No one, not even Traian Basescu’s PDL, a party that has set absolute records in the matter of distorting the truth these last few days, can deny any more that Romania is a blocked country, a prisoner to tooth-and-nail struggle over power, with grievous consequences at an economic and social level as well as on international relations. Today the society is divided, primary hatred has deforced public rhetoric, public institutions such as the justice system or intelligence agencies have become mere tools in the hands of a regime that cannot understand or refuse to conform to basic principles of democracy and rule of law. Having led the country with an iron fist in the last three year and a half, this regime believes that, in spite of having democratically lost majority in Parliament and the Government, it is still entitled to keeping its positions and give orders in this country. The violent attack perpetrated by the PDL representatives on anyone in the democratic Romania refusing to blindly buckle under the wish and the will of one man, like all those spies, colonels and generals of the presidential party dressed in white (an unfortunate colour as it reveals all imperfections, including the army grades), as well as those who populate the ‘civil’ society and the media, is of countless gravity. First of all because to anyone with their eyes wide open and also having the courage to admit to the truth it has become clear that the stake behind this battle is not some personal conflict between Traian Basescu and Victor Ponta, but the very democratic future of this country. This is obvious for a number of reasons. First of all, with a view to the subsequent expansion of the president’s powers and transformation of the country into a presidential republic. A second motivation would be to keep Justice under political control. In a country where the temptation of authoritarianism, the cult of personality (reborn in an extreme fashion among some intellectuals and ‘commentators’ on the payroll of the regime) never completely disappeared, the radicalisation of PDL under Basescu’s command will turn out to be dramatic for Romania and a risky adventure for the European Union, given the trend of growing extremism amidst economic disintegration. Should Traian Basescu return to Cotroceni after July 29, he will legitimise all his future anti-constitutional decisions by the vote received in the referendum, cutting short any further debate on the legitimacy and lawfulness of his decisions both in Romania and the European Union. ‘If I go back to Cotroceni and if I still find him as prime minister, under no circumstance will I ever hand over to him (Victor Ponta – our note) another prime minister mandate if they win election this autumn’, was Traian Basescu’s statement only hours after being suspended by Parliament and after denying having breached the Constitution… Here a question arises: Why the European Union seems to already have made up its mind and jumped to defend the suspended president despite all evidence showing that he had repeatedly and abusively violated the Constitution?’ and, more importantly, why has it continued to criticise the impeachment procedure after the Constitutional Court had confirmed that the president was suspended in observance of the Fundamental Law? Could it have been because of PDL’s misrepresentations? Didn’t European decision-makers have access to the decisions and motivations of the Court? The problem is that the tough criticism by EU leaders and the attacks launched by part of the international press on the Romanian Government and Parliament purposefully or involuntarily (history will tell) favours and legitimises the PDL’s accusations. The stand taken by the German Federal Chancellor in the political conflict in Bucharest in President Traian Basescu’s favour has had such an effect. Many Romanians who, for a good reason, look at Germany as a both democratic and economic role model, could not understand such parti pris which was strengthened by chancellors’ spokesman Steffen Seibert who said that ‘The steps taken by the Romanian Government under Prime Minister Ponta in terms of an impeachment procedure against President Basescu are unacceptable”. In the context of the Constitutional Court’s ruling, such position seems totally precarious. Nonetheless, Berlin never reconsidered its statement. There is an increasing feeling in Romania that, in this political clash, President Basescu is being favoured abroad. But we should not forget that, during such troubled times, the response of some European leaders and even institutions in Brussels are based on very pragmatic interests that sometimes, are hurting democratic rules and rights. In Greece, for example, the public had a tough reaction when German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble suggested no more and no less than democracy should be put on hold for a year, more exactly to postpone parliamentary election and set up a technocrats government whose job would have been to implement the austerity plan agreed on with the IMF and EU in 2011. Also remember the hysterical reactions European chancelleries had to the announcement made by ex-Greek PM Papandreou on the organisation of a referendum to validate in the most democratic possible way the austerity plan. Also in this case, foreign reactions need to be considered and weighed in the same context. One should not forget Angela Merkel’s words of praise to the austerity policy pursued by the former PDL Government and the fact that Traian Basescu rests an ardent advocate of austerity during economic crisis. Recently, at a meeting with Philippe Le Houerou, World Bank Vice President, Basescu was saying that ‘ending austerity was a fairy-tale’ and that fiscal stimulus is a mistake that would ‘blow up’ Europe in the following years. As the trend of thinking on the European Council shifted with Francois Hollande’s victory in the French presidential election, the EU now tending to favour economic growth and job creation through financial incentives. Romania’s vote could make the difference in subsequent decision-making. And from this point of view it is important if Romania’s chair is occupied by Ponta or by Basescu.So things are not always simple or what they appear to be at a first glance. But all this is down to nuances and interpretations regular voters who will receive a stamp in their hand in the referendum for Traian Basescu’s impeachment do not generally have access to and no one seems eager to explain them either. This is exactly why it looks like the EU is imposing very high barriers and rules for the dismissal of the Romanian president. Many Romanians find it hard to understand why the EU now insists that Basescu should be impeached by a majority of people with the right to vote rather than in keeping with the rule applicable in most other EU states, and under the Venice Commission recommendation, that a referendum is validated by the vote of the majority of people who actually go to the polls and also in spite of the fact that the president is elected by a majority of people who vote. This takes us to another issue – the so-called attack on the Constitutional Court and allegations that the Government disregards its rulings. Many Constitution specialists and jurists say the fact that the president impeachment procedure and the organisation of the referendum were conducted based on the Government’s executive decree warrants the referendum to be validated based on the same executive decree which does not provide for a required quorum. The fact that the Court has ruled on a bill that has not covered the full process to becoming a law in force yet is not a solid argument. Furthermore, the Government has been accused of breaking the Constitution by not complying with the Constitutional Court’s judgement. However, this argument is flawed as the Constitution itself does not specify any required quorum for the referendum, that being just an interpretation given by the Constitutional Court at present. With the same Constitution in force, another Constitutional Court in 2007 had decided that the referendum on the impeachment of the same president was to be validated by a majority of people who vote rather than a majority of people on the electoral lists. Why the double standard? A simple reason could be that laws and rules in this country change not only according to a party’s interests, but also according to the interest of one person, in this case the suspended president. This argument was strengthened and confirmed by the communiqué of the Court yesterday which contradicts itself by admitting on one hand, that the legislators have full authority in deciding or not a quorum, admitting that the 2007 referendum which didn’t’ require any quorum was constitutional. On the other hand, the same communiqué stresses a few lines bellow that the 51 percent turnout is ‘crucial’ in order for the referendum to be validated. In unusual and unethical tough terms, the Court attacked the Cabinet for having issued the executive decree, which they consider ‘abusive’. The EU leaders and institutions will also have to assess the way in which the Court rules, as Romania’s institutions are crippled with corruption and nepotism and the Constitutional Court, unfortunately is no exception. Also, the fact the government tried to spare the Parliament’s decisions (not the laws) from the Court’ arbitration is a common practice, which was in place in Romania until 2010 for 18 years, and that the Commission or the MCV didn’t require it at any moment. It is clear that in this confusing and resentful context, Romania needs a truth and reconciliation commission, to set things right and give this country and politics a fresh start. Otherwise, political crisis and agony will continue to undermine, deeper and deeper, Romanians’ everyday lives. That’s why also the EU assessment is crucial, and it has to be right.
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