POLITICS

Contradictory positions on timing of Constitution referendum

Senate Speaker Crin Antonescu says one option would be to postpone the referendum until 2014 and hold it together with the presidential election.

PNL leader Crin Antonescu said Wednesday night that a decision on the timing of the referendum on the revision of the Constitution, following the Constitutional Court’s decision on Wednesday on the reduction of the turnout threshold to 30 per cent would be made in USL and noted that all options were considered, including a postponement until 2014 and even combining it with the presidential election.
‘As far as I understand, the law we changed has been ruled constitutional. Nowhere in the Romanian Constitution is there any provision stipulating a year’s prorogation. This is just something coming from the Constitutional Court. I do not wish to insist on this, especially not before we see the official statement of the Court, but it wouldn’t be anything new. To a great extent, we hold elections for no purpose in this country as long as we have a Constitutional Court that decides with nine people against millions of people, it has happened before and it was even more spectacular than this,’ Antonescu said on Antena 3 TV. The PNL president noted that, in what regards the constitutional revision, USL had made an electoral commitment which it had respected and would carry on. ‘I am not sure about the strategic solution we will adopt after this Court ruling. There will be consultations in USL and we will decide,’ he said. The Senate Speaker, chairman of the commission on the revision of the Constitution, added the Fundamental Law would continue to be discussed in Parliament where the final form for the referendum would be generated: ‘We could, for example, look for a moment of maximum electoral interest, for example the presidential election next year, when we could also hold the constitutional referendum.’ Asked about the option of postponing the referendum on the revision of the Constitution until the following year, Crin Antonescu answered: ‘we are considering all options, but I want to draw your attention to the following thing: without an amended Constitution there is no regionalisation. Without a regional administrative organisation we will have very serious financial and economic issues – this is why we expedited things, there was no other reason. Such CC tricks – yes, the law is constitutional, there is nothing wrong with it, but you may not apply it for a whole year – are not hurting Antonescu, Ponta or USL, but creates problems for Romania and all citizens instead.’ The PNL leader also said he was ‘not that sceptical’ about the possibility that over half of Romanians may participate in the referendum. ‘However, we do have a few issues to deal with regarding the adjustment of the official census results,’ he noted.
Lower Chamber Speaker Valeriu Zgonea in turn said the revision of the Constitution would have a problem if the referendum threshold law was applied only a year from now, because it is very difficult to motivate people to go to the polls. ‘This is definitely an obstacle in the way of the USL effort as well as of a quick decision on Constitution and regionalisation this autumn,’ Zgonea said, answering a question if the CC decision on the referendum was an obstacle for USL projects. Asked if postponing the Constitution referendum was an option considered, Zgonea avoided giving a straightforward answer and said, like Antonescu, that USL would make the decision after analysing the best strategy and measuring public interest in the Constitutional review.
Vice-Premier Liviu Dragnea said on Thursday, in Galati (eastern Romania), that, despite the ruling of the Constitutional Court of Romania on holding the referendum with a 30 per cent electoral threshold, he did not give up the idea of organizing the referendum on amending the Constitution this autumn. Dragnea explained that he could not understand how a constitutional law could be applied late, but he said that he would never give up the project on regionalization.
PDL hails CC referendum ruling
PDL says the Constitutional Court decision on the referendum minimum turnout has circumvented USL’s plans to promote an undemocratic Constitution with little over one million votes. ‘The decrease of the referendum validity threshold was part of the USL strategy to push through a profoundly undemocratic Constitution this year,’ PDL states in a release quoted by Mediafax. According to the release, the Democrat Liberals claim the changing of the quorum less than a year before a referendum breaks the Code of Best Practice adopted by the Venice Commission in March 2007.
The leader of PDL MPs, Mircea Toader, says the application of the reduced referendum threshold after a year proves a decision of major impact may not become immediately applicable and that the revision of the Constitution would have to be approved after a year.
On the other hand, PDL said it would continue the steps taken this week for setting up a ‘Coalition for the Constitution of the Citizens’ bringing together all parliamentary as well as non-parliamentary, political and apolitical organisations so that Romanians be properly informed on the true USL intentions hidden in its Constitution review draft: ‘The USL project of a new Constitution installs the dictatorship of a transient parliamentary majority over people’s will, changes power relations in the state and makes PSD, PNL, UNPR and PC MPs the masters of all Romania.

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