referendumOn 29 July, a referendum was held in Romania on whether or not Traian Băsescu, the country’s president, should be impeached for abuse of powers (including allegations of wire-tapping and deploying the intelligence services against his political rivals). Băsescu and his supporters maintain that the charges were trumped up and that the attempt to force him from office amounted to nothing less than a putsch by the Social Democratic government of Prime Minister Victor Ponta.

The EU has been unusually vocal in its criticism of the Romanian government, and the prime minister’s supporters argue that such external pressure is an attack on democracy and a return to the bad old days of the USSR telling Romania what to do. Last week, for example, we had a comment sent in from Catalin who argued that:

Last month in my country, Romania, a referendum for the dismissal of the president was held! The EU, through Angela Merkel and [European Commission President] Barroso, two former communist activists, have broken the Romanian Constitution and the Romanian law, forcing my country’s government to impose a quorum of 50 + 1%.

During the referendum, it was indeed the quorum that ultimately saved President Băsescu from impeachment. Whilst 88.7% voted in favour of impeachment, voter turnout was only 46.24% (kept low by a combination of the summer holidays and an opposition boycott) and so the results were declared invalid by the Romanian Constitutional Court. However, it is not quite accurate to say that the EU “imposed” a quorum on Romania.

Referendums in Romania are legally required to apply a quorum of “50 + 1%”. However, a few weeks prior to the impeachment referendum, Prime Minister Ponta issued an emergency ordinance to waive this requirement. The emergency ordinance was only to apply for the impeachment of the president; all other referendums in Romania would still require a quorum. The political pressure from the EU for a quorum, therefore, had largely been in response to the Romanian Constitutional Court’s ruling on 10 July that Prime Minister Ponta’s emergency ordinance had been unconstitutional. Even British eurosceptic MEP Daniel Hannan has argued that the EU has “behaved immaculately” during this crisis.

What do YOU think? Should the referendum to impeach Romanian President Traian Băsescu (with 88.7% voting in favour of impeachment) have been declared valid, even though the turnout was less than the required 50%? Was the EU right to put political pressure on Romania’s government in order to encourage it to accept the ruling of the Romanian Constitutional Court? Or is this kind of pressure an unjustifiable violation of Romania’s sovereignty? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.


45 comments Post a commentComment


  1. Andreea Petrea

    Because the EU is supposed to promote democracy I don’ t think they were right to impose political pressure on the Romanian government, that’s not democracy….. It’s abou t home affairs…..Romanian citizens know exactly what is best for their country……

  2. Gabriela Obodariu

    Well, it was an abuse of power on the part of the Governing coalition. I consider that by putting pressure on the Romanian Governement to respect the Constitution and the law, it helped mainting the rule of law. Romania is a young democracy and, as has been the case now, its presence in the European Union cand help it improve if The Eu takes an active role.

  3. Alexandru

    I believe he should have been because those 88.7% percent represented about 7.4 million votes against Basescu. Nevertheless this is a political vote. Basescu lost his legitamicy in front of the people.

  4. Radu Micu

    I think it is not democratic at all to analyze only one action: if so, EU have to look for the fraud in elections and must take into account all citizens with the right to vote. It is absurd to give every Romanian from abroad/worldwide the right to vote and make the quorum only by those within the country. This one is the best stupid claimed condition.

    • gabriel

      No, sir, it is not absurd.
      It is absurd to make the quorum counting those abroad, because it is impossible for most of them to vote (only about 70000 voted out of some 2-3 millions). Romania, as well as most countries, doesn’t have the resources to spread polling stations all around the world for 2-3 million citizens abroad to vote. So, we have polling stations mostly in embassies and consulates. That is, only in a few cities in every foreign country, maybe only one polling station at the embassy in some countries. How high do you think turnout can be abroad, given the circumstances?
      Taking Romanians abroad into account for the quorum means that the real turnout at home has to be way higher than 50%, to make up for those millions abroad that can’t vote.
      Given the facts that 10-15% of Romanians live abroad and among them, the percentage of adults is much higher than among those at home, because many of them are there to work without their children, it is reasonable to assume that the turnout at home has to be close to 60% for a referendum to be valid.
      That way, no nation-wide referendum in Romania will ever be valid, unless it lasts for several days. And I’m sure mr. Zegrean at the Constitutional Court will find that breaking the Constitution, too, if necessary.
      After all, the greatness of Law is that all laws allow interpretation (© Zegrean), isn’t it? . And, as EU & Băsescu regime taught me, what really matters is not the Law/Constitution, but who interprets it.

  5. Radu Micu

    By the way: the 88,7 % is obtianed comparing all the YES-ers voted WORLDWIDE with all the voters from only inside Romania. Is that fair enough for you!?

  6. Cristian Dinescu

    No, it was not right, because the Const Court is a POLITICAL body, the High Court has competence in legal matters. Therefore, the EU pressure was a POLITICAL one and the worst consequence of this is the fact that many Romanians are now seeing EU as some sort of EUSSR.

  7. Cristian Dinescu

    Ms Viviane Reding doesn’t even know that we have a High Court – ICCJ – in Romania and doesn’t seem to know the competences of the Const Court.

  8. Nikolai Holmov

    Whether he should have been impeached or not it really an internal matter for the people of Romania.

    The mechanisms employed to achieve that end, however, have wider implications as far as the EU is concerned.

    If it is to stand for the rule of law, democracy, human rights et al, then there is an obvious interest in how, not necessarily whether, an incumbent head of state is removed.

