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Anyone hoping for a quiet 2013, after the intensity of last year, will probably be disappointed. The MPs’ super-immunity to be scrutinised in Brussels in the presence of Chamber Speaker Valeriu Zgonea, the dispute over President Traian Basescu and the Parliament’s concomitant resignation to enable simultaneous elections, the tough lines uttered among National Liberal Party (PNL) key-figures, the review of the Constitution will, perhaps, be the highlights of the year.President Traian Basescu goes back on the issue of reducing the number of MPs. If so far his insistence has seemed to be an electoral and repetitive one, once the Parliament has grown to a record total of 588 seats, more and more voices support the need to apply, one way or the other – meaning either with a single chamber or with two – the outcome of the 2009 referendum.
But the talks between the head of state and the representatives of the political power (USL), Victor Ponta and Crin Antonescu, keep their electoral reflexes. Proposals seem to be made in such a way as to be impossible to accept and to put the one refusing them in the position of taking the blame for the failed dialogue. But the president says he will only agree to resign before term if the members of Parliament did that simultaneously. His public position followed a meeting with the two USL co-presidents who had suggested his resignation would be opportune in order to have presidential and European parliamentary elections simultaneously. However, beyond the ironical tone, the president’s response does raise a few questions. How could 588 MPs resign simultaneously with one person, be it the president of the republic? Even so, the biggest issue is what would be left behind. Assuming this was done, how would the European Union and the West, in general, react to a new political crisis that, during the subsequent election campaign, would create a big political void? Romania would be left without its Parliament and president in a concerning state of uncertainly, the same day. Only the Government would keep its position, however with limited prerogatives. PM Victor Ponta’s answer came next. Also replicating the irony, Ponta said he agreed to reduce the number of MPs, but that everything was just a game. ‘I may resign, together with the ones present here, but after Mr. Basescu will convince the Democratic-Liberal MPs to resign. I want new elections, I really want elections according to the new law, so that the PDL people will be out, all those who were elected from the second place. But it’s just a story,” Ponta said on January 24.After all this, the quasi-general feeling is that we are back in the election campaign. Mutual allegations, cutting retorts, obvious partisanat according to the various actors’ current positions. PDL Vice President Dorin Florea says President Traian Basescu has responded to ‘stupidity’ and that USL’s current leaders would like to hide the serious issues concerning the budget, price hikes and decreasing living standard by initiating such a debate. Other PDL representatives have voiced their position more or less vehemently. The leader of the Hungarian majority (UDMR) in Parliament, Kelemen Hunor, stepped in with a rather moderate position: ‘This thing that I’ll resign as long as you resign isn’t really working. In my opinion, this is not the most constructive approach on either side and I don’t thing there should be a condition that the Parliament should also resign, because the Parliament was elected just two months ago. These are two false themes – shortening the president’s term or the resignation of the Parliament – which create the impression there is political tension, a pointless political conflict,’ said Kelemen. Indeed, a useless political conflict without a practical finality – given Romanian realities. It is hard to believe that the newly-elected MPs (588 in total!) will ever give up the benefits coming with the office – even if so required by their party leaders – in exchange for the more than uncertain benefit of being re-elected (possibly in a party list system, but that’s a different discussion) to a parliament narrowed down to just 300 seats. Neither will the Government have too much to gain from such endeavour, as it would have to put on hold the feeble economic and social redress programmes either in progress or about to be initiated, that are so necessary. In addition, who can guarantee that they will still be the winners in a new election? It would pretty much mean that they are selling the skin of the bear before killing it. The first impulse would be to say the only party that would derive some sort of benefit from this would be PDL, who would get an unhoped for chance to engage in an election campaign and regain some of its lost positions. Or President Traian Basescu, who has seeded new dissatisfaction and frustration deeply into the opposing side. His hope to waken and attract PNL on the other side of the barricade is beginning to have a chance. Feeble one, but it’s still there. As it can be seen, the war has begun inside the National Liberal Party, and ex-PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu is at the forefront.