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August 3, 2021

Ex-presidential aide: Basescu may swap two years in office for unicameral Parliament

Opposition views draft amendments to the Constitution as a “political trap”.

The head of state is willing to enter negotiations with legislative parties over the Constitution amendment bill. Former presidential aide Sebastian Lazaroiu yesterday told Radio France International (RFI) that Traian Basescu may propose parties a “deal” under which he would swap two years in office for an unicameral Parliament of maximum of 300 MPs. (…)

“Eventually, the following deal may be struck: you accept what the people decided at the referendum, and I give you satisfaction, since you contest me day in and day out, and give up on two years in office The president suggested such negotiation were likely. I see it likely for the president to do it,” Lazaroiu said, disclosing that not everybody is happy in the Democrat Liberal Party (PDL) either about the notion of a unicameral legislative body.

The former Cotroceni aide views the constitutional amendments laid out by the head of state at a press conference Wednesday as unspectacular, since they would only put into practice the popular will expressed at the referendum in 2009.

“There are some matters that stem from the referendum in 2009 and others from the experience of the past five-six years during which institutions have not functioned smoothly on account of some ambiguous provisions in the Constitution and which are now clarified practically,” Lazaroiu said, who disagreed with the flare-up reaction by the Opposition over the stripping of parliamentary immunity while maintaining absolute immunity for the president.
“The Opposition has reacted blindly, as it has often done before, over the lifting of legislative immunity, thinking that the new Constitution would apply to the president too, which isn’t true. If it pondered over the issue, considering the Opposition could provide the next president, it would be in its interest to secure the president’s immunity, no matter who that might be. (…) Their acting could drag the presidential institution into mud, into derision, eventually,” Lazaroiu also said.

President Basescu himself brought up at Wednesday’s press conference the likelihood of party negotiations. Asked whether he gave up of concurrent presidential and legislative elections, the head of state said: “It may be an issue for negotiation, talks between me and Parliament, a solution for holding concurrent elections again. I couldn’t have included that here, yet this is an element I am willing to negotiate with Parliament. (…) I can’t come before Parliament with nothing in my pocket,” a smiling Basescu said.

Actually, in a TVR1 interview last February, Traian Basescu said he was ready to cut short his term in office provided there is political common ground over constitutional amendments so that presidential and legislative polls are held concurrently, again.

‘Risk of turning Romania into a police state’

On the other side of the barricade, the opposition does not appear willing to negotiate, criticizing the content of the Constitution amendment bill. The Social-Democrat Party (PSD) believes that, basically, the amendments seek to strengthen the president’s role in his relationship with other institutions.

“All these amendments appear to have the single goal of turning Romania from a democratic state into a police state and of strengthening the role of the executive leadership, of the President’s mostly, in his relationship with the other public authorities, Mediafax quoted PSD Vice-president Ioan Chelaru as saying. Chelaru added that the amendments to the membership of the Superior Council of magistracy too pave the way to abuses and arbitrary decisions by the Executive.

As a result, Chelaru said that Social-Democrat and Liberal lawmakers would not join in this “fake revision of the Constitution”, given he holds the proposals as a “political trap aimed at the opposition.”

Former president Ion Iliescu too describes the amending procedure as undemocratic, a mere publicity stunt. “Amending the Constitution may be originated by the president, yet acting on a proposal from Government, a parliamentary group, or a citizens group. However, it is not the president who should come up with the proposal (…)

The procedure itself is undemocratic,” Iliescu told Antena 3 by phone.

In his turn, PNL President Crin Antonescu said his party would not take part in the Constitution’ revising process under the existing parliamentary configuration conditions. “PNL does not accept a so-called debate to revise Constitution in a hurry, when and how Traian Basescu feels like”, said Antonescu. “We firmly deny Basescu’s diversion and his attempt to change the public agenda (…) Constitutional amendment can be done only by the next Parliament, when there is a favourable dialogue climate among all representative political forces,” the Liberal leader added.

Pro Democratia Association leader, Cristian Parvulescu also believes that the current constitutional amendments turn Romania into a presidential republic. “The President will be in the centre of the state power, subordinating both the legislative and the executive powers,” Parvulescu said.

President’s proposal was attacked even by PDL’s coalition partner, UDMR. The leader of UDMR deputies, Mate Andras denounced lack of consultations between Government and Presidency, saying some proposals advanced by the head of state “seem to belong to the 50’s.”

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