    Changing the protocols on the removal procedure during or immediately prior to that process would necessarily raise EU concerns. After all, how can the EU preach democracy, rule of law etc to nations like mine (Ukraine) whilst saying nothing over actions that could be repeated here (or Belarus, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Serbia, etc) allowing the Ukrainian leadership to cite a Romanian (therefore part of the EU) precedent for such actions.

    There is a fine line between criticising how internal laws are changed or manipulated for political ends in efforts to remove a leading public figure as far as the EU is concerned, and interfering in the internal democracy of a sovereign state.

    It is not only a matter of degree but also of perception by the voting public. To go too far will create anti-EU sentiment both within and without the nation in question (Romania) and not to go far enough creates either precedents for aspiring members or those subject to association agreements.

    Possibly worse still, to do nothing creates the environment to claim, quite justifiably, hypocrisy that cannot be spun out of.

    It would seem that Gov Romania, given the eventual results, had no need to change or manipulate the existing rules. If they had not done so, there would have been no wiggle room for the EU to intercede in the internal affairs of Romania.

    The problem with many ex-Communist states, my own included, is that too many leaders want to run the country in an Arbiter/Rental society manner due to the vested interests of the powerful who took control of national assets at a time of extreme internal strife and now have considerable power and influence over any political structure with a supporting society that automatically seeks the “strong man” arbiter who can deal with all these vested interests and still make sure a few good things happen in their lives as well.

    The situation in both Hungary and Romania both appear to be a case of the public wanting to return to the “strong man” leadership that can act as arbiter between the powerful vested interests instead of a return to the crazy days of the early 1990′s when everything literally fell apart and havoc ruled.

    Genuine democracy in this part of the world certainly would struggle to deal with those interests given the public expectations of a “strong man” leader.

    The problem is, a “strong man” leader is not what the EU wants to promote as the backbone of democracy in Europe – regardless of what the population of certain states may vote for.

  9. eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    Em qualquer pais do mundo que tenha um estado direito os politicos só tem que comprir a sua constituição houve um referendo na Roménia o povo escolheu os politicos não gostaram da sua escolha o tribunal deu a razão ao povo então a Roménia tem politico anti- democratas a UE fez o seu papel de democrata e eu gostei do seu trabalho na Roménia o governo da Roménia tem que aceitar a decisão do tribunal do seu pais o povo é que fala mais alto o povo é subremo

  10. Dorian Bratu

    Yes, the Romanian president should have been impeached and NO, the EU should have never get involved with the internal affairs of the sovereign Romania – we are not a colony, nor a EU protected territory!

  11. Catalin Vasile

    Here a come again to tell you this facts: the Constitutional Court of Romania – of its existence Mrs Angela Merkel, Mr. Barosso and the EU seems to have had any knowledge! – ordered in 2007, when the Romanian president Traian Basescu has been suspended the first time, that a qvorum is not constitutional, nor democratic; but in those days, the Qvorum would have not been in favor of Traian Basescu.And here we are, after 5 years, the C.C.R. changes its own decision after Traian Basescu and his party pressured the political elected judges, supported be the political EU intervention in the sovereign Romania’s internal affairs!
    I wonder, if the Government would have stood up what would have happened: we would have been “protected” and “freed” like the Iraqi or Libian people?! I really think that first of all, the EU leaders should ask the people what is that they want, than should check the laws prior to the events taking places and than try to mediate, but not to impose its will after its way of thinking! We lived a true nightmare for 5 decades when we were told what to do, what to think and what to say so that it why the Romanian Constitution stipulates the possibility of impeaching a president that becomes like the former dictators of Romanian Socialist Republic!
    By the way: how honest is the EU SUPPORTED president Traian Basescu if he answered Mrs. Angela Merkel when asked that Romanian Constitution has no stipulation of presidential impeachement????
    Traian Basescu changed the rules months ago, prior to the Parliament decision of suspending the president for breaking the laws and the Constitution! Also, the EU should see that in Romanian Basescu has created a Mob state not a democratic state with enforced democratic laws!Not even one minister or politician has been convicted for corruption! With were took back to the communist “Golden Age” of Ceausescu’s ruling when the prosecutors opened the caseson political grounds being ordered to do so for the political enemies of the ruling party and the judges were told the decisionthey had to pronounce! This is the Basescu Traian’s Romania that EU supports and this is the foemre Political Security Informer Traian Basescu’s acting toward its people!
    I also ask you this: do you know in the European history any other president or king/queen the stated about his people to be ” a nation on lazzy people, idiots, handicapped, children, old people and mommies that should all go to work” and “we’ll get rid of old people naturally”! This specimen called Traian Basescu would have been a fine Totenkopf high ranking officer, death camp leader and is no wonder that Mrs Merkel supports him!

    • Avatar of Debating Europe
      Debating Europe

      Catalin,

      First of all: comparing Basescu to a Nazi officer in a concentration camp trivialises Nazi atrocities and undermines your point.

      Second: the Romanian Constitutional Court did not rule that quorums are unconstitutional in 2007. Rather, as the Economist reports, the following happened:

      “Parliament had tried to make impeachment easier by voting that a president who had not won a majority in the first round of the presidential election (Mr Basescu won in the second round in 2004) could be impeached by a simple majority of votes in a referendum. However, the constitutional court overruled parliament on this issue.”

      There is more on this decision here (PDF).

