After failing to win a confidence vote by the end of April 2012, the pro-Basescu cabinet led by Mihai Razvan Ungureanu was exiting the political scene. The parliament was dominated by a new majority made up mainly by the Social-Liberal Union (USL) – consisting of PSD, PNL and PC. President Traian Basescu appointed Victor Ponta for prime-minister. Ponta got the parliament backing on May 7, 2012 and was sworn in, opening a new chapter in Romanian politics.
The new parliamentary majority was eager to take revenge on President Basescu and on the former rulers, the democrat-liberals. Basescu’s attack on Ponta regarding allegedly plagiarism for his Ph.D. work filled the glass. The politicians were too heated to look far ahead anymore.
What happened next is a matter of hasty decisions. On July 3 the parliament, during an extraordinary meeting, revoked Ombudsman Gheorghe Iancu.
Although the democrat-liberals complain to the Constitutional Court (CCR), the latter rules the dismissing of Iancu was constitutional. On the same day Senate Speaker Vasile Blaga is replaced by liberal Crin Antonescu. Chamber Speaker Roberta Anastase is replaced by Valeriu Zgonea. Both complain to the CCR but the court is not able to rule anymore, as days before the government has issued an emergency ordinance reading the CCR cannot overrule parliament decisions.
President Traian Basescu accused the recent decisions of USL, UDMR and UNPR aim at subordinating justice and suspending the head of state. He explains the actions as attacks against state institutions.
On July 4 USL submitted to parliament a document requesting the president’s suspension for instigating against the ruling of the Constitutional Court, for making pressures on CCR judges and for substituting the government in terms of decisions.
On July 5 the government issued an emergency ordinance to amend the referendum law so that the president can be impeached by 50 percent plus one of the cast votes and not by 50 percent plus one of the individuals included on the electoral lists.
On July 6 the parliament voted 256 ‘yeah’ to suspend President Traian Basescu and to hold a referendum on his impeachment. The then Senate Speaker, liberal leader Crin Antonescu became interim president.
But on July 10 the CCR ruled unanimously the referendum would be valid only if 50 per cent plus one of those included on electoral lists cast their votes.
Although the President vowed at the beginning of the turmoil to fight at the referendum, on July 23 Traian Basescu called on Romanians to boycott it. It was, after all, the only chance to avoid impeachment, as all opinion polls were pointing to at least two thirds majority in favour of this decision.
To cut a long story short, as it is known, from the 18 million plus Romanians on the electoral lists some 46 per cent cast their votes (about 7.4 million) for impeachment. The referendum was ruled invalid by the Constitutional Court on July 21 for not meeting the necessary quorum.
Two years after the political scene is upside down. USL no longer exists, as the liberals have quit the alliance. The ruling coalition is made up by PSD, UDMR, PC and UNPR, while PNL is negotiating with their old foes PDL to form a big right-wing party. President Traian Basescu has parted his ways from PDL in a pathetic message on Facebook in March 2013. Crin Antonescu has resigned from the office of PNL leader, but it seems he had not given up the dreams to run for presidency this autumn. Klaus Johannis has taken his place at the helm of the party during the recent PNL congress.
Victor Ponta and Traian Basescu are still in office. A cohabitation pact between the two was signed on December 12, 2012 to calm down spirits in the EU, very concerned about the democracy in Romania, and in the country. The pact was repeatedly infringed both by Basescu and Ponta (especially when it comes to the language used between them) but it is still valid, they say. Some remember the so-called 11 commandments handed by the EC President Jose Barroso to PM Victor Ponta and the preoccupation of the Venice Court in handling the judicial skidding.
Romanians are still divided in considering the events two years ago. Some believe the moves in July were an attempt of coup d’etat, as President Traian Basescu accused at the time. His accusations were carried out throughout the country by his supporters and had become a leitmotif of his campaign against the referendum. On the other side there are those who consider the referendum had been valid and the votes of some 7.4 million Romanians were disregarded. In their favour pleads the fact that, after the census concluded months after the referendum, it was revealed there were no longer more than 18 million on electoral lists, but only some 16 million.
The other day the party led by Elena Udrea, People’s Movement – close to President Traian Basescu – has organised a march to remember the events in 2012. Only some 2,000 people participated. A sign that the passions two years ago are gone, or people are tired of politics. After all, as Victor Ponta was saying recently, now there are only 26 weeks until Traian Basescu is to leave the presidential office. This embarrassing chapter for domestic politics will be closed. Or won’t be?