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President Traian Basescu stated yesterday, in a debate organized at the Romanian Academy on the issue of amending the Constitution, that the starting point of modifying the Constitution should be the 2009 referendum on a unicameral Parliament with 300 MPs, underlining that any other option would place those implementing it “above the people’s will.” “Nobody can ignore Article 1 of the Romanian Constitution which very clearly points out that sovereignty belongs to the people, is directly expressed through elected representatives or through referendum,” Basescu stated, being quoted by Mediafax. The President stated he is bothered by the fact that although there is currently a parliamentary commission and a civil society commission for the process of amending the Constitution, their goals are not known. “My surprise is that everyone announces the amending of the Constitution but nobody announces its goals. All of those who announced they are skilled in the Constitution talked about anything but applying the will of the sovereign people,” the President underlined. The Head of State pointed out that the process of amending the Constitution was started in 2010 by the government led by Emil Boc and backed by the Presidency, pointing out that “well over two years have passed since Parliament basically avoided this project.” In fact, he declared himself surprised by the Romanian Academy’s initiative to initiate and host yesterday’s debate, given the fact that it did not come up with a similar initiative three years ago. On the other hand, Basescu pointed out that the draft Constitutional amendment initiated in 2010 also sought to replace the secret vote procedure at the Superior Magistracy Council (CSM) with an open vote procedure and to remove the Head of State’s prerogative of chairing the Council’s meetings. He pointed out that the decision to replace the secret vote procedure at the CSM was thought out to ensure a better “control” of the Council’s activities through transparency, the televised broadcasting of the Council’s works not being enough in this sense.
In what concerns the elimination of the Romanian President’s prerogative of chairing the Council’s meetings, a prerogative stipulated by the current Constitution, he argued: “the president is nevertheless a representative of the executive power; I considered he could cast suspicion over political involvement in the judiciary.”
In his speech Traian Basescu presented some of the “strong points” of the current Constitution, pointing out among other things the fact that it is “modern,” “exceptional when it comes to principles,” guarantees the rights of citizens and correctly establishes the structure of state institutions. When it comes to “weak points,” the Head of State pointed out its lack of clarity in what concerns the relation between the Presidency, the Government and the Parliament. He referred to the amending procedure initiated in 2010 this time too, stating that it sought to clarify those relations. “The approaches were extremely cautious, we didn’t want to disturb the substance of the Constitution apart from bringing slight but important modifications in order to eliminate the arguments between state institutions,” Basescu stated. He then presented the points of the proposed modification of the Constitution as sent to Parliament in 2011. He listed limiting the government’s possibility of assuming responsibility before Parliament to once per sitting, with the exception of the budget law, the holding of referendums, the introduction of a 10-day deadline for Parliament to vote a new government, the lowering of the deadline on dissolving Parliament from 60 to 45 days in case two proposed governments are rejected. At the same time he reminded of the express stipulation for judges to obey the Constitution and the Constitutional Court’s decisions and also the introduction of the magistrates’ responsibility for erroneous decisions. Basescu concluded his speech by pointing out he maintained his term in office only by applying the Constitution, underlining that “no majority is above the law and above the Constitution.” “You can even have a 90 per cent majority, it has to remain within the law, within the Constitution. Any other approach is undemocratic and puts into question the existence of the rule of law,” the Head of State concluded.
Amending the Constitution not meant for future president, Antonescu says
Present at the event, Senate Speaker Crin Antonescu stated that the amending of the Constitution will not be “a historical break with the constitutional regime” and will not be made in order to suit the future president or the future premier. “Who seeks, waits, hopes for a debate and an amending of the Constitution exorcised of politics is condemned to remain in the land of illusion,” Antonescu stated. He pointed out that the modification of the Constitution will leave Romania a unitary state, a constitutional and parliamentary democracy, stating that the stakes of the amending do not consist of fundamental changes in the constitutional regime. Antonescu added that the modification of the Constitution has to be made by great politics, not by “narrow, partisan” politics. Asked whether as chairman of the Parliamentary Commission on the Amending of the Constitution he plans to have a meeting with the Head of State on this issue, the PNL President answered affirmatively. The debate at the Romanian Academy was also attended by Speaker of the Lower Chamber Valeriu Zgonea and Didier Maus, President of the International Association of Constitutional Law.