    • Gabriel

      „Debating Europe”, unlike you, I actually read the court rulings, not what „The Economist” or „Societatea Academică Română” wrote about them. You are wrong.
      Court Decision no. 147/2007, which overruled Parliament as you stated, is irrelevant because it overruled the 2007 draft of the Law on the amendment of art. 10 of Referendum Law no. 3/2000. This draft, as adopted by Parliament in 2007, was completely different from Law no. 131/2012 on the amendment of the same art. 10 of Referendum Law.
      In 2007, the Parliament complied and amended the draft as required by the Court. The result was Law no. 129/2007, virtually identical to Law no. 131/2012, deemed to be fully compliant with the Constitution by Constitutional Court Decision no 420/2007.
      Why did the Constitutional Court invoke in its 2012 ruling Decision no. 147/2007 instead of the relevant Decision no. 420/2007? Probably, because Decision no. 420/2007 wasn’t good for Băsescu.

  12. Oliver

    @Catalin Vasile

    Kindly read this news report:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/08/17/tories-say-british-workers-lazy_n_1796576.html

    It’s not a president, but several British MPs went out of their way to publish a book with this statement.

    You’re evidently out of touch with reality and your Nazi comparisons speak volumes. What you are doing is nothing less than a trivialisation of the Holocaust, which rather puts your political agenda in question.

    • gabriel

      Oliver, judging by your name, I don’t think you are Romanian, but you seem to be very in touch with Romanian reality, much more so than us Romanians.
      Catalin Vasile asked you if you knew another head of state to insult his people like that, not if you knew MPs doing it. So, you are out of touch with the text you are replying to.
      Also, with different words, Catalin stated that given the right context, Băsescu had potential as a Nazi officer. OK, maybe it’s an exaggeration. I would say that he is often talking like a Nazi. You have probably never heard of “stinking gypsy”, “faggot” – I don’t think you need to hear what president used those words. Anybody criticizing him is a bolshevik, or the son of bolshevik, in case the critic is a teenager, or a thief trying to escape His justice by removing Him from power. Any political action against him is a coup, we’ve had countless coups in his years of presidency, in case you didn’t know. Name-calling is his game, finger pointing at designated enemies of the people is his way of gaining popular support. He pointed fingers at the Parliament, at politicians, at judges, at doctors, at civil servants, at teachers, at policemen, at unions, and especially at pensioners who apparently live too long and retire too early.
      Also, about the “Nazi” comparison, I’m sure you know, being so in touch with reality, that Băsescu is an extoller of Romania’s alliance with Nazi Germany during WWII and thinks King Michael’s coup in 1944 was treason. This coup which led to Romania leaving the Axis and to the overthrowing of the pro-Nazi dictator Antonescu is treason to Băsescu, who also thinks that Romania’s army push along with the Wehrmacht all the way to Stalingrad was normal, given the fact that we had an ally (Hitler’s Germany).
      Come to think of it, maybe this is indeed one unspoken of reason for Merkel’s support: he disavowed the Romanian coup in 1944 which caused so much trouble to the nazis.
      Also, while King Michael is a pro-bolshevik traitor to Băsescu, I confess I’ve never heard him speaking anythin bad about Hitler, Antonescu or Codreanu. Maybe he did, but I’ve never heard of it.

  13. mihai

    Yes. 87% or 88% is a percentage that speaks for itself. Whether you like it or not, this is democracy, and in the end it works best.

  14. Mihai Catalin

    We want to be part in European Union but not in the knees, unfortunately we are for the old members of the EU only a consumer market. If the European Union will continued to involve in the internal affairs of Romania, it is possible to turn most of the romanian citizens against EU.

  15. Sunny Cvitkovic Anderson

    No, he shouldn’t! It is very important for EU bureaucracy to support the rule of law. Ex communists are used to breaking the law, whenever they want. The whole region is well known for so called “left” terrorizing everybody who is not with them and runs a different politics. EU is not even considered about the revival of communist politicians or kids of them, who were shaped in radical communist families and nowadays are bringing back the “old days” of their fathers and mothers!

    • gabriel

      Sir, I don’t how much you know about Romania.
      By ex-communists or their kids, do you mean Băsescu himself (a director in the communist ministry of transports in 1989)?
      Or his allies H.-R. Patapievici, son of Dionis Patapievici, a director in the National Bank of Romania before 1989, a guy with a very shaky past, communist prosecutor Monica Macovei (daughter of colonel Gherghescu, apparently a Securitate colonel), Theodor Baconsky, son of a proletcult poet, Tismăneanu (son of Leonid Tisminetsky from Radio Moscow), Theodor Stolojan, director in the Ministry of Finance in 1989? Maybe you were referring to local leaders of the Communist Youth in Cluj such as Emil Boc or Ioan Rus?
      Or maybe to national leaders of Communist Youth such as the new star of the Romanian right, Mihai Răzvan Ungureanu, also a rising star of the Central Comitee of the Communist Youth in 1989.
      I can go on with entire pages of this list, most of them within the ranks of Băsescu’s allies.
      This is too much: Băsescu and his supporters throw accusations of communism at the first important party leaders in Romania with no significant communist past (like Băsescu’s past) – Antonescu and Ponta.
      EU Comission as well as US State Department support this cabal of ex-communists, their offspring and other totalitarian cheerleaders revolving around Băsescu, happy that the Romanian institutions defeated the Romanian people and placed themselves above it, that a handful of unelected clerks appointed by Basescu proved more powerful than the will of the people and the will of the Parliament taken together.
      One of these appointed clerks, a Constitutional judge (one of the six judges who cancelled 7,4 million votes), shared her wisdom with us and let us know that, after a 88% vote to depose Băsescu, it is not Băsescu who should go, but the Parliament which suspended him.

