Debates inflamed spirits before the final vote yesterday. Opposition lawmakers called on PM, justice minister to resign.
The controversial National Integrity Agency (ANI) law was passed by the Senate in an extraordinary session yesterday, in the same shape as it had been passed by the Chamber of Deputies a week ago. The law was passed with 78 votes in favour and one abstention, given that opposition Social Democrat party lawmakers were present at the session but refrained from voting and the National Liberal Party voted in favour, although they had been critical of the law. Ahead of the session, Liberals had announced that they would back the law for the sake of “national interest.”
The bill will thus be enforced in the form initiated by the government, which faced harsh criticism in the European Commission’s latest justice progress report and from several foreign diplomats, who repeatedly called for a fully functional Integrity Agency. Earlier this year, the first law for the organisation of ANI had been ruled unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court, in a decision that stripped the wealth watchdog of most of its powers. However, the new law can still be challenged with the Constitutional Court. If it is not, the law will be sent to President Traian Basescu for promulgation.
The final Senate vote was preceded by heated debates between coalition and opposition MPs. During the session, several opposition senators urged PM Emil Boc and Justice Minister Catalin Predoiu to resign from office. They were both present for the plenary sitting. Having just resigned from the ruling Democrat Liberal Party, Senator Georgica Severin said he would vote for the act with a full heart if the minister of justice promised to resign in the event that the Constitutional Court returned the law back to Parliament as unconstitutional. “I’d rather quit a party than suspend myself as the member of one and jump from party to party,” said Severin.
PSD Senator Olguta Vasilescu in turn demanded an extra guarantee for the ANI law: Boc’s resignation. “If the ANI law is again ruled unconstitutional by the CC, will PM (Emil Boc) resign or not, even more so as he is a professor of constitutional law and he presents us with a law that we are supposed to adopt despite the risk of it being ruled unconstitutional a second time?” Vasilescu asked.
As for Prime Minister Emil Boc, he reiterated that “the Government endorsed the draft law as adopted by the Chamber of Deputies,” also asking senators to preserve the same text. “It meets a double requirement, the one stemming from the Constitutional Court’s conditions, solutions are based on the Court’s decisions, and the one that Romania should fulfil its EU accession commitments. I hope the decision will be one of transparency, meaning that no one has anything to hide. Your vote will confirm that,” Boc said at the beginning of the plenary meeting of the Senate.
With PSD declaring it would not vote for the ANI law, the Liberals, in turn, attached the condition of a VAT cut. They said they would vote for the ANI law, but – Senator Puiu Hasotti noted – their vote would be a purely political one, based on the warning of ‘illustrious voices’ of Romania saying that a negative vote would work against the national interest. As a matter of fact, it is believed that PNL and PDL senators had conducted negotiations prior to the vote.
Union leaders will still have to submit wealth disclosures
The Senate yesterday dismissed the amendment the Legal Affairs Committee had sustained, that was exempting union leaders from the obligation of submitting financial and interests disclosure forms. The amendment was rejected because it could not gather the required number of votes: 46 in favour, 43 against and six abstentions. By rejecting the amendment, the senators actually agreed that trade union leaders would have the obligation of submitting financial and interests disclosure statements as the deputies had also decided.
Frunda snubs vote
UDMR Senator Gyorgy Frunda yesterday missed the Senate vote and explained his gesture as a protest against the unconstitutional procedure by which the authorities were trying to have the ANI law adopted. “At the last reading, the law was adopted without the wealth investigating boards which were considered as illegal and unconstitutional. The adoption procedure is unconstitutional,” the senator said on Antena 3 TV. “I reject the populist accusation that we refuse to disclose our wealth. Wealth is public under the current form of the law,” he further said.