Students vote in Romania, still disillusioned
They have known only democracy -- yet their frustration with the political classes is palpable.
Bucharest -- Students in Romania are looking to Sunday's elections to lead to better living conditions and an end to corruption. If not, some of them say, they will seek a better life elsewhere.
They belong to the generation born just before, or in the years after, the fall of communism in December 1989. They have known only democracy -- yet their frustration with the political classes is palpable.
Sandra, a law student who refused to give her last name, said she decided to cast her ballot only because she did not want "others to decide" for her.
"We need somebody who represents the people, who knows its needs and we don't want any corruption anymore," she told AFP. "Soon, politicians won't have anything to steal anymore, because they will already have stolen everything."
A truly functioning judicial system would allow all of Romanian society to move forwards, she added.
In its latest corruption index, the Berlin-based organisation Transparency International gave Romania the worst score among European countries, alongside Bulgaria and Greece.
At the Grozavesti campus, which hosts about 2,000 students, Ionel, a 26-year-old geography graduate, said he would also go to the polls, even if "the situation in the country will only change in a few dozen years."
"You have to wait for generations to disappear, to change the mentality," he noted. "Today, corruption is everywhere, in the health system, in education, among civil servants and at a higher level too."
Children are exposed to the "corruption virus" at a very young age, when their parents tell them "you have to get by, hand out little presents," agreed a mathematics student named Vasile.
On his way to buy groceries, he too said he intended to vote, but did not expect any changes.
"Maybe I would like somebody without any qualities to win, who would destroy the country so then we would be forced to really rebuild it," he said.
At the first opportunity, he said he wanted to leave Romania and go to France, if only to get a job flipping hamburgers, because he believed living conditions there are better.
"A few hundred thousand people working together could pull this country out of poverty," he said. "But can you give your life up by staying here, when you can go live in a country that's already been built elsewhere?"
"I don't want people to have to leave the country to go work abroad," Laurentiu Irinel Albei, a 19-year-old management student, told AFP, noting that many friends who had already graduated had left for western Europe, where they found jobs in construction or as cleaners.
Cristi, 22, who is training to become a police officer, preferred to make pancakes with his friends in his campus residence on Sunday, rather than go vote.
"Before, we had only one candidate and we had to vote for him. Now we have several candidates, but we don't know who to pick."