the BPD, and argued that "the Groza government is Soviet Russia itself". [Susaykov, in Macuc, p.40]

New legislation

The new legislation provided for the end of universal male suffrage, proclaiming the right to vote for all citizens over the age of 21, while restricting it for all persons who had held important office during the wartime dictatorship of "Conducător" Ion Antonescu. [Ştefan, p.10] The latter requirement facilitated abuse, as power to decide over who had been supporting the regime fell to "purging commissions", all of them controlled by the PCR, [Ştefan, p.10] and the Romanian People's Tribunals (investigating war crimes, and constantly supported by agitprop in the Communist press). [Frunză, p.228-232; Macuc, p.40, 41]

The decision to allow military men and public officials to vote was also intended to secure a grip on elections. [Ştefan, p.10; Ţârău, p.34; Ţiu] At the time, Groza's cabinet exercised complete control over public administration at central and local levels, and had taken charge of all communications between these and the population. [Ştefan, p.10; Ţârău, p.34; Ţiu] Soviet sources cited PCR officials giving assurances that the respective categories were to provide as much as 1 million votes for the BPD. [D. Yakovlev, Soviet Embassy Document of November 6, 1946, in Pokivailova, p.12]

A report of the Soviet Embassy in Bucharest, dated August 15, 1946, informed Andrey Vyshinsky of the legislative changes and made note of the fact that the two opposition leaders, Iuliu Maniu (leader of the PNŢ) and Dinu Brătianu (leader of the PNL), had asked King Michael I not to approve the new framework. [Susaikov, Soviet Embassy Telephonogram of August 15, 1946, in Pokivailova, p.11] The two parties had not been allowed to take any part in drafting the new legal framework. [Ţiu]

Early estimates

Months before the election, Communist leaders expressed confidence in being able to carry the election by 70 or 80% (statements by the Minister of Justice Lucreţiu Pătrăşcanu and the Minister of the Interior Teohari Georgescu), or even 90% (Miron Constantinescu, head of the PCR's "Scînteia" newspaper). [Giurescu, "Marea fraudă...", Part II] As early as May, former Minister of Foreign Affairs Constantin Vişoianu complained to Adrian Holman, the British Ambassador to Romania, that the BPD had ensured a means to win the elections through fraud. [Berry, in Giurescu, "Marea fraudă...", Part II] Writing in January, Archibald Clerk-Kerr assessed the results of his visit to Romania, arguing that no person he had met actually trusted that elections were going to be free, and that Vyshinsky himself believed that, on its own, the PCR was not capable of gathering more than 10% of the vote. [Clark-Kerr, in Macuc, p.39-40]

According to the American diplomat Burton Y. Berry, Groza had admitted to this procedure during an alleged conversation with a third party, indicating that the fraudulent percentages were the goal of competition between two sides — him and the PCR's general secretary Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej formed one, while a "Cominternist section" around Emil Bodnăraş represented the other; according to Berry, Groza and Gheorghiu-Dej were satisfied with a less intrusive fraud and, thus, a more realistic result (60%), while Bodnăraş aimed for 90%. [Giurescu, "Marea fraudă...", Part II] W. Averell Harriman, recording his conversation with Vyshinsky, alleged that the latter backed the 70% estimate. [Harriman, in Cioroianu, p.65] Nevertheless, the Soviet Ambassador Sergey Kavtaradze stated that, "through certain 'techniques'", the BPD could win by 90%. [Kavtaradze, in Cioroianu, p.65; Document 234, November 20, 1946, in Pokivailova, p.15] A reference to "techniques" was also made by Ana Pauker in conversation with Soviet officials; she nevertheless expressed her belief that the overall result was not going to be upwards of 60% (Pauker also voiced concern that overall votes for the BPD coalition were not going to dissuade the public perception that the PCR was actually in a minority position). [Pauker, quoted by Shutov, Document 234, November 20, 1946, in Pokivailova, p.14]

Historian Adrian Cioroianu assessed that the dissemination of optimistic rumors contributed to accustoming the public with the idea that the government could carry the vote, and made the ultimate result less questionable in the the eyes of observers. [Cioroianu, p.65] Other Soviet documents, dated November 6 and 12, summarize a conversation with the Bodnăraş, who went on record indicating that a fraud was being prepared; [Giurescu, "Marea fraudă...", Part VI; Pokivailova, p.11-12] compared to the official results, the percentages he mentioned at the time had an error of as little as 1%. [Giurescu, Part VI] Kavtaradze expressed concern that information on this topic had leaked to opposition parties in various locations, and that the PCR had thus failed to fully respect the "conspiratorial character" it had decided to use. [Kavtaradze, in Giurescu, "Marea fraudă...", Part VI; Document 234, November 20, 1946, in Pokivailova, p.15]

