The legitimate political action started by the Social Liberal Union Monday to replace the heads of the two chambers of Parliament as well as the Ombudsman, culminating with the initiation of the suspension of the president is the direct result of the conflicting and authoritarian fashion in which Romania has been governed in the last years. It is as normal as it can be in any democratic state, where the Majority appoints the heads of Parliament, Romania being up until Monday a true exception in Europe.
If the rule of law had actually worked in this country and the judiciary had been really independent as Traian Basescu claims, Roberta Anastase would have stopped being the Speaker of the Chamber already in 2010. That should have happened for at least two distinct reasons, both being as clear as possible. Anastase should have been held responsible for the Pension Law vote fraud that illegally marked in a dramatic way the lives of millions, as well as for the way in which she hijacked the vote for the election of the president of the Constitutional Court. Remember – or those who don’t know it should be told – that Anastase chose to ignore the vote of the majority of MPs who had elected Valer Dorneanu as President of the Court and unilaterally decided to take a new vote over and over again until Augustin Zegrean was finally elected. Note that Zegrean had been a member of President Basescu’s Democratic Party since its foundation and, on his own initiative, breaking the Constitutional Court statute, gave his opinion ex ante, in Basescu’s favour, in the conflict he had with the Parliament over who should participate at the European Council.
As for the Ombudsman, his parti pris for PDL in challenging before the Constitutional Court the Ponta Government ordinances disfavouring the presidential party (see the ordinance on the restitution of money that had been exclusively allocated to PDL mayors by the former Government and the change of the ICR status, moving it from the authority of the president and placing it under the democratic authority of the Senat) was but obvious.
As far as Vasile Blaga is concerned, we should not forget that, on Sunday, on the eve of the start of his dismissal procedure, after meeting up with Victor Ponta who wanted to see him for a solution to the impasse with the electoral law, the former Senate Speaker said: ‘I have nothing to discuss with Victor Ponta. He is at the Government, we are in the opposition, we go on parallel roads. (…) and this happens when you let children run the country (…)’. This defiant attitude is the trademark of PDL, a party that never embraced the democratic rules of pluralism, dialogue and cooperation, the basic rules of parliamentarism.
The fact that Roberta Anastase continued to lead the lower chamber of the Legislative is just an argument in favour of those accusing the fact that the justice system has been politically subordinated, having acted on order, excluding the circle of the power and its numerous concentric spheres of influence.
The anti-democratic manner in which the Democratic Liberal Party had run the country was the main reason behind the massive street protests of December 2011, when USL promised to impeach the president on counts of breaching the constitution and imposing illegal austerity measures, that changed the face of the country for years to come, first of all by sending millions in the arms of dire poverty while the corruption reached endemic proportions and the people in power enjoyed tremendous privileges on public money.
Unfortunately in the last years Romanians have been powerlessly watching attacks on the rule of law, first of all on the separation of powers in the state by an unprecedented expansion (after 1989) of the president’s powers in the executive area, though attacks and huge pressure put on the justice system and, not least, though ignoring Parliament that was slowly turned into an appendix to the Government. Just remember the Klaus Iohannis episode, when, following the fall of the Boc Government in a no-confidence vote in 2009, the president simply refused to acknowledge the new Majority and appoint Iohannis as prime minister. Also remember the many attacks by the president on the Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM) – the guarantor of the independence of the judiciary. It is inexplicable why the so many presidential attacks on the justice system are not reprimanded in the same way by those who now accuse the current Government of pressurising the judiciary. The simple fact that one choose to overlook events or evidence does not mean that they do not exist or that they have vanished. Just recall of few more recent events, such as the denouncing by CSM President Horatius Dumbrava of the president’s accusations that ‘judges have hurt Romania more than our beggars in Paris and Rome’, placing them at the limit of ‘institutional reasonability’. But let’s go further: to 2009, when Basescu appointed Laura Codruta Kovesi for a new term in office as Prosecutor General in spite of CSM’s negative opinion.
