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Romania is having presidential elections in this period (first round ended, the second is due in about 10 days). Many journalists have stressed out that there is a severe lack of debates among the candidates and this is confirmed by this Wikipedia table. They argue that this is not normal for democratic elections, even quite harmful.

Also, before the second round the incumbent president said that he is not willing to debate with the social democrats candidate.

I am wondering why not having debates between candidates such a big deal as long as:

  • many confirmed that these elections had very few issues
  • diaspora could finally vote decently by allowing 3 days of voting instead of one
  • all candidates have many channels for their messages (TV, radio, social media, banners etc.).

Question: Why not having a presidential debate is a problem?

  • I remember that a certain TV channel showed fragments from a notorious US debate as a reference about how a presidential debate looks like, but the comparison is disproportionate. – Alexei Nov 14 '19 at 9:01
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I think your question needs a bit more specification, because you have not written from whose point of view might it be a problem. I am just viewing your elections as a foreigner, but here my my views.

For the current president Iohannis it is very much the strategy not to have a direct debate. This is because he is leading the polls significantly, and going into a debate may raise Dancila to his "level" in the perception of the voters. He instead behaves as someone above the level of Dancila and he wants to keep this image. He also expects that voters of Dan Barna will support him without a debae in the next round and probably also some voters of PMP as well as a few Hungarians.

For Dancila it is indeed a problem not to have a debate with Iohannis, and the same was true for the other candidates before the first round of the election. That is why she is asking repeatedly for such a debate.

For most of the supporters of Iohannis it is not a problem that they do not see their favourite candidate in a debate, because they do not support Iohannis for his exceptional debating or rhetoric skills or his explicit political plans for Romania, but rather for his image. He presents himself as "the European cadidate", someone who has the best connections with Western Europe/Germany. They vote on this image rather than the results or resolutions of him.

On the other hand, most of the supporters of Dancila (PSD) come from the less educated people who are usually not that much interested in such political debates, because they again often vote following the image they associate with their candidate/party.

For voters who have not decided yet the lack of a debate can be some problem, but I guess Iohannis calculated form the polls that it does not worth for him to take a risk for this group.

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  • Your answer catches the elections context very well. As mentioned in the OP, the concern was raised by various journalists and analysts, so I would say it is a more "puristic" / elitist view of how the elections should work. From a realpolitik perspective it goes exactly as you mentioned, but I was interested in what might be their source of inspiration for their requirement of a debate even if it seems to be meaningless. – Alexei Nov 18 '19 at 12:49
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A lack of debates among presidential candidates is harmful to journalists, because journalists are in the business of selling their reportage.

Once a reporter has written up a biography of a politican and covered their political platform, there isn't thereafter inherently much new to report as news.

Covering a political debate, on the other hand, can fill quite a few column-inches in a newspaper.

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    They are still getting some material because politicians still attend various meetings, press conferences etc.. It is just that they are not talking to each other :). – Alexei Nov 14 '19 at 16:18

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