May 19 vote: People versus Parliament
Democracy is in peril in Romania. This is most evident because members of the new, month-old Government seem to be inundating the inboxes, post bags and voice mails of every European and US official in Washington, Brussels or Bucharest, with reassurances that democracy in Romania is not in peril.
Now the Government is made of parties that represent 23 per cent of the elected chambers. Impeached President Basescu was correct when he called this a Government of the ‘ultra-minority’. This is a worrying precedent and a bad example to set to a Europe attempting to expand democracy, not reduce it.
Some of the new Ministers are capable and intelligent men [they are all men], while some seem to be placed in their position based on loyalty to the Prime Minister.
Meanwhile, a clear majority of Parliamentary members has impeached the President. There are only a few weeks before a referendum will decide whether he stays in office. During this period, it seems that the Parliament and its supporters are trying to frustrate all the chances of Basescu winning in a fair vote.
They have denied him air-time on public television and placed the date of the vote on a Saturday as opposed to a Sunday, to ensure fewer people will turn up. They gave the people of Romania a ‘free day’ of work on Monday 30 April – a populist measure which could, in such a sensitive political period, constitute a bribe.
There are also plans to strip the President of his rights, turning the position into a ceremonial role similar to the Italian model, and to launch a second referendum three months after the first, if not enough people turn up to vote.
Every one of these steps is an attempt to undermine democracy.
The fear is that we have entered a period of dictatorship by Parliament. The incoming Government now has a responsibility to show this is not the case, by allowing a free vote under fair terms.
If there is any question mark over the validity of the election, the European Union should use every sanction possible to punish the contempt the Romanian Parliament is showing towards its people.
This Parliament has impeached the President without a public debate on the issue. The process has been a farce. The Constitutional Court – the highest law in the land – has rejected the Impeachment Commission report’s findings that Basescu was acting unconstitutionally. Details of the accusations are in a ‘secret annex’ to a report that only elected members of Government can see, not the people who elected them.
Therefore, the people have no understanding why their two chambers were kicking out their chosen leader. The main reasons seems to be because he was criticising the Parliament too much.
Members of the Parliament might as well have suspended Basescu because they did not like the look on his face, or because they thought his car was rubbish.
The views of most people seem to be either blind loyalty to Basescu because of a gut feeling that he is a decent guy to have a drink with, or support based on the idea that Basescu is the worst candidate for president, except for all the others.
The public may turn against the head of state. Political intrigue may ensure he cannot run. The election could be fraudulent: there is evidence that such a move to ‘fix’ the vote is feasible. If this is so, there will need to be new elections for a President.
At this stage, the leading candidate would be football club owner and right-wing Christian fundamentalist Gigi
Becali, whose spontaneity and susceptibility to gaffes make Basescu seem like St Francis of Assisi.
In this case, Romania now has two choices of direction: flawed leadership or the biggest mistake the EU ever made.