INTERACTIVE | The Political History of Romania

Country/area: Romania

Organisation: Panorama.ro

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 20/2/2021

Credit: Edit Gyenge

Biography: Edit Gyenge – information designer and entrepreneur. Has 16 years of professional experience as a journalist and communication consultant. 4 years ago she translated her passion for data journalism and information design into a business and now she helps NGO’s and media publications better present their data and tell visual stories. She has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a Master’s in Business Communication.

Project description:

The project is an interactive visual representation of the past 30 years of post-communist political governance in Romania. A total of 16 governments and 9 legislatures are represented along with specific indicators.
The indicators for each government are: term duration, public debt at the beginning and at the end of the term, the average monthly inflation rate, the average unemployment rate, and the main words from the governmental program.
Each legislature is represented according to the distribution of parliament members in chambers (Chamber of Deputies and Senate), and according to their political position (left, right, center) and sex (male, female).

Impact reached:

The project is the first interactive visual representation made by a Romanian media publication that combines multiple data sets to define the specificity of government periods and legislatures. The project is a tool on its own both for readers and journalists because it allows correlations in various fields.
For instance, it allows the visualization of the under-representation of women in the Romania Parliament during 30 years of democracy, it allows a better understanding of the evolution of political ideologies, as well as the evolution and comparison of macroeconomic indicators, and the areas on which each government focused on.
The project isn’t based on a certain conclusion, but instead, it allows the readers to draw their own conclusion, to make their own analysis and their own correlations, and to build the overall picture of 30 years of Romanian politics with the help of data.

Techniques/technologies used:

The historical data for the each legislature was downloaded from the Romanian Parliament’s official website. The clusters were then built using third party data like the political position of every political party according to their programs.
The government programs were downloaded from Romania’s Official Monitor. The sources of macroeconomic data are the National Institute of Statistics, the Ministry of Finance, and the National Bank.
Technologies used: Python, Scraping, Analysis in Python and Microsoft Excel, data visualization in Flourish.studio, interactive representation using Lottie and Adobe After Effects, graphic design in Affinity Designer

What was the hardest part of this project?

The project’s aim was to be a widely used tool, regardless of the reader’s previous experience with interactive stories, data journalism, and professional language. The project aimed to empower the reader to build his own reasoning and understanding based on clear, unaltered historical data, not on popular assumptions.

Thus, the most difficult part of the project was selecting the relevant data to make this happen. How much is enough and what type of indicators should be used to provide as much insight as possible, but without losing the essence. So the constant question was: is this relevant to our readers? Why is this indicator important and not any other indicator?
Only after analyzing the data and a whole lot of other indicators were we able to see if there is something relevant there that needed to be presented.

For instance, the word clouds of government programs seem to be somehow similar. This is due to the fact that a large part of government programs looked pretty much the same no matter the government’s political position. This is valuable insight when talking about governmental strategy because it shows us that regardless of ideology, there are no clear, significant differences between what governments have planed to do.

This is the kind of insight the project brings in order to deconstruct popular assumptions like „all politicians are the same”, and build new ones based on data analysis. In this particular case, this piece of information shows that even though in Romania people vote based on ideological preferences (this is another piece of information presented in the project – the ideological distribution of the members of the Parliament), the government programs aren’t ideologically oriented.

What can others learn from this project?

There is tremendous potential in correlating social and political indicators to build a professional public tool that analyzes political evolution and efficiency, and thus, to hold politicians accountable.

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