Economic and social issues

An expectation shared by Groza and the PCR in postponing the elections was that outcome of harvests was to ensure the most favorable attitude from peasant voters [Cioroianu, p.64; Kavtardaze, Document 234, November 20, 1946, in Pokivailova, p.15] (" [Groza] has declared that the government will only organize elections «when the barns are filled with wheat»"). [Kavtaradze, Document 234, November 20, 1946, in Pokivailova, p.15. According to Burton Y. Berry, Groza had stated to Allied envoys that he was not going to organize elections before food supplies had been ensured (Berry, in Giurescu, "«Alegeri» după model sovietic", p.18)] This tactic was consistently applied by parties in government during the interwar period. [Ţiu]

Instead, 1946 was witnessed to an exceptionally severe drought, turned into famine over some areas. [Cioroianu, p.64; Kavtaradze, Document 234, November 20, 1946, in Pokivailova, p.15] PCR officials claimed that this had been worsened by administrative incompetence, which had led to insufficient supplies of wheat and bread at the central level, and to various irregularities in transport over the national railway system (in turn attributed to sabotage). [Pauker, quoted by Shutov, Document 234, in Pokivailova, p.14] Kavtaradze blamed the government itself for the confusing situation. [Kavtardaze, Document 234, November 20, 1946, in Pokivailova, p.14]

During a meeting with the Soviet Embassy staff, PCR leader Ana Pauker mentioned that Communists were especially concerned about events related to the petroleum industry in Romania (centered on Prahova County), which was by then becoming much less lucrative. [Pauker, quoted by Shutov, Document 234, November 20, 1946, in Pokivailova, p.13] Tudor Ionescu, the PSD's Minister of Mines and Petroleum, supported the initiative of American and British businessmen to withdraw their investments, but was virulently opposed by the PCR, who argued that theirs was a move to undermine support for the BPD government, by leaving thousands of people unemployed. [Pauker, quoted by Shutov, Document 234, November 20, 1946, in Pokivailova, p.13] Pauker also alleged that a similar move was to be carried out by Ford's Bucharest branch. [Pauker, quoted by Shutov, Document 234, November 20, 1946, in Pokivailova, p.13] Kavtaradze noted general dissatisfaction among workers, civil servants, and Romanian Army personnel over their low incomes. [Kavtaradze, Document 234, November 20, 1946, in Pokivailova, p.14]

In this context, the government began handing out food supplies as a means to ensure votes. Pauker attested that, in several places, the state was frustrated in its attempt to purchase grain from peasants, who argued that the price was small and the supplies insufficient. [Pauker, quoted by Shutov, Document 234, November 20, 1946, in Pokivailova, p.12] Eventually, the Central Committee took the decision to import grain (and especially maize) in large quantities, an action overseen by Gheorghiu-Dej. [Pauker, quoted by Shutov, Document 234, November 20, 1946, in Pokivailova, p.14] According to Kavtardze, such measures were partly inefficient. [Kavtaradze, Document 234, November 20, 1946, in Pokivailova, p.14]

Pauker's testimony stressed that, during the electoral campaign, much of the formerly landless peasantry was becoming suspicious of the BPD. She attested that, in several counties, the absentee ballot was becoming a widespread solution among members of the latter social category ("Asked whom they would vote for, peasants answer: «We'll think about it some more» or «We shall not be voting»"). [Pauker, quoted by Shutov, Document 234, November 20, 1946, in Pokivailova, p.13] According to Pauker, they predicted that the Groza cabinet had carried out a previous land reform only as a preliminary step to collectivization ("Peasants answer that in Russia as well, in the beginning the land was divided, then taken away and "kolkhozy" were set up. We have no convincing arguments against such objections from the peasants"). [Pauker, quoted by Shutov, Document 234, November 20, 1946, in Pokivailova, p.14]

