By Daniela Baragan
The intention of the opposition to raise again the subject of impeaching President Traian Basescu following his recent statements on a pension and wage freeze in 2012 has caused a wave of reactions from the representatives of the ruling coalition. The most vehement voice was PM Emil Boc, who said the opposition was ‘separated from reality’ and would like the already limited budget resources to be used on cheap populist measures. ‘The Social-Liberal initiative is completely demagogical and irresponsible and it demonstrates that, after years of crisis, the opposition still doesn’t realise what it did in 2008 (a hint at the bill adopted during the 2008 election campaign giving teachers a 50 per cent pay rise – our note) and doesn’t understand the world we are living in now in 2011’, Mediafax quotes Boc as saying.
The prime-minister further noted that, in his statement on the public radio station, the president had only expressed a reality with regards to the wage and pension freeze the following year, stressing, in the context, that the Constitutional Court had said it was all right for the president to state his opinion on matters of major interest.
PDL Deputy Daniel Buda thinks the USL announcement that a discussion had started to impeach the president was just a new ‘soap bubble’. Buda also says the president’s statement on Radio Romania News and Current Affairs did not overstep the constitutional limits in any way. In his opinion, Victor Ponta, Crin Antonescu and Daniel Constantin ‘demonstrated, with the things they are saying, that they cannot understand the economic difficult ties experienced not just by Romania, but by the whole world’. PDL Deputy Raluca Turcan also thinks Ponta and Antonescu want to start a new impeachment procedure because they are worried that the Social-Liberal Union might be dismembered. The President of the National Union for the Progress of Romania (UNPR), Gabriel Oprea, also says the opposition’s intention shows irresponsibility and that its only purpose is to conceal internal scandals.
Iliescu warns over lack of majority
On the other hand, PSD Honorary President Ion Iliescu told online daily ‘Gandul’ yesterday that USL’s plan to impeach Traian Basescu was ‘a correct political signal as a principle’, but, unlike 2007 (when it was done contrary to the Constitutional Court’s opinion – our note), this time the opposition does not have a majority of MPs on its side in order to be able to carry out its intention.
The spokeswoman for PSD departments, Olguta Vasilescu, says the initiative may, nonetheless, be successful. ‘As far as I am concerned, Traian Basescu ought to be impeached. However, unlike the previous time, when he was impeached by parliament, but the population refused to bring him down, this time, although the population ardently wants to get rid of Basescu, we don’t have the votes in Parliament’, Vasilescu said. She said again that a final decision would be made at the meeting of the USL leaders due on Monday.
Liberal Eugen Nicolaescu says the USL lawyers are currently looking at ‘the constitutional and legal provisions’ through which they could prove that ‘the president is gravely breaking the Constitution’. ‘If our lawyers come up with such arguments, the decision will be straightforward. If (…) there are not enough arguments, (…) everything we have identified so far will be added to a file that we will keep open and in which we will continue to record all the Constitution infringements committed by the sitting president. I am convinced that, in the 2012 election year, we will see a very active president when it comes to overstepping constitutional boundaries’, said the former health minister, according to realitatea.net. Asked if the move to impeach Basescu was connected in any way with the decision to remove Geoana from his office as speaker of the Senate, Nicolaescu said it was ‘one possible interpretation’ of the situation.
Impeachment: 2007 vs. 2011
In 2007, Traian Basescu was impeached by a parliamentary majority consisting of PNL, PSD and UDMR, and temporarily replaced by Senate Speaker Nicolae Vacaroiu (PSD). At the time, the Constitutional Court issued a negative opinion on the impeachment and the president was eventually reinstated after a successful referendum held on May 19. Not all Social Democrats embraced the idea of impeaching Basescu, many finding it to be the wrong strategy for the party. Two of them were Ion Iliescu and Vasile Dancu.
The situation is very different than four years ago. PNL and PSD no longer have the majority of seats in Parliament without UDMR on their side. However, should it come to a referendum, Basescu would have a problem, as his popularity as drastically fallen according to recent opinion polls. According to a survey conducted by IPP in July, the results of which are quoted by realitatea.net, 65 per cent of Romanians would vote to dismiss the president in a referendum.