In his first message addressed to Parliament since taking over as head of state, on December 21, 2014, President Klaus Iohannis stated that he wished a firm Parliament in terms of integrity, fair in report with the judiciary requests, responsible in the law-making act, active in the control capacities and transparent in conduct.
He told the deputies and senators gathered in joint sitting that this event would not remain singular during his mandate and that he planned on coming in front of Parliament at the beginning of each parliamentary session to present the priorities, topics and solutions to the issues raised by Romanians.
‘The event today will not remain a singular one during my mandate. In the spirit of this partnership I plan to come in front of you in the beginning of each parliamentary session to talk about the priorities and topics that are concerning the Romanians and about the possible solutions,’ Iohannis told Parliament.
The head of state recommended the MPs see his presence in front of the joint Chambers as a sign of openness and respect for the Legislature.
He showed that, as President, he assumes a fair partnership relation with Parliament.
‘Such a partnership responds to the spirit of the Constitution and to the citizens’ expectations, but also has important practical reasons. The state powers, although separate, are, in fact, called to work together to serve the citizens. The progress of a nation cannot be born out of constant conflict between those called to represent it, but out of their joint effort,’ Iohannis also said in front of the joint Chambers.
The head of state pointed out that his message in Parliament does not accidentally come after a series of consultations with the parliamentary parties and formations and with the chairs of the two Chambers, showing that this is how the President’s role of integrator and mediator is understood.
‘A firm Parliament in terms of integrity, fair in report with the judiciary requests, responsible in the law-making act, active in the control capacities and transparent in conduct will most certainly be seen differently by the citizens,’ Iohannis added, quoted by Agerpres.
I will not use the referendum instrument to approach populist topics or solely to garner votes
President Klaus Iohannis told the joint Chambers that he will not use the referendum instrument to approach populist topics or solely to garner votes.
“I noticed gladly that there is openness regarding the reformation of political institutions as implied by the entry into a new stage of democratic consolidation that Romanian citizens desire, but for a profound change in the system we must renounce some practices, firstly we must renounce populism and electoralism”, said Iohannis to the Chamber of Deputies and Senate, sitting in joint session.
He explained that through populism one understands proposing measures that affect the state and institutional architecture with no arguments, solely to garner votes, and through electoralism one understands conceiving measures and voting systems designed to maximize the electoral gain of a party or another at a given moment.
“This is not the way to build a state. We must have the strength to admit that due to populism and electoralism we are where we are today. Not in the sense of guilt, but of empowerment now when we have the change to right things. In some cases, even though it was known they were not efficient, rules were created due to conjectural electoral interests, in other cases the public’s fears were deliberately fueled to destroy, and the political conflict shadowed any meaningful debate. Everything was subordinated to a political war, senseless in a long term, but consuming energies and destroying hopes