The BPD took additional measures in regard to women voters in villages, especially illiterate ones. According to a Soviet report, several agitprop campaigns were aimed at them, during which Communist activists stressed the positive aspects of the Groza government. [Pauker, quoted by Shutov, Document 234, November 20, 1946, in Pokivailova, p.14] Pauker stated: "a lot of things will depend on how the presidents of election bureaus treat women voters, since women have never voted, have never seen electoral laws and are not aware of voting procedures". [Pauker, quoted by Shutov, Document 234, November 20, 1946, in Pokivailova, p.14] In one incident witnessed during the elections and occurring in Cluj, "there was an unexpected influence of Magyar women. Old women aged 70-80, carrying chairs, had queued, in rainy weather, awaiting their turn to vote. The slogan was: if one does not vote with the UPM, one does not receive sugar". [General Precup Victor, Nr.7 (November 23, 1946), in Troncotă, p.19]

The women's suffrage was regarded with a level of hostility by the PNŢ, and "Dreptatea" frequently ridiculed Pauker's visits to women in various villages. [Ţiu]

Restrictions and irregularities

General irregularities

The period of campaigning and the election itself were witness to widespread violence and intimidation, carried out by squads of the BPD. [Giurescu, "«Alegeri» după model sovietic", p.17 (citing Berry), 18 (citing Berry and note); Macuc, p.40; Tismăneanu, p.113] In at least one instance, in Piteşti, BPD members killed the local leader of the PNŢ. [Giurescu, "«Alegeri» după model sovietic", p.18]

Prior to the election, freedom of association had been severely curtailed through various laws; according to Burton Y. Berry, Groza had admitted to this, and had indicated that it came as an answer to the need for order in the country. [Groza, quoted by Berry, in Giurescu, "«Alegeri» după model sovietic", p.17] Expanding on this, he had stated that the cabinet was attempting to prevent "provocation" from both the far right and far left, and that chaos during the elections would have resulted in his own sidelining by the Communist Party. [Groza, quoted by Berry, in Giurescu, "«Alegeri» după model sovietic", p.18] In regard to the arrest of several Romanian employees of the American Embassy in Bucharest, Groza reportedly claimed that he had tried to set them free, but the PCR had opposed his move. [Groza, quoted by Berry, in Giurescu, "«Alegeri» după model sovietic", p.18] However, in a semi-official context, he had also stated (February 1946): "If the reaction wins, do you think we'll let it live for [another] 24 hours? We'll be getting our payback immediately. We'll get our hands on whatever we can and we'll strike". [Groza, in Macuc, p.40]

According to Berry, the Premier had stated that he assessed Romania's commitment to freedom of election in opposition to the Western Allied requirements, and based on "the Russian interpretation of «free and unfettered»". [Groza, quoted by Berry, in Giurescu, "«Alegeri» după model sovietic", p.18]

One effect of new legislative measures was that the intervention of judicial authorities as observers was much reduced; the task fell instead on local authorities, most of them controlled by Communist supporters. [Ţiu]

From the start, state resources were employed in campaigning for the BPD. [Frunză, p.290-291; Macuc, p.41] The numbers cited by Victor Frunză include, among other investments, over 4 million propaganda booklets, 28 million leaflets, 8.6 million printed caricatures, 2.7 million signs, and over 6.6 million posters. [Frunză, p.290]

Army

There is evidence that the Army was a main agent of both political campaigning and the eventual fraud. As an answer to increasing malcontent in military ranks, the Groza cabinet increased their revenues and supplies preferentially [Macuc, p.40] (arguably, their salaries remained weak when confronted to the Romanian leu's high rate of inflation). [Macuc, p.40] In January, Army agitprop sections of the "Education, Culture and Propaganda" Directorate ("Direcţia Superioară pentru Educaţie, Cultură şi Propagandă a Armatei", or ECP), already employed in channeling political messages inside military ranks, were authorized to carry out "educational activities" outside of the facilities and into the rural area. [Macuc, p.40-41] PNŢ and PNL activists were barred entry on Army grounds, while the ECP closely supervised soldiers who supported the opposition, [Duţu, p.38; Macuc, p.40-41] and repeatedly complained about the "political backwardness" and "liberties in voting" of various Army institutions. [ECP reports, in Macuc, p.41] While several Army officials guaranteed that their subordinates were to vote for the BPD unanimously, [Duţu, p.38] low-ranking members occasionally expressed criticism over the violent quelling of PNŢ and PNL activities inside Army units. [Duţu, p.38]

