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July 31, 2021

You are free to bust them, polls say so!

The president and his people always ask the right questions. Right­ful­ness is measured by daggering percentages of people answering ‘Yes’.

‘What do you think about the Prosecutor’s General proposal to increase the period of preventive detention from 24 h to 48 h to give investigators more time to put together a documented and correct case?’ – is the question Traian Basescu’s favourite institution asks the citizens disgusted with criminal filth hidden under the mat of the rich men of the transition.

Almost no one in their right mind, faced with this kind of question, would say no to the proposal. According to data presented by Prosecutor General Laura Codruta Kovesi during the work report meeting of the Public Ministry, virtually no one did. Seventy-four per cent of Romanians said they would like a longer preventive detention. In addition, 82 per cent agree with the possible introduction of mechanisms making it possible to seize unjustified wealth.

‘Romania has to implement extended seizure not just to meet its obligations as a EU member state, but, first of all, to meet a pressing social need,’ Mrs. Kovesi said after the presentation of the opinion poll results, yesterday.

This kind of public validation gets rooted deeply into a state organised after the will and competence of those who survived communism. ‘Do you agree that we should reduce the number of MPs to no more than 300?’ Mr Basescu was asking Romanians with his characteristic ingenuity, back in 2009. The same citizens who were disgusted by the corruption nesting within representative institutions of the Romanian democracy. An overwhelming majority was answering ‘Yes’, giving the president the opportunity to claim his victory over politicians who had refused to willingly grant the ‘demands of Romanians.’

If an inventory was made of all those ‘themes’ that have proved a maximum of effectiveness in hijacking public interest towards the people’s ‘ideals’, Traian Basescu would have to be declared a winner in almost all departments. Emil Constantinescu’s famous interrogation ‘Mr. Iliescu, do you believe in God?’ could be the only one entitled to some of the laurels. For the rest, the president and his people always ask the right questions. Their rightfulness is measured by daggering percentages of people answering ‘Yes’.

Is there anything to comment about the Prosecutor’s General intention to clean up a little the owners of illicit wealth? Nothing in substance. Laura Codruta Kovesi is right: most European countries have longer detention periods (France allows prosecutors up to 96 hour of custody in terrorism cases), and the seizure if illicit goods do not usually come against impenetrable bureaucratic obstacles. On the other hand, I do not believe that Germany, Poland or Slovakia have taken the people’s pulse in order to decide on the tools the justice system should be equipped with. The institution of preventive remand entails data the complexity of which goes beyond the even sovereign authority of the people cuddled in the armchair and watching ‘Romanians Have Talent’ in front of a beer Friday night.

If we just think about it, no earlier than last year, Romanians were asking, though opinion polls, for the re-introduction of the capital punishment, prosecution of anyone criticizing the Orthodox religion and the cancellation of Romanian citizenship in the case of people claiming the autonomy of the Szeckely Land. There is no reason for the Prosecutor’s Office, guiding itself by the principle of urgent needs, not to take all the steps towards having its intentions adopted. Or Romanians’ demands, scientifically sounded, can only be invoked in specific situations? Who makes the selection? Who vets the debated principles?
The ambition of the Public Ministry of making reform with the weapon of popular consensus in its hand is just a symptom of the contradictions grinding the completely dizzy society. Perhaps Mrs. Kovesi’ institution should tell us how the Czech Republic is doing in terms of justice, knowing that its prosecutors can only count on 24 hours of preventive detention. I repeat, it is not the intention what is questionable (although other pressing social needs such as the professionalism of indictments, for example, could be just as well analysed – isn’t that an impediment in the way of ‘documented and correct’ investigations, too?), but the use of the people’s argument to validate it.

Justice, like politics, should operate in order to serve the public. The back side was described two hundred years ago by Alexander Hamilton, one of the founders of US democracy, who was saying that there is a structural difference between the interest of the people and its inclinations. If this division line is effaced, the question ‘What would the Prosecutor’s General Office do if 80 per cent of the people were against seizing illicit wealth?’ would make absolutely no sense. (‘Evenimentul Zilei’)

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