The president of Romania and his supporters today denounce – especially in the foreign press and European institutions – the Government’s attempts to influence the decision of the Constitutional Court. It would be interesting to know why Monica Macovei or Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding did not lift a finger to defend the same Constitutional Court when Traian Basescu was publicly criticising the Court’s ruling rejecting the Education law and calling it ‘a pathetic institution’. The double standard seems more than evident. The political pressure on the Court’s independence was obvious then because the nine magistrates changed their mind and ruled the Education Law constitutional afterwards. Why didn’t the Court members complain to the Venice Commission about political interference then? The most plausible answer would be that the judges acted as they had been appointed – politically. With what moral authority could the same Court be condemning the Ponta Government today after it endorsed by its silence and obedience the political attacks of president Basescu? And how can the president of the Court still be considered as ‘independent’ as long as he already prejudged in the disagreement between the president and the Parliament over the European Council participation two weeks before the Court’s ruling, actually?
Another obvious situation where the president and PDL’s local and international supporters judge by a double standard is the ordinance changing the way in which the Constitutional Court operates, under which Parliament decisions and resolutions are no longer subject to a binding Court opinion. The very same provision had been in force up until 2010, in full Basescu-PDL regime, when it was changed exactly in order to make the president impeachment and dismissal more difficult.
It is interesting for those who do not know the complicated ways of Romanian political decision-making practice, namely changing the laws and rules according to immediate and biased interests that the president himself generated the decision. After a two-hour meeting with the Constitutional Court judges, in camera, in November 2011, Traian Basescu said ‘not all of the Parliament’s decisions and resolutions have to be subjected to the opinion of the Court.’.
Going through international press coverage as well as positions expressed by various foreign politicians, the conclusion is, unfortunately, that we are seeing a concerted action of massive disinformation of facts to the public, a despicable distortion of reality. The blatant purpose is to gain foreign support for Traian Basescu and his party, both having dropped to alarmingly low rates of confidence in the country.
The USL actions have been denounced by PDL and all those generals and colonels populating the ‘civil’ society as well as the mass-media (most notorious being the former head of public television) as attacks on democratic institutions, threats to democracy and even a fascistic coup.
Of course that all these accusations sound alarming to anyone who respects the values of European democracy and the rule of law and who is not aware of the dramatic situation of the state of democracy in Romania under Basescu-PDL regime. The Romanian language offers the perfect description of the situation in a saying: ‘Thieves shouting <Thieves>!’
But let’s keep our cool. It is true that events are unfolding rapidly and the political situation is volatile. However, foreign journalists should not base their alarmist reports on the Romanian political situation on a single, obviously biased, source, but on three as the rules of the profession require and which should equally reflect the position of the opposite party. It wouldn’t be a gesture of courtesy, but respect for a core rule of the profession. Apart from that, a minimal documentation would bring out to light that what they are depicting as a coup attempt, as an attempt to subordinate justice by attacking the Constitutional Court, is not real, but only the arguments raised by the PDL side and the president in their defence.
It is an unconceivable thing that a professional journalist should not follow up on the plagiarism accusations with the point of view of the premier and the alleged ‘victim’, Prof. Ion Diaconu, whose open letter where he strongly denies being the victim of intellectual theft was never published by the accusing press.
The impeachment defence strategy enounced by President Traian Basescu in Parliament yesterday is that, with its move, USL is trying to ‘subdue justice’. The argument sounds quite ridiculous to any Romanian citizen who has had to do with the justice system in any way. In other words, the president sees himself as the only guarantor of the independence of justice. The only thing is that, under the Constitution, that role goes to CSM and not the president, the judiciary and the president being actually two distinct powers as defined by the Fundamental Law. In keeping with the principle upheld by PDL and the president, according to which the independence of institutions is attacked by the replacement of politically (mostly also by nepotism and corruption) appointed people, we should transform institutions into mausoleums and pull the curtain over democracy.
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