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February 1, 2023

Special Parliament session: PM Boc asks for stability pact, opposition presses on early elections

Senators and Lower Chamber MPs met in a joint session yesterday in order to debate Romania’s political, economic and social situation.

341 of the total 465 MPs attended the session chaired by Speaker of the Senate Vasile Blaga. PM Emil Boc was present too, along with Internal Affairs Minister Traian Igas, Education Minister Daniel Funeriu, Culture Minister Kelemen Hunor, Development Minister Elena Udrea, Transport Minister Anca Boagiu and Labour Minister Sulfina Barbu. At the same time, PDL brought dozens of its supporters within the hall.

On the other hand, opposition representatives announced that they will not attend today’s solemn meeting dedicated to the union of the Romanian Principalities. Eugen Nicolaescu, deputy leader of PNL MPs, argued that the Union of Romanian Principalities Day is celebrated “alongside the people” and certain MPs want “to hide in Parliament instead of celebrating it alongside the people.”

On the other hand, former Speaker of the Senate Mircea Geoana expressed his wish President Traian Basescu be invited in Parliament today, arguing that “Mr. Basescu is the one that personalizes the ruling power at this moment.” Moreover, USL sources quoted by Mediafax pointed out that USL leaders agreed on Monday to resort to Parliamentary strike given the ruling coalition’s refusal to accept the opposition’s demands. The option currently considered is to go on a 30-day Parliamentary strike. The USL MPs would not collect their indemnities during that period.

The Premier’s proposal…

In his speech, Premier Boc proposed to Parliament a pact for safeguarding economic and political stability, pointing out that this stability is the key to maintaining Romania’s external credibility.

“In the last 20 years the political class focused on a single manner of work: confrontation; eliminating some so that the others can take over power. I ask you today for the solutions that unite us to be the ones that will lead Romania towards its future. We have stability, it is up to us not to compromise it,” Boc stated in Parliament. He pointed out that he awaits the opposition’s proposals for the Council of Economic Dialogue, underlining that he admits that the government does not own the truth and that its solutions are not perfect. Moreover, the Premier added that he takes responsibility for the government’s mistakes but that the protests represent a vote of censure against the entire political class.

Boc pointed out that he knows the people’s problems, that they are not allayed by macroeconomic figures, and that it is difficult to explain to them that the measures that the government adopted were necessary.

At the same time, Premier Emil Boc reiterated his call for USL to give up any overture to “freeze Romania’s European funds,” pointing out that it is not good for the opposition to look for easier ways of “climbing” to power by endangering the country’s interests. Before the PM’s speech, PSD President Victor Ponta pointed out that USL had not and will not ask the EP to freeze Romania’s European funds as PDL had claimed. USL MPs received the Prime Minister’s speech with shouts such as “resign” and “leave.”

… and the opposition’s insistence

In their speeches, PSD and PNL Presidents Victor Ponta and Crin Antonescu stressed the need for President Basescu to resign and for early elections to be organized. “The opposition did not ask for this special session because it missed seeing those in power. We’ve asked for it because we believe that most Romanians are dissatisfied, they are challenging the political majority, because “down with Basescu” means they want another President. In a democracy the solution is early elections. We ask you for the only democratic solution to the problem of the enormous public discontent in Romania – the resignation of Romanian President Traian Basescu, the resignation of the Romanian government and the dissolution of Parliament, we being the first ones ready to hand in our resignations,” Antonescu vehemently stated. “All Romanians should know this clearly, without early elections we will never sit with you. We will sit with the street,” he concluded.

In his turn, Victor Ponta asked for early elections, pointing out that there will be no disaster if Boc is no longer the Premier. “We have to have free and early elections and a government of technocrats. (…) Our proposal is a government of technocrats backed by all responsible parties in Parliament – PDL, PSD, PNL, UDMR and the minorities. (…) The solution is simple: a political pact saying we agree on giving up our Parliamentary seats and coming before the people,” Ponta said, stating that people should decide who should lead them from now on. Likewise, the PSD leader asked for a commission to investigate the way in which things were managed in recent days and asked the PM to promise that his government will no longer pass laws by assuming its responsibility for them in Parliament and to give up the idea of coupling the elections.

Opposition continues offensive abroad

Opposition leaders will continue their lobby actions abroad. PSD President Victor Ponta and PNL President Crin Antonescu will be in Brussels on January 31 where they will discuss with representatives of the European Parliament’s Presidency and with the leaders of EP groups about the changes brought to the elections timetable in Romania. Ponta announced yesterday at the meeting of the permanent bureaus of PSD, PNL and PC that they will notify the EP about the ruling power’s intention of coupling local elections with Parliamentary elections, about the vote-by-mail issue and the government’s modus operandi of passing laws through Parliament by assuming responsibility for them.

Tomorrow, Ponta and Antonescu will meet the ambassadors of EU member states in Bucharest, in order to inform them about the opposition’s point of view on the situation in the country. Michael Sternberg, the Ambassador of Denmark (country that holds the EU’s Presidency) to Bucharest, stated yesterday for Mediafax that the meeting with USL leaders comes at PSD leader Victor Ponta’s initiative, the Danish diplomat stating that his role is to “listen to the opinions.”

Protests in Romanian Diaspora

Displays of support for protesters in Romania took place outside Romanian embassies in several European capitals, as well as in Montreal, Canada, in the last week, hundreds of Romanians living abroad asking for the resignation of the government and the President. The first meetings took place last Monday outside the Romanian embassy in Dublin, several dozen persons attending the event. Approximately 100 Romanians then took part in a protest outside the Romanian embassy in London. Likewise, dozens of Romanians protested outside the Romanian embassies in Lisbon, in Vienna, in France, Italy and Spain. In its turn, the RomBel association (the association of Romanians living in Belgium) organized last Friday a protest outside the Romanian embassy in Brussels. Approximately 70 persons took part in that protest. In Canada, approximately 30 Romanians protested outside the Romanian consulate in Montreal, expressing their disappointment with the current regime in Bucharest and their solidarity with Romanian protesters. Yesterday the League of Romanian Students Abroad announced that it supports the protests in Romania, calling on Romanian youths to do the same.

Tanase: Ruling power’s arrogance, abuses push people out in squares

By    Adela Stanciu

People have taken to the streets in the past days as a result of the ruling power’s arrogance and Traian Basescu’s repeated abuses against democracy, political analyst Stelian Tanase argues, underlining that the cause of the protests does not lie in the present economic situation, as representatives of the ruling coalition claim. “People were not motivated by economic or social problems, but by Basescu’s political style. (…) People started witnessing repeated violations of the rules of the democratic game. Everyone could see that these people (e.n. the administration) rule exclusively by government ordinances and by taking responsibility before Parliament,” Tanase argued yesterday in an interview to “Jurnalul National”.

In his opinion, the only way-out for the present administration would lie in the Cabinet’s resigning and in holding early elections.  “This administration has lost the trust of the people, their trust indicator is below 10 pc, that is to say, nine people out of ten no longer believe what the government is saying. (…) In my opinion, the government will fall,” the analyst added. When asked to comment on president Basescu’s failure to respond to protests and on whether this failure is deliberate or an expression of fear, he replied: “It’s not deliberate, Basescu is scared, there’s no way-out. He was used to appear on TV and fool people. He had never expected he would be faced with these protests. He was intoxicated with power, he could see no one dared to say ‘no’, that the opposition was weak, that the trade unions had been destroyed, that the civil society kept mum and there was no stopping him. (…) This man has lost touch with reality. Furthermore, he still thinks he’s popular, that people love him.”

PDL: “We can’t permanently wait for the President to come up with some tricks”

By    Daniela Baragan

The Democrat-Liberals vehemently deny that they are responsible for the people’s discontent and consider that the recent events (protests throughout the country – editor’s note) are somewhat “unjust.”

PDL Vice-President Mihai Stanisoara stated yesterday in an interview for ‘Evenimentul Zilei’ that the people’s discontent has to do “with the shape not the essence of the problems iterated as dissatisfactions.” Former Presidential adviser on security issues Stanisoara admits as “errors” only the fact that PDL communicated insufficiently with “political competitors” and with “the whole Romanian society.”

Although he claims that PDL’s partnership with Traian Basescu has to continue, Stanisoara underlines that “in order to be successful” in the future the Democrat-Liberals need “to be more determined and to have more initiative.”  “We can’t permanently wait for the President to come up with some tricks,” the former Defence Minister stated. As a consequence, in his opinion, “the natural order of exposure” would have been for the government to be the most exposed, followed by PDL and then the President, but things happened precisely the other way around (referring to the fact that protesters are asking for Basescu’s resignation first, followed by that of the government – editor’s note). “Because of the fact that in most cases both the government and the party were absent from the political stage, we basically forced the President to enter a curve of sacrifice.”

According to him, the solution for overcoming the current crisis is for Premier Emil Boc “to turn towards the party” and for the government to give up “the attitude of an accountant.”

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