  16. Albert Saxén

    No, well, This is one of those things where..
    This is in my bk actually. “Let us examine the European Union. The EU is a collection of
    states that have each ceded a portion of their independence to be part
    of a greater whole.”
    So, one way or the other ..
    But he wasn’t ..he was cleared, not from the vote being under the threshold, but b/c he was acquitted/reinstated.

  17. Bogdanis

    Yes!
    He became president with 5 million votes. The external pressure defended him against 7.4 million votes. Dear Ms. Merkel, is this democracy?
    Also the ambassador of the USA should not interfere in Romania`s domestic political life with clearly biased comments. Romania is and EU member state and its citizens have a right to self-determination. The people are not sovereign anymore, this creates a precedent. Thank you Europe! Thank you USA for showing that not voters but a transnational oligarchy decides the faith of our nation.

  18. Bogdanis

    not “apply a quorum of 50 + 1%” but “50% + 1″.

  19. Rui Duarte

    I THINK ALL PRESIDENTS SHOULD BE PERMANENTLY IMPEACHED! Political stability should be forbidden. All politicians should permanently live on the brink of dismissal. «People shpould be affrad of they governments; governments should be affraid of their people».

  20. Christos Mouzeviris

    I think that when you enter a union you voluntarily give up some of your sovereignty and you are open for meddling from Brussels…. And that is the way is gotta be. We need the EU to make sure every European state plays by the same rules, if it wants to be in the union.

    Having said that, the EU is being seen as a club of the rich countries (the original 6 plus 2-3 more) and any new country that joins is simply seen as a market, a new territory. This is the attitude that pisses people off.. That some countries want to control the EU to promote their agenda, that it may not even be the agenda that is for the benefit of the people of that state, rather for those of a small number of businesses and elites, both coming from this country or globally.

    The EU must become the club of everybody and every country should be equal. If the EU wants to intervene it has every right to do so, but please make sure you do it while taking in consideration the sensitivities of each nation and try to get the story from both sides… And always listen to what the people have to say….

  21. Gabriel

    There is no democracy in Romania, where 7,4 million votes (88%) to depose Băsescu don’t count.
    Even if this situation had occured 100% according to law, a legal system producing such results would not be the legal system of a democracy (it didn’t occur legally, the situation is the result of fraud by magistrates).
    The votes don’t count because of an obviously fraudulent Constitutional Court Decision (no. 731/2012) requiring a quorum for a referendum to be valid, quorum which simply doesn’t exist in the Constitution of Romania.
    The Constitutional Court of Romania not only added a non-existent provision to the Constitution and ruled against the people of Romania, it also ruled against its own jurisprudence, as this year’s referendum to depose the president was not the first. The first was in 2007. According to Constitutional Court Decision no. 420/2007, no quorum was needed.
    Further, the Court required a turnout of 50% + 1 of a total number of voters which is really unknown, due to both migration and bureaucratic reasons.
    About the Romanian democracy, I would like to add that Basescu asked his followers to boycott the referendum so that the turnout be less than 50%. This is the politician supported by Western powers.
    Also, about the Romanian democracy: the mayor of Constanta city is being prosecuted for … instigating people to vote. So, to Romanian prosecutors, voting is a crime, if “El Presidente” asked you to boycott. He actually accused voters of complicity to coup. Have you ever heard of a democracy where people are prosecuted for instigating to vote, and the president threatens millions who voted him out?
    Basescu is in fact the local dictator approved by United States and Germany.

  22. Gabriel

    Even after all this time, Europe still doesn’t have the facts straight.
    The 50%+1 quorum is indeed required for referendums in Romania, but by art. 5 of the Referendum Law no. 3/2000, NOT by the Constitution. A law can be amended by another law or ordinance, and that’s what the Government did. In fact, so did the Parliament by Law no. 131/2012 on the amendment of art. 10 of the Referendum Law, and it is this law, not the Government ordinance, which has been deemed by the Constitutional Court to be consistent with the Constitution on condition (!!!) that the quorum is met.
    Yes, according to the Constitutional Court of Romania, a law can be both consistent with the Constitution and breaking the Constitution, depending on “1″ (50% or less turnout = law not consistent with Constitution; 50% + 1 or more turnout = law consistent with Constitution).
    They probably ruled this bizarre way in an attempt to make Decision no. 731/2012 seem to be consistent with their own previous rulings, given the fact that a law virtually identical to Law no. 131/2012 has been found to be consistent with the Constitution in 2007 – without any requirements regarding the turnout (Decision no. 420/2007).
    Have Constitutional Court Decision no. 731/2012 translated profesionally and reviewed by legal experts, they’re gonna have a good laugh.
    The Constitutional Court forgot that it is a constitutional court. It compared the 2012 amendment of art. 10 of the Referendum Law to art. 5 of the same Referendum Law, which reguires the quorum, NOT TO THE CONSTITUTION, and found that the Constitution requires the quorum!
    Not so. Fraud.