Eventually, as the institution made use of its venues to campaign for the BPD, [Macuc, p.41] it encountered hostility. At a time when planes of the Romanian Air Forces were used to drop pro-Groza leaflets over the city of Braşov, EPC activists were alarmed to find out that the manifestos had been secretly replaced with PNŢ propaganda. [Macuc, p.41]

The Army was assigned its own Electoral Commission, placed under the leadership of two notoriously pro-Soviet generals, Nicolae Cambrea and Mihail Lascăr (both of whom had formerly served in Red Army units of Romanian voluntaries). [Duţu, p.37; Macuc, p.41] This drew unanswered protests from the opposition, who called for another Commission to be appointed. [Duţu, p.37] By the time of the election, the Groza cabinet decided not to allow families of soldiers to vote at special Army stations, a measure which drew criticism for reducing the number of outside votes (and thus constituting a form of gerrymandering). [Macuc, p.41] In one report from Cluj County, General Precup Victor stated that:

"An electoral section for the military in Cluj [...] almost declared the voting invalid, citing for reason that the election was declared over between 6 and 7 o'clock, instead of 8 o'clock, as was required by law. [...] It is only due to the immediate and energetic intervention of the prefect, [with] Major Nicolae Haralambie, and yours truly that the situation was saved.
In this section, where we believed we had the best comrade president, and thus expected the best result, we received the worst result of all voting stations for the military. [...]
All of this because of the attitude of Comrade Petrovici [the section president] . If this section had not existed or if Comrade Petrovici, as its president, had listened to us, the army would have yielded a 99% result and not 92.06, as it came to be in Cluj." [General Precup Victor, Nr.8 (November 23, 1946), in Troncotă, p.19]

Immediately after the elections, pro-Communist officers in Transylvania arrested General Drăgănescu of the Second Division of "Vânători de Munte" in Dej, alleging that, during the voting, he had spread false rumors that the local peasant population was engaged in Antisemitic and Anti-Hungarian violence, as a means to draw the interest of central authorities and Western Allied supervisors. [General Precup Victor, Nr.8 (November 23, 1946), in Troncotă, p.20] In a secret note released at the same time, General Precup Victor admitted that violent incidents had been occurring, and that the Army had been sent in to intervene. [General Precup Victor, Informative Synthesis for the Headquarters' VIth Territorial Command Office, in Troncotă, p.20-21] He also admitted that the local population was upset with the official results. [General Precup Victor, Informative Synthesis for the Headquarters' VIth Territorial Command Office, in Troncotă, p.21]

Other testimonies

Writing at the time, the academic Constantin Rădulescu-Motru stated that authorities had been arbitrarily preventing people from voting, that many voters were not asked for their documents, and that electoral lists marked with the Sun symbol of the BPD had been shoved into urns before voting began. [Rădulescu-Motru, in Cioroianu, p.65] According to his testimony:

"Trucks filled with voters [of the BPD] traveled from one section to the other and voted in all sections, that is to say several times. After voting, blank forms of official reports [by observers] were sent to the central commission, and they were filled in by adding the number of votes desired by the government". [Rădulescu-Motru, in Cioroianu, p.65-66]

According to Anton Raţiu and Nicolae Betea, two collaborators of Lucreţiu Pătrăşcanu, the elections in Arad County were forged by a group of 40 people (including Belu Zilber and Anton Golopenţia); the president of the county electoral commission collected the votes from local stations and was required to read them aloud — irrespective of the option expressed, he called out the names of BPD candidates (Pătrăşcanu and Ion Vincze, together with others). [N. Betea, Raţiu, in Betea, p.38-39] Nicolae Betea stated that the overall results for the BPD in Arad County, officially recorded at 58%, were closer to 20%. [N. Betea, in Betea, p.38-39]

Throughout the country, voting bulletins were set fire to immediately after the official counting was completed, an action which prevented all alternative investigation. [Frunză, p.290]

Alternative results

Sometime after the elections, the PCR issued a confidential report called "Lessons from the Elections and the C [ommunist] P [arty] 's Tasks after the Victory of 19 November 1946" ("Învăţămintele alegerilor şi sarcinile PC după victoria din 19 Noiembrie 1946", Arhiva MApN, fond Materiale documentare diverse, dosar 1.742, f.12-13). It was compared by historian Petre Ţurlea with the official version, and provides essentially different data on the results. Analyzing the report, Ţurlea contended that, overall, the BPD was awarded between 44.98% and 47% of the vote, which would contradict the claims of both the Groza government and the opposition (the latter having stated a claim to 80% of the actual votes). [Ţurlea, p.35] The result, although coming at the end of unfree elections, [Ţurlea, p.35] shows that the two opposition parties could have formed a majority cabinet. [Ţurlea, p.35]

