POLITICS

Parliamentary session kicks off as USL MPs go on strike

The Parliament started as of yesterday its first ordinary session of 2012, soured, however, by strong tensions between the ruling power and the opposition on the topic of early elections.

In fact, this is the reason for which the joint parliamentary groups of the Social-Democrat Party (PSD) and the National Liberal Party (PNL) adopted yesterday with a majority Social-Democrat leader Victor Ponta’s proposal that the opposition should embark on “an indeterminate term parliamentary protest”.

Thus, the Social-Liberal Union (USL) will ensure a “minimum attendance” in committees and Standing Bureaus, under an amendment filed by the Liberal Senator Teodor Melescanu, but would no longer attend the debates and voting sessions. In practice, this will leave the passing of laws to the ruling coalition MPs, who will have to get mobilized in an exemplary fashion from now on to ensure the necessary quorum.

At present, the coalition comprising the Democrat-Liberal Party (PDL), the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR), the National Union for Romanian Progress (UNPR) and the ethnic minorities’ group can boast 176 MPs in the Lower Chamber and 68 in the Senate (including the independent deputy Iulian Urban who, although he resigned from PDL, announced he would back the ruling coalition’s actions), while USL can rely on 149 MPs in the Chamber and 66 in the Senate (including the independent Mircea Geoana and the freshly-resigned Democrat-Liberal Mircea Banias who joined the Conservative Party yesterday).

“The parliamentary activity does not consist exclusively in the passing of laws or in attending committee and Standing Bureau meetings. It includes several other actions, such as the filing of legislative proposals, political statements, interpellations, no-confidence votes and the like,” the Senate deputy-speaker Ioan Chelaru (PSD) stated yesterday, Mediafax reports. He added that “business will go on as usual in the Senate”. “We will be on full attendance in the Senate. (…) We will be present when the meetings start, we will present the reasons for our protests and we will leave the hall. Every single day,” Chelaru further stated.

When asked what “privileges” the opposition senators would lose by going on “parliamentary strike,” he replied the topic had not been addressed. “I don’t think the term you have used is very courteous. There is no mention of privileges in the text of the law, the law provides rights,” the Social-Democrat added.

The Social-Democrat deputies’ leader Mircea Dusa was also annoyed by the press’s question concerning the wages the opposition MPs would collect for the time of the strike, which he characterized as “biased”. We remind our readers that USL representatives had stated initially they would not attend either the assembly meetings or those in the specialized committees and would donate their wages for the time of the strike.

However, the leader of Liberal deputies, Eugen Nicolaescu, explained that, during their strike, the opposition MPs would waiver their session pay, which does not have a fixed value, but is directly proportional with the number of meetings an elected official attends. On the other hand, the opposition MPs would continue to collect the base pay, which amounts to an average RON 4,000, as well as the lump sums that counsellors on the territorial parliamentary offices are entitled to. Furthermore, the opposition MPs would go on benefiting from free accommodation in Bucharest and from a mobile phone subscription paid by the Legislative. Finally, if they sign the attendance sheet in the assembly, even if they don’t attend the voting sessions, MPs will go on collecting the session pay.

Anastase: The opposition is on a “luxury strike”

Chamber of Deputies Speaker Roberta Anastase (PDL) said that the withdrawal of USL legislators from the Parliament represents a “luxury strike” as long as they still take their wages and other benefits. “This is not how people will understand this luxury strike. (…) I heard what they say – that they cannot give up their money, because this is an allowance, rather than a salary which can be cut,” Anastase said.

The PDL politician also stressed that no formal announcement was made by the opposition yesterday, in the plenum of the Permanent Bureau. Instead, the representatives of PSD and PNL asked for a “respite” until next Monday, in order to decide what missions abroad they will participate in.

In his turn, the deputy Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Ioan Oltean said that he is waiting to see whether opposition MPs will really go on strike and if they will do without their “hotel rooms, service automobiles, secretaries and money in the wallet.” According to Oltean, it would be “correct and moral” for the legislators that do not attend the sessions of the Parliament “because of reasons that pertain to their own will” to stop taking their salaries and enjoying the other benefits which result from their quality of MP.

Senate Speaker Vasile Blaga (PDL) says he respects the decision of opposition legislators to no longer attend debates and votes in plenum, although he believes that the place of the opposition is in Parliament. “I think that the Parliament is the most important institution of a democratic state and, from this point of view, I believe that the place of the opposition is in the Parliament,” Blaga stated. As for the opposition holding the majority in some important committees of the Senate, Blaga said that the draft laws which should be voted by these committees may directly go in plenum, bypassing the committee report, as provided by the Regulation.

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