  23. Bastian

    The EU in its current stage is a paper-tiger, it is enlarging without reason. Countries like Romania would do better outside, while being inside the EU opportunities for corruption multiply (EU funds etc.). Additionally such countries as members make the EU institutions themselves more corruption prone.

    http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2012-08-24-nicolae-en.html

    • gabriel

      Partially true. Indeed, my country would have done better outside EU. On the other hand, when it comes to the big league corruption, I think we still have to take lessons from Europe. In Romania, it is said (first by economist Ilie Şerbănescu, I think) that the soviet – type comissioners in Brussels are salesmen for western european capital.
      We have strong suspicions here that many of the reforms required by both EU and IMF, such as privatisations (they go as far as to give us deadlines for us to meet selling or shutting down X or Y state company), are in fact designed either to take out local manufacturers, or to coerce into giving away for nothing what’s left of our resources and infrastructure.
      There is a strong sense here that something bad is happening to our country and the westerners are not our friends, after all.

  24. Constantin Timoc

    Quorum on a any referendum violates human rights.

    One of the human rights of is the secrecy of one’s political choice in voting.

    Is one’s political choice secret in a referendum with quorum? No, because by simply going to vote in a boicotted referendum with quorum, one’s political choice is no longer secret.

    Consequently, if a referendum with quorum violates human rights, it should not be an article of a constitution, and any referendum law that requires quorum is unconstitutional.

    Does the Romanian Constitution require quorum for any referendum? No, so it does not violate the Helsinki Human Rights Act.

    Does the Romania Law used in the recent referendum require a quorum? Yes, so that Law is unconstituional.

    Q. E. D. Any referendum that requires quorum violates human rights.

    References:
    1) Conraria and Megalhaes, 2009, “How quorum rules distort referendum outcomes….” URL www
    2) http://www.venice.coe.int/docs/2005/CDL-EL(2005)020prov-e.asp

  25. gabriel

    Great reasoning, Constantin. Indeed, the quorum allowed Băsescu to call for a boycott so that the quorum not be met, adding all absentees for various reasons to his supporters. So, the vote was no longer secret: by simply voting, it became known that you voted “yes” for deposing Băsescu. All my boss who likes Băsescu has to do is ask to see my identity card to find out that I voted against Băsescu, not to mention that the regime now has a database with the names and home adresses of millions of opponents. Let’s remember that the Attorney General’s Office required and obtained all voters’ lists, with names, adresses, personal codes (like the social security number in US) and original signatures, and we know who’s ally the Attorney General is.
    So, the list where I signed that I voted and everybody did the same, was and probably still is at the Attorney General’s Office.
    Will they indict me for voting?
    Will they check my name against the full database with opponents they now have, every time opportunity rises? (for instance, in the eventuality of a promotion, or for an ORNISS certificate). There so many ways they can use the database against you. All they had to do was to feed the names and personal codes into a computer, the rest is easy, a simple search.
    It was a lawless and godless decision of the Constitutional Court to impose that quorum!

  26. gabriel

    The judicial masquerade goes on in Romania. The only way Băsescu can keep his power is to prevent his opponents from participating in elections in december this year. He knows it and he has his prosecutors working towards this goal: in a little over a month since the referendum, his prosecutors at DNA counted no less than 1,5 million fraudulent votes, or so they say. Now, that’s efficiency!
    In a yes/no referendum with a quorum, there are two ways one can actually temper with the votes:
    1) Multiple voting, also known in Romania as “electoral tourism” – this type of fraud can be proven by matching voting lists at different polling stations, and requires moving voters from one polling station to another, as well as removing between polling stations the “voted (votat)” sticker on their identity cards.
    2) Adding votes into the urns and faking signatures of people who haven’t really voted on the voting lists. This one can be proven by interrogating the voters on the voting lists and asking them if they really voted (also by graphological expertise on the signatures on the list, but that’s far more difficult and costly, given the scale of the investigations).
    Now, how many people needed to be interviewed to reach 1,5 million fraudulent votes claimed by prosecutors?
    Maybe not 1,5 million people. Let’s say that, on average, each offender confesses to adding 100 fake votes or to voting 100 times. Still, that would leave us no choice but to believe that they interrogated no less than 15.000 people in 5 weeks.
    About the second method of fraud – added votes – let’s keep in mind that all major political parties, including the president’s, have members in every comission at every polling station. After counting the votes, all of them have to sign a document stating the result of the vote in every polling station. And they did.
    So, to have such a large scale fraud would require the cooperation of the president’s party. Maybe the people of the president’s party didn’t pay attention here and there or maybe they were bribed, but to have 1,5 million additional votes this way without protest from PDL members in the comissions at the polling stations would require the full cooperation of the party, would be simply impossible otherwise.
    Many prosecutors in Romania clearly don’t work for the law, but for Băsescu. Their accusations are so obviously fabricated that any smart kid would be able to debunk them.
    But that’s only the most credible part of the accusations.
    They have others: USL broke voting secrecy.
    For Christ’s sake, why would they need to break it, in a yes/no referendum where the “no” voters were required by Băsescu to boycott? It was obvious that most voters showing up at the polling stations would vote “yes”, the only thing in doubt was whether the quorum would be met.
    Another accusation of the prosecutors is that USL leaders were kept informed during the referendum about the turnout in every city, county, etc. For one thing, it is not clear what’s illegal in that.
    Besides, it’s beyond understanding in what way that would have helped them, given the fact that this was a national referendum, not local or parliamentary elections where at least a relative majority is needed in every village, city, county or electoral college for the Parliament.
    In fact, these preposterous accusations aim at preventing Băsescu’s opposition from participating in elections by initiating criminal proceedings against them, as well as at re-legitimizing Băsescu by de-legitimizing the outcome of the referendum.
    Prosecutors aren’t going to fool us Romanians, we know their work and we lived through a dictatorship before (they were doing the same good job for the dictator back then), it’s not the first time we see political police in action.
    But their actions will allow Angela Merkel and European People’s Party to vilify Basescu’s opposition and pretend that they support a legitimate leader in Romania.
    Actually, this masquerade might have been initiated by Philip Gordon sahib, the envoy of the Department of State of the US, who was the first to complain about major fraud at the referendum, before even Romanian politicians did.
    Only after his visit in Romania and his public remarks, the prosecutors started the investigation, so it is possible that their actions were in fact suggested by Gordon.

