After Romania’s government spent between $40 million and $50 million on preparations, extended the voting period from one to two days, and lowered the required participation threshold from 50 to 30 percent – according to the Washington Post – only 20 percent of registered voters had cast their ballots by the time polls closed.
If passed, the referendum would’ve changed the constitutional definition of marriage from between the current, gender-neutral “spouses” to explicitly a man and woman.
The generally conservative nation currently prohibits same-sex marriage and civil partnership. Had this referendum passed, critics say the change would’ve made it nearly impossible for gay people to ever win the right to marry.
A poll taken ahead of the vote found that as many as 90 percent of voters were in favor of the change, but by the end of the first voting day, only 5 percent had voted. The number increased by 15 percent after the Orthodox Church rallied, but the number of votes still fell short of the 30 percent threshold
Some believe that the vote was boycotted by many as a message to the ruling party.
According to Reuters, the ruling Social Democrat Party (PSD) supported the change. Critics say the party supported what was thought to be a sure-fire win to garner support for the party and deflect attention from its corruption scandals.
However, the party’s endorsement worked against the referendum.
“[M]any citizens have associated the initiative with the PSD and that is why they boycotted it,” Sergiu Miscoiu, a political science professor at Babes-Bolyai University, told Reuters. “Either way, it is a major sanction against the government.”
PSD secretary general Codrin Stefanescu – who was convicted of electoral fraud in 2015 and abuse-of-office earlier this year – said he saw the failed referendum as “a failure of Romanians and of Romania in general.”
Romania currently ranks 25th out of 28 EU states on the basis of legislation, hate speech, and discrimination against LGBTQ people.