The report also confirms that the BPD's popularity had been much higher in the urban areas than with the peasantry, [Ţurlea, p.35] while, despite expectations, women in the villages preferred voting for the PNŢ. [PCR report, in Ţurlea, p.35] While securing the votes of the state apparatus and the Jewish middle class, the BPD was not able to make notable gains inside the categories of traditional PNŢ supporters. [PCR report, in Ţurlea, p.35]

Consequences

The election result effectively confirmed Romania's adherence to the Eastern Bloc and Soviet camp in the erupting Cold War. On November 19, the three opposition parties (the National Peasants' and the National Liberal Parties, together with Constantin Titel Petrescu's splinter group from the Social Democrats) issued a formal protest, accusing the Groza government of having falsified the vote. [Kavtaradze, Telephonogram 18, November 19, 1946, in Pokivailova, p.15] Cabinet representatives of the two contender parties, the PNL's Mihail Romaniceanu and the PNŢ's Emil Haţieganu) withdrew in protest soon after results were announced. [Cioroianu, p.65] Petre Ţurlea contends that the document was largely inconsequential due to the interwar tradition of similar protests for less problematic votes. [Ţurlea, p.35]

Later in the same month, the British government of Clement Attlee, represented by Adrian Holman, issued a note informing Foreign Minister Gheorghe Tătărescu that, due to the numerous infringements, it did not recognize the result of elections in Romania. [Ivanov, Telephonogram 36, December 2, 1946, in Pokivailova, p.15-16]

In his January 4, 1947 conversation with the United States Secretary of State George Marshall, Romania's Ambassador Mihai Ralea received an official American reproach for having "broken the spirit and letter" of the Moscow Conference and the Yalta Agreement. [Marshall, in Ştefan, p.10] Although Ralea, a Ploughmen's Front member and conjectural ally of the Communists, expressed concern over the fact that the United States were reproving Romania, he also appealed to the United States not to allow the country to be left behind the Iron Curtain. [Ralea, in Ştefan, p.10] In August 1946, Berry attested that Groza intended to tighten connections with other countries occupied by the Red Army, as the basis for a customs union. [Groza, quoted by Berry, in Giurescu, "«Alegeri» după model sovietic", p.18] The plan, also advocated by Bulgaria's Georgi Dimitrov and Yugoslavia's Josip Broz Tito, was frustrated by the opposition of Joseph Stalin, and discarded altogether following the Tito-Stalin Split. [Giurescu, "«Alegeri» după model sovietic", p.18]

On December 1, 1946, Premier Groza inaugurated the new unicameral Parliament. In his speech on the occasion, while expressing a hope that elections had voted in a new type of legislative, he stressed that it was important

"to eliminate the spectacle of useless blabber and personal issues from this Assembly and for these deputies to dedicate themselves, during the rather expensive session [...] to an intensive activity". [Groza, in Ioan, p.16]

According to him:

"it is not the Parliament of old politicians, it is not a luxurious habit, an entertainment, an exercise of political gymnastics or an excuse for quarreling with others". [Groza, in Ioan, p.16]

In following months, Communists concentrated on silencing opposition and ensuring a monopoly on power. In summer 1947, the Tămădău Affair saw the end of the PNŢ and the PNL, banned after Iuliu Maniu and others were prosecuted during a show trial. [Cioroianu, p.95-96; Frunză, p.292-308; Tismăneanu, 114] The National Liberal Party-Tătărescu, which issued a critique of the Groza administration at around the same time, withdrew from the BPD only to be implicated in the Tămădău scandal and have its leadership replaced with ones more loyal to the PCR. [Cioroianu, p.96-97; Frunză, p.357] The PCR ultimately absorbed the PSD in late 1947, leading to the creation of a Romanian Workers' Party, which was in effect a new name for the PCR. [Cioroianu, p.93-94; Frunză, p.329-359; Tismăneanu, p.114-116]

In the last days of December 1947, King Michael I was pressured into abdication; a People's Republic was proclaimed instead, as the first stage of the Romanian Communist regime. [Cioroianu, p.97-101; Frunză, p.319-326]

Notes

References

*Daniel Barbu, "Destinul colectiv, servitutea involuntară, nefericirea totalitară: trei mituri ale comunismului românesc" interbelică la comunism" ("Collective Destiny, Involuntary Servitude, Totalitarian Misery: Three Myths of Romanian Communism"), p.p.175-197, in Lucian Boia, ed., "Miturile comunismului românesc" ("The Myths of Romanian Communism"), Editura Nemira, Bucharest, 1998
*Lavinia Betea, "Portret în gri. Pătrăşcanu - deputat de Arad" ("Portrait in Grey. Pătrăşcanu - a Deputy for Arad"), in "Magazin Istoric", June 1998
*Adrian Cioroianu, "Pe umerii lui Marx. O introducere în istoria comunismului românesc" ("On the Shoulders of Marx. An Incursion into the History of Romanian Communism"), Editura Curtea Veche, Bucharest, 2005 ISBN 973-669-175-6
*Dinu C. Giurescu, "Marea fraudă electorală din 1946" ("The Large-Scale Electoral Fraud of 1946"), [http://www.cultura-fcr.ro/IMAGINI/PDF/Numarul%203%20pagina%2021.pdf Part II] and [http://www.cultura-fcr.ro/IMAGINI/PDF/Numarul%207%20pagina%2021.pdf Part VI] , in "Cultura"
*"Dosarele Istoriei", 11 (51)/2000:
**Iuliu Maniu's communiqué following the elections, p.42
**Alesandru D. Duţu, "Întâia oară la vot" ("Voting for the First Time"), p.37-39
**Mihai Macuc, "Destructurarea oştirii naţionale" ("Breaking Apart the National Army"), p.39-41
**Virgiliu Ţârău, "România şi primele alegeri în Europa Central-Răsăriteană după 1945. Alegeri fără opţiune" ("Romania and the First Elections in East-Central Europe after 1945. Elections without an Option"), p.31-34
**Petre Ţurlea, "Alegerile parlamentare din noiembrie '46: guvernul procomunist joacă şi câştigă. Ilegalităţi flagrante, rezultat viciat" ("The Parliamentary Elections of November '46: the Pro-Communist Government Plays and Wins. Blatant Unlawfulness, Tampered Result"), p.35-36
*Victor Frunză, "Istoria stalinismului în România" ("The History of Stalinism in Romania"), Humanitas, Bucharest, 1990
*"Magazin Istoric", November 1995:
**Dinu C. Giurescu, "«Alegeri» după model sovietic" ("«Elections» on a Soviet Model"), p.17-18 (includes translation of Burton Y. Berry's telegram to the United States State Department, August 24, 1946)
**L. Ioan, "Guvernul Groza şi noul Parlament" ("The Groza Government and the New Parliament"), p.16
**T. A. Pokilvailova, "Metode de desfăşurare a alegerilor din România" ("Methods through Which the Romanian Elections Were Carried Out"), p.11-16
**M. Ştefan, "În umbra Cortinei de Fier" ("In the Shadow of the Iron Curtain"), p.9-10
*Vladimir Tismăneanu, "Stalinism pentru eternitate", Polirom, Iaşi, 2005 ISBN 973-681-899-3 (translation of "Stalinism for All Seasons: A Political History of Romanian Communism", University of California Press, Berkeley, 2003, ISBN 0-52-023747-1)
* [http://www.jurnalul.ro/articol_54799/comunism___la_alegerile_din_1946_se_introduce_vot_universal.html Ilarion Ţiu, "Comunism - La alegerile din 1946 se introduce vot universal" ("Communism - The Universal Suffrage is Introduced during the elections of 1946")] , in "Jurnalul Naţional", June 13, 2006
*Cristian Troncotă, "«Armata democratizată» votează" ("The «Democratized Army» Votes"). p.19-21
*Myron Weiner, Ergun Özbudun, "Competitive Elections in Developing Countries", Duke University Press, Durham, 1987 ISBN 0822307669
*Teodor Wexler, "Dr. Wilhelm Filderman - un avocat pentru cauza naţională a României" (Dr. Wilhelm Filderman - an Advocate of Romania's National Cause"), in "Magazin Istoric", September 1996, p.81-83


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