  27. Constantin Timoc

    I would like to offer an explanation to the decission of our NATO allies to side with the suspended president of Romania.

    Historical backgound: Montesquieu, in The Spirit of the Laws (1748), observed (from historical examples) that a good constitution must contain the following principle:
    “Important men are always exposed to envy; and if they were judged by the people, they could be endangered and would not enjoy the privilege of the last citizen of a free state, that of being judged by his peers. Therefore, nobles must not be called before the ordinary tribunals of the nation but before that part of the legislaive body composed of nobles. … in order to preserve the dignity of the people and the security of the individual, that part of the legislature drawn from the people must make the accusations before that part of the legislature drawn from the nobles.”

    The Constitution of the USA (1787) implements the above principle, known as the “Impeachment clause”.

    The Constituion of Romania does not implement the impeachment principle since the president is suspended by the Parliament and is removed from office by referendum, and a referendum is a “judgement by the people”.

    So, it appears that the “logical” argument that “a president elected by the people must be removed by the people”, as it is implemented in our Consitution, is probably flawed because it might cause frequent discontinuities in the act of governing a country.

    Consequently, the decission of our NATO allies to side with the suspended president of Romania could be explained as follows: it is highly probable that they did not express their preference for maintaining a particular person in the office of the president but, instead, their intention was to prevent an instability in the act of government caused by a defect of our Consitution.

    In closing, I shall apply a great principle stated by Carl von Clausewitz (On War, 1832): “… suggesting a better method than the one that is condemned…”. In other words, a critic must, not only, indicate a solution that he considers better than another one, but he also must furnish proof (historical examples) that his solution is better.

    Therefore, the Constitution of Romania should be amended so that it either implements the impeachment procedure of a president elected by the people, such as that in the US constitution, or, it reduces the term in ofice of the president to only a few years, such as in Switzerland. In the Swiss Constitution, the Parliament elects, for a term of four years seven members of a Federal Council (the executive power), and every year, the Parliament, elects a President and a Vice-President from those seven members; and, the following year, any one of them will not be re-elected for the same position, and, the Presedint will not be elected Vice-President. Since, historical evidence demonstates that the US system of government works well only in the USA , I suggest the system used in Switzerland should work well in Romania.

  28. Ana

    Well, I don’t think it’s alright for the EU that they tell us what to do. They somehow made us keep Basescu, even if most of us don’t want him anymore. And when I say most of us, I refer to those who really matter and who know that going to the referendum means a lot for them really. They are aware that their vote really matters and don’t let the others to stole their right.
    I voted for the impeachment of Basescu, because he didn’t do anything for Romania. He somehow played with us and laughed at us. I don’t like him because he didn’t show the minimum respect to his voters and that’s a real problem!
    EU should mind their own business, because the internal policy is our own and we know better how to solve the problems. If it hadn’t been good that we had impeached Basescu, we would have seen. But in this way, more and more people will become euro-skeptics.

    Member of the On-Line Writing Team of Think Young

    • Constantin Timoc

      With all due respect,

      the procedure of “impeachment”, always associated with the Constitution of the USA, is different from the procedure specified in the Romanian Constitution for “suspendare” by the Parliament followed by referendum for “demitere”.

      In the US Constitution, the impeachment procedure is as follows:
      The House of Representatives initiates the impeachment, and if the House approves, then the Senate organizes a court for the trial of the President. This is a real court with prosecutors accusing the President and his defense lawyers defending the President while the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides the trial. This trial can last for weeks, and in the end the Senate votes, say, to impeach him, so he leaves the office. Next, he can be indicted in any court. Note that the impeachment process is based on a fundamental judicial principle of “judgement by peers”.

      Unfortunately, the Romanian Constitution violates the principle of “judgement by peers” because the President is removed from office without “due process” in a court where he should be accused by prosecutors and defended by his lawyers experts in constitutional matters. By the way, I would have liked to see such a trial in the Parliament.

      Removal of the President from office by referendum violates the principle “judgment by peers”, as I mentioned above in one of my comments.

      Let me propose a solution: let the Parliament elect every year a new President, like in Switzerland. This would eliminate all the problems associated with corruption in the elections of the president, and there will be no impeachment and no referendum for removal from office.

      We should not become euro-skeptics, instead, we should clean our act by amending our Constitution. If we don’t do it, the politicians will never do, because in chaos they get richer and richer….

    • Gabriel

      We need to meet the same quorum to amend the Constitution. The Constitutional Court made it virtually impossible by its ruling this year, unless they rule once again against their own previous ruling, which I wouldn’t put past them.

  29. Daniela Trifu

    About the sarcastic nature of comments made by Romanian readers: I think they faithfully reflect the national spirit: “a Romanian always knows best”, and “don’t touch my property”.

    I have 2 EU-related responses for them: subsidiarity – nobody mingles in your business when you can do it yourself; and multi-level governance: when we entered EU we signed a contract engaging ourselves to protect democratic values and the rule of law, in exchange for all the benefits of a free market, as has been said, but many others as well. It’s only normal to get a tick on your hands from your co-signatory when such crass violations are attempted by the government.
    So I wish all the mud-throwing towards EU officials would stop. They were in any case more responsive to the crisis than national public official were.
    Luckily the EU actually offered us a voice (by way of petitions and consultations), while the Romanian Ombudsman’s chair was being fought over…

    • Gabriel

      You are absolutely right, Daniela: Germans know best, especially when it comes to Romanian issues. Since we Romanians don’t know much anyway about our own business, we should waive elections and have our leaders appointed directly by those who know best in Brussels or Berlin.
      It would be a lot cheaper, it would no longer require a Parliament, a president or a Government, not to mention referendums, which should be forbidden anyway on account that they are tools for the tyranny of the majority.
      EU is an artificial state, more artificial than the USSR. A huge mistake us joining it.
      A few thoughts for you:
      1) EU loves the rule of law and hates the rule of the people, because it has no legitimacy. The people would vote EU out of existence as soon as they would be allowed to vote on this issue.
      2) Băsescu’s regime has nothing to do with the rule of law, the rule of law is a mockup in Băsescu’s Romania. The right people appointed (not elected) in the right positions rule according to Băsescu’s interests or at his direction broadcasted on TV, not according to the law. During the last few years, we’ve often had him giving directions to courts, prosecutors, even witnesses in criminal proceedings, live on TV. And things happened according to his directions in most cases.
      3) The rule of law is overrated.
      A mockup democracy like Romania, where leaders lack legitimacy because they rule against the will of the people and according to the will of foreigners, will build an illegitimate legal system, a legal system working against Romanians, not for them.
      It was the case of Ceausescu, too.
      Prior to the 1989 revolution, Romania used to have a Constitution, working laws and institutions, judicial, executive and legislative powers. Rule of law.
      Except everybody within these institutions and powers was working according to the wishes of the Communist Party and of the dictator.
      Just like it is happening now, except now we have Băsescu instead of Ceausescu and a group of pro-Băsescu parties and NGOs instead of the Communist Party.
      Worse than in Ceausescu’s days, we now have a bunch of institutions, especially within the judicial power, playing politics and abusing their powers. DNA or ANI should register as political parties, because that’s what they do.
      1989 revolution was illegal, revolutionaries were breaking the law and should have been prosecuted and convicted according to 1989 laws of Romania.
      4) The referendum to depose Băsescu was consistent with the ruling of the Constitutional Court (not with the Constitution, the ruling added the quorum provision to the Constitution).
      It’s not as if we only have rule of law in Romania as long as Băsescu is president.

  30. Constantin Timoc

    Here is a quotation of a swiss professor:
    [http://rdc1.net/class/constitutionaldesignclass/Frey%20DirectDemocracy.PDF]

    “Persons acting within the confines of the political system have incentives to exploit it to their advantage. Politicians are not ‘bad’, or any worse than other persons, but they tend to be – as everyone else – self-regarding. They endeavor to further their own interests, which consist not only of material wealth, but also of recognition and prestige.

    In a democracy, politicians can use three main ways of gaining benefits at the citizens’ expense, or ‘exploiting’ the general population:
    (a) Politicians may take decisions which they know to deviate from the voters’ preferences. Political actors may do so because they have an ideology of their own, because they reap
    material and non-material advantages by so doing, or because they have insufficient information. For instance, politicians systematically prefer direct interventions in the economy to employing the price system, because regulations generally allow them to derive larger rents [illicit gains from the public good].
    (b) Politicians secure themselves excessive privileges in the form of direct income for themselves or their parties, pensions and fringe benefits, such as cars and houses.
    (c) Citizens’ exploitation may take the form of corruption, i.e. direct payments for special services provided to payers, but not to others.

    Politicians have a common interest to protect and extend these rents [illicit gains] where possible. That means they have an incentive to form a cartel [wow, organized crime !!!] against the ordinary citizens. There is, however, a public good problem involved: an individual politician has an incentive to break out, if such action is positively sanctioned by the electorate. Such action can regularly be observed in democracies, but it is rarely of much consequence for the cartel.

    The politicians in many countries form a close-knit group [intra and inter country] of people clearly differentiated from the rest of the population. Their main contacts are within the group, so that the social disapproval of the few who dare to break out of the cartel is acutely felt and carries a high cost. Moreover, the cartel is administered by the leaders of the parties so that, in most countries and time periods, only a small number are involved, and the break-out of a politician is quickly and effectively sanctioned by the other members of the cartel, for instance by restricting access to
    parliamentary positions (in particular membership of powerful commissions), or by reducing the monetary support provided by the state to the parties. An individual politician finds it
    equally hard not to be a part of the cartel, because the leaders of his party have many means at their disposal to control him or her, including enforced resignation.”

  31. Gabriel

    Today, we had in Romania a spectacular event which proved just how RIGHT people were to dismiss Băsescu and what sort of frauds Băsescu’s henchmen at the head of the Romanian judicial power are.
    Mr. Sorin Blejnar, the head of Băsescu’s Romanian fiscal authority for three years, accused of helping tax evasion, had his phone tapped at the request of a prosecutor. By the way, Blejnar’s chief of staff is a fugitive.
    Blejnar had been recorded taking orders on the phone from president Băsescu and reporting to him.
    The presindent has no such legal authority in Romania.
    This is what I was talking about when I described Băsescu’s Romania as a mockup democracy and fake rule of law: on the surface, the rule of law seems to work, institutions and laws seem to work, etc.
    But everything is staged and what you see is not what you get: people such as Băsescu and his henchman at the head of the fiscal authority are talking and making arrangements behind the scenes, outside the legal framework.
    On the surface, Băsescu acts within the confines of the Constitution. Behind the scenes, he’s breaking it using informal authority (personal and party contacts as well as fear).
    As the transcription of the phone call was part of the evidence, it became public.
    Apparently, this is the law in Romania and this happend to dozens if not hundreds of Băsescu’s opponents.
    We’ve been amusing ourselves for years in Romania reading in the newspapers the transcriptions of private conversations of Băsescu’s enemies: politicians, hostile journalists, even judges and prosecutors.
    As long as the private conversations belonged to Băsescu’s opponents, there hardly seemed to be a problem to the Superior Concil of Magistracy (I think there was an inquiry once about the leaks at the DNA, with no result).
    Today, they were outraged and started an investigation agains the prosecutor investigating Blejnar. This is no less than intimadation against the prosecutor and clear political subordination of the Romanian Superior of Magistracy.

  32. Florin

    Gabriel, I am sorry for you! I really am! You don’t have a clue about how the EU is accustomed to perceive and react to such things!
    For example, the EU thinks that presidential elections outcome ( which occur every 4-5 years, depending on member countries ) should be taken very seriously, and not to be mangled with because of whims of some politicians! It is a contract to be respected by either of the 2 parts!

    By the way, can you expose one single reason ( constitutionally backed down with facts ) for which Basescu should have been impeached? Please, help me with that, because I couldn’t find any! By the way, the Romanian Constitutional Court was very clear about that!

    Also, you made some allegations about “the will of the people”! There is no “will of the people”, only the “will of the law”! “The will of the people” is a loosely vague concept which was used by communists to justify and manipulate elections and outcomes in their favour! How could the common people make a judgment on the constitutional reasons for which Basescu should have been impeached or not? The vote was purely sentimental! The members of Parliament of the opposite party (the socialists) took advantage of the people’s widespread displease on Basescu’s austherity policies, and seized the opportunity of getting rid of an uncomfortable political opponent. This is imoral and dangerous because it has dire longterm consequiences ( based on this logic presidents could be easily deposed based on “popularity national surveys” -> this is NOT how democracy is suppose to work )

    The bottom line is that when you sign a contract, you stick to it, you don’t early cheat your way out of it based on your whims. That’s how the EU sees it, and it is an important lesson for us Romanians to consider! The president’s popularity amongst the Romanian citizens is not in question here, we all know it is very low now, but that doesn’t mean that the president should be impeached ( not without serious evidence to back up real accusations )!

    About your above references to the WW2 era: I would be more careful if I were you! Germany is the most economically potent European nation and has been so for more than 100 years now! Germans are now very clear standing against the Nazi era, but many of them are not happy at all with the Romania’s behaviour on August 1944. Digging through painful events in the past does not do any good to your arguments, but only lowers them!

    • Gabriel

      Florin, my arguments are not meant to convince or flatter Germans. German politicians hurt my country. They did it in summer 2012, they did it back in 1940, and only Germans would have expected Romania to go down with them in 1944 after what they did to us in 1940. I couldn’t care less about Germans or their feelings.
      I don’t want to live in the Fourth Reich which is what EU is becoming, I am proud and grateful to King Michael for what Romania achieved in august 1944. Also, I think we should do it again – politically, of course. By leaving the EU.
      I’m an old fashion guy who still thinks that in WWII good prevailed and evil was defeated, even if such views seem to be obsolete in Europe, particularly in Central Europe. I still think that Nazis were evil – worse than communists – and Romania chose the wrong side in 1941.
      You are wrong on the rule of law.
      The rule of law is only as good as the law itself and the people who rule in the name of the law – people within the judicial power. Also, it is good only as long as the law stems from legitimate bodies.
      Without or even against the will of the people, the rule of law is dictatorship.
      Even this political Constitutional Court admitted that Băsescu abused his powers and subtituted himself to the Government.
      We have know plenty of (additional) evidence that Băsescu’s political police in Romania is real and all institutions (oh, those superb Romanian institutions the West is defending!) are involved in it.
      Today we know from Blejnar’s phone conversations that fiscal inspectors are sent by the head of the fiscal authority to harass Băsescu’s opponents, we know that Băsescu is the common godfather of at least one prosecutor and the head of the fiscal authority, we know that the Superior Concil of Magistracy is harassing the prosecutor investigating Băsescu (actually, I think he’s off the case).
      All this network of “captured” institution – the Apparatus – is working full speed ahead to prevent free elections on December 9th. That’s what they’ve been doing ever since USL took charge of the government this year.

  33. Marian

    Well, by ignoring the decisions of its Constitutional Court, Romania was breaking its own commitments ratified by the treaty of admission in the EU. A EU member state cannot renounce representative democracy and constitutional checks&balances while remaining inside the EU. So that’s the whole matter and the Romanians backed down and accepted the ruling.

    Of course, the Constitutional Court is now impopular in Romania, but the electorate will change their mind in the future (before last summer it had been quite popular for blocking Basescu’s austerity measures).

    A young democracy is a fragile thing but Romania survived OK, with EU help.

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