Romania’s Leaders Lock Horns Again on Reforms

from Balkan

By Marian Chiriac/Bucharest

June 13, 2013

The President and Prime Minister are once again at loggerheads, this time over how the parliament should be reorganized.

“This is just a new scandal from the President’s side,” Romania’s Prime Minister, Victor Ponta, said on Wednesday after Traian Basescu announced the start of procedures to organize a referendum on the introduction of a single-chamber parliament and cut the number of MPs to a maximum of 300.

“We have plenty of work to do and no time to discuss such things. Romania has had enough political scandals in recent years,” Ponta added.

Parliament is to start discussing the President’s request for organization of the referendum on Monday.

A similar referendum was organized in 2009, when the majority of those who voted were in favor of a smaller parliament.

Around 70 per cent of voters supported the idea on the grounds that decisions would be made faster and public spending would be reduced.

The law does not clearly stipulate when and how the results of such a referendum should be put into effect.

Basescu has criticizing the ruling coalition’s own plans for reform of the constitution under which parliament would have two chambers, with 300 MPs in the Chamber of Deputies and another 100 in the upper house, the Senate.

“This call by the ruling Social Liberal Union, which rejects applying the results of the 2009 referendum, has nothing to do with democracy or with the people on whose behalf  parliament says it works,” Basescu said.

He added that the timing for his own reform was right, as the process of constitutional revision had not ended, giving parliament time to respect the 2009 referendum result.

Romania plans to modify its constitution by the end of this year. A commission is working on this project. Among the main changes envisaged is revising the role of the President and the mechanism by which the President nominates the Prime Minister.

The new fundamental law is expected to pass with support from the centre-left Social Democratic Union, USL, which holds 70 per cent of the seats in parliament.

Analysts say the fresh dispute between Basescu and Ponta could mark the start of a new period of political crisis in Romania.

“A new dispute among them will again affect the political stability of the country,” journalist Alin Manolache said, referring to last year’s prolonged dispute between Basescu and Ponta.

This included a referendum on impeaching the President on July 29 in which most voters favoured removing him.

Basescu remained in his post, however, as the turnout was only at 46 per cent, which was below the 50-per-cent threshold needed for the result to be validated by the Constitutional Court.

Ponta’s battles with the President have caused concern in Brussels about Romania’s commitment to the rule of law.

Worries heightened when the government used emergency decrees to limit the Constitutional Court’s powers and replace the speakers of both houses of parliament and the national ombudsman.

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