On November 19th, 1946, Romania had its elections stolen in a massively rigged voting process. This came to definitively change Romania's evolution in the second half of 1946. After March 6, 1945, when the pro-Soviet government led by Petru Groza took office, Romania's political climate had deteriorated considerably. The Soviets were holding prisoners of war in spite of the armistice of 1944, the country was in post-war crisis, opposition politicians and journalists were being persecuted, and violence was widespread, perpetrated by state institutions taken over by communists and by gangs sponsored by the same.
The 19 November 1946 elections were grossly rigged, and they are now a textbook case of abuse perpetrated by a totalitarian regime. The real results cannot be known, but the method is. The communists stole the elections by replacing the ballot boxes. In all probability, the National Peasant Party and the National Liberal Party, democratic and traditional parties, got over 78% of the vote, while the Democratic Party Bloc, the communist led alliance, around 22%. By reversing results, the pro-Soviet government proclaimed victory, and implicitly assumed a legitimacy it never had. It was all in line with Stalin's saying: it does not matter who votes, but who counts the vote. Everything that followed was a result of the parliamentary elections of November 19th, 1946.
Radio Romania's Center for Oral History keeps recordings of people who were eye witnesses to the grand theft. Nicolae Magherescu, chief of staff to the Liberal Minister Mihail Romniceanu in the Radescu government, which ruled between December 1944 and March 1945, is one of the people recorded speaking about the climate ahead of the elections.
Mihail Romniceanu: "On November 19 it had been a month since we'd been living in the county of Galati. I cannot describe what I saw, the beatings. Everything was done through violence. Communists from Galati would go around villages, threatening people. They were telling them that if they voted with the Liberals, they would be kicked out of their homes and have every possession taken away from them. It was unimaginable. I remember we were in a village where a colleague of ours, called Dimofte, dared to talk back to some people who stopped us in the road. He got slapped in the face, they knew he was from a Liberal family. Considering all that, we realized you could not have a fighting chance in any fairness with those people."
Dumitru Pop, mayor of the village of Ieud, in Maramures, and Stefan Balea, member of the local branch of the National Peasant party, witnessed the elections in their region.
Dumitru Pop: " The elections were a mockery. Instead of setting up polls in our village and the neighboring one, they sent us to a third, an almost deserted hamlet. They sent us through bad weather, walking. "
Stefan Balea: "The poor people were walking, but their traditional shoes were not up to it, they were falling apart. Even so, the people went there, to the poll."
Dumitru Pop: "The Romanian peasantry wouldn't even hear of the communists, who were looked down upon by everyone, everybody looked at them in disgust. Their policy was based exclusively on lies, and anyone of sound mind and common sense could not be part of anything like that. They brought soldiers to the polls, it was as if the village was under siege, they tried to prevent us from crossing a bridge that led to the polling center. But the peasants stormed them and reached the poll and started voting. I was an assistant in the Validation Commission. The electoral logos were changed. The Peasant Party used to have the wheel as a logo, now it had an eye. The old people did not really know where to vote, they kept asking: where's the eye? And we showed them. The communist representative saw all that, and he took the ballots to put them in the ballot box. And when he took the ballot from some old person, he would stick his finger through them to get them annulled."
Eva Hirsch was a communist in the interwar period, and in 1996 she described realistically the violent climate that surrounded the rigging of the elections:
"During the elections, Ana Pauker ordered us to go to factories and construction sites to hand out pledges. She said that every pledge signed meant a vote for us. But the vote was rigged. We set up polls and appointed people to commissions, one for each party. However, they were all our people. Around the elections, Maniu held a conference at the Athenaeum, and we were sent there to disrupt his conference, to prevent him from speaking. We went there and started brawls with the Peasant Party supporters. I wasn't afraid at all, that is how convinced I was that what I believed was right! They sent us to vote several times, in different places, and as our people were in the key positions, we won. There were many, many more besides me."
For us in the 21st century, such gross theft of elections can only spark a feeling of revolt, mixed with amazement and compassion. The rigged elections of 19 November 1946 showed, if any further proof was needed, that the communist regime imposed by the Soviet Union was vile.