June
2007
POLITICS NEWS
 
Vol. 3 No.5  
 
   
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President and democrats
empowered by referendum result

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     President Basescu's conclusive victory in the referendum was a crushing defeat for Parliament's decision to launch the impeachment procedure.
     This will mean a continuation of political uncertainty as the Partidul Democrat (PD) prepares a censure motion against the Government.
But this may fail to gain backing because the majority of members of parliament continue  to be in opposition to the President.
     On 19 May, 44.02 per cent of Romanians went to polls, from which 74.48 per cent voted against the dismissal of Traian Basescu, while 24.75 per cent were in favour. The turnout was the lowest in the last 17 years.
     Basescu was voted by the less educated population. Around 42 per cent of the voters had not finished secondary school, while fewer people with higher education voted, according to an Insomar poll. The highest percentage of voters was from 18 to 35 year olds.
     Basescu gained support from 95 per cent of PD sympathisers, 25 per cent of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), 59 per cent of the National Liberal Party (PNL) and Union of Democratic Hungarians and 69 per cent of those of the New Generation Party.
     The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that over 75,000 of Romanian citizens abroad went to polls. More than 93 per cent of them voted in favour of President Basescu.
     Election observers 'Pro Democratia' Association said the poor organisation of the vote was “unprecedented” and led to over 2,000 cases of electoral irregularities, including hostility towards observers.
     This was a blow for the 322 parliamentarians of the 469 who backed the impeachment and the new PNL Government. PD President, Emil Boc, said his party would table a motion of censure against the Government. This could lead to early elections scheduled for the second half of October. These may occur at the same time as the European elections, which have to take place before 31 December 2007.
     Such a double election is legally possible, accoridng to Florin Iordache, PSD deputy and member of the Electoral Code commission.
     But such an initiative will need the support of parties who supported the impeachment. The Cluj branch of the PSD, which has shown dissatisfaction with the referendum's failure, may support the move.


Justice Ministry revolution meets resistance

     New Minister of Justice Tudor Chiuariu's proposed changes to high positions in the  prosecution system has met with massive resistance.
     He requested the Supreme Council of Magistracy (CSM) to sack Doru Tulus as deputy chief at the Anti-Corruption National Department (DNA).
     Chiuariu said that the prosecutor had failed in his work to condemn leading politicians. The prosecutor stated his job was to investigate the accused, not to judge and sentence them.
     The CSM has blocked the move until an internal investigation takes place.
     Tulus's department is investigating cases against the president of the Conservative Party, Dan Voiculescu, the Hungarian Democrats leader and deputy prime minister, Marko Bela, former Social Democrat prime minister Adrian Nastase, former Conservative deputy prime minister George Copos, four Social Democrat MPs and one Democrat MP.
     Prosecutors nationwide protested against the minister’s actions. Several NGOs accused Chiuariu of meddling with justice and the DNA Head, Daniel Morar, warned the Minister to be more careful about his appearances and statements in the press.
     In protest against the Minister's decisions, the Secretary of State Ion Codescu, ministerial adviser Cristi Danilet, and the director in charge with the relations with the Public Ministry, Laura Stefan, announced their resignations.
     Chiauriu also sacked the head of the Ministry's Control Department Paul Dimitriu.


Bruised law patrolling
MPs ’ wealth passes

     After almost a year of delay, Romania's Parliament approved the law establishing the National Agency for Integrity (ANI), which monitors politicians' wealth.
     But critics have argued the agency will overlap with the work of the Anti-Corruption Department and will lack the investigative punch to facilitate prosecutions of the politically corrupt.
     ANI was a special request of the European Commission (EC) that Romania should have introduced before its EU accession. MEPs and the European Commissioner for Justice, Franco Frattini, have lobbied for the adoption of such a law.
     Romanian MPs approved the law on 9 May, ahead of the EC's report on justice and fight against corruption, due on 27 June. The approved law deviates from that proposed by former Minister of Justice, the independent Monica Macovei.
     According to the law, the Agency's inspectors can verify dignitaries' wealth and conflicts of interests and an incompatibility between an MP's status and their profession.
     The initial law said officials could face prosecution if ANI found a two per cent difference between the declared income and the wealth.
     But there is a new draft proposal from Minister Chiuariu, as we went to press, to modify ANI law to eliminate the percentage and to include a 10,000 Euro threshold for differences between the wealth accumulated by dignitaries and their official incomes during their term in office.
     If illegalities are found, with a judge's approval, an official's wealth can be confiscated. In addition, the dignitaries lose their right to run for any public service for the next three years. The law applies to 10,000 public figures including local Government officials and heads of Unions.
     Senators introduced a rule stating that only those who prove they have a special interest in a case can notify the Agency on an official's illegalities. This reduces the chances of anonymous informers.
     There is also an apparent conflict of interests regarding the authority over the agency. An amendment states that the Senate has the right to appoint ANI's president and vice president. This means an institution created to  verify senators' wealth is controlled by the senators themselves.
     Georgiana Iorgulescu, the director of Centrul de Resurse Juridice (the Centre for Legal Resources) called the move "inefficient". There will be only 200 inspectors to 10,000 Romanian individuals. The law also stipulates that ANI inspectors can only verify a dignitary's wealth and their first degree relatives, such as husband, wife, children and parents. But Prosecutors have a wider scope and can check up to the fourth degree relatives of an official.


Basescu under fire for private thoughts

     President Basescu is facing attack from civil society, the media and foreign politicians for derogatory statements about a female journalist.
     In a leaked audio recording of Traian Basescu in a private conversation with his wife, the returning head of state blasted a TV reporter from Antena 1, who was harassing him while he was shopping in a cash&carry store.
     The descriptions of the young woman the head of state used include the terms 'tiganca imputita' and 'pasarica'.
     The former can be paraphrased in English as 'stinking gypsy'. Although the literal meaning of the latter phrase is 'little bird', a more accurate translation can be the slang term 'pussy' in its reference to the female genitalia.
     “I am shocked if the president of a state which has just joined the EU issues such kind of comments testifying from deep-seated prejudices against Rroma,” said the president of the European Roma and Travellers Forum, Rudko Kawczynski.
     One day later, Basescu apologised for making the statements.
     The National Council Against Discrimination gave the head of state a “warning” that his language was inappropriate, but there will be no punishment. Basescu will appeal against the decision in court stating that the insults had been part of a private conversation.
     The language has shocked the local political community.
     “A head of state should not think this, let alone say this,” said one EU diplomat in Romania.
Members of the local Rroma community are not surprised by the insults which, some argue, reflect the majority view of Romanian society. The term 'gypsy' was used as an expression of an insult rather than one targeting the race of the journalist.
     “This shows a deep-seated prejudice in Romania,” says Ciprian Necula, who runs a Phare-funded programme targeting perceptions of Rroma. “It's not only Basescu's problem, but society's. Basescu should make amends to the Rroma community by involving himself more in projects which benefit them.”


Short News

Uninominal vote on course for 2008 general elections

     Social Democratic Party (PSD), the National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Democratic Party (PD) have agreed to change the Romanian electoral system to a representative democracy where voters elect individuals in a constituency. The three main political parties will discuss a draft law suggested by Romanian think-tank Asociatia Pro Democratia, introducing a mixed uninominal and proportional representation for both chambers of Parliament. The uninominal vote will see a reduction in 20 per cent of the current MPs and could be approved by September this year and will apply for 2008 elections. There is debate over whether it will apply for the European Parliamentary elections, due this Autumn. The Greater Romania Party (PRM) and the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) do not agree with the proposal.

Basescu confirms support for
Moldovan EU accession

     President Traian Basescu has voiced support for the Republic of Moldova’s potential entry into the European Union, during a meeting of central, east and south European heads of state in Brno, Czech Republic. “We wish for Moldova to also be taken into account as a future step in the enlargement process,” he said.

Romania’s Viennese ambassador
resigns over secret police past

     Romania’s Ambassador to Vienna, Andrei Corbea Hoisie, 55, has resigned after the Romania’s National College for the Study of the Securitate Archives (CNSAS) concluded he was a collaborator with the former Communist secret police, the Securitate. “We had a face-to-face meeting in my office and Mr Hoisie submitted his resignation with honour. I’m not even certain that he himself is sure he was involved in political police activities,” Minister of Foreign Affairs, Adrian Cioroianu, told Realitatea TV. Hoisie was appointed Ambassador to Vienna in Summer 2005.

Leading social democrats
resign from top posts

     Many of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) leaders announced, in the days after the referendum, their intention to resign from high positions in the party or from Parliament. They are unsatisfied with the way the PSD handled the referendum’s campaign, but also with the fact that nobody in the party assumed failure of impeaching President Basescu. Vasile Dancu and former Minister of European Integration, Vasile Puscas, resigned as vice-presidents of PSD groups in the Senate and Chamber of Deputies, respectively. Also Democratic Party (PD) vicev president Romeo Raicu said he did not want to be part of a Parliament that has no support from the population, so he resigned from being a PD Deputy.

Romania pays Brussels more
than it receives

     Romania has become a net contributor to the EU budget, as it failed to absorb all pre-accession funds and to start benefiting from Structural Funds. Adrian Ciocanea, head of the European Affairs Department said the Government’s operational programmes for EU money have only just been sent to the European Commission for approval, which is expected in July. But because Bucharest has paid its annual ‘membership cost’ to the EU, Romania technically has a deficit.

Brit fears of immigration wave:
a lot of fuss over nothing

     The number of Romanian immigrants to the UK has decreased since Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU, despite fears from the British press of an invasion from the east. Around 8,000 Romanians and Bulgarians received access to the British labour market during the first quarter of 2007, according to a press release issued by the British Embassy in Bucharest. Only 200 Romanians and Bulgarians arriving in the UK said they have the means to support themselves without working. Circus artists, chefs and musicians were the main occupations of the Romanian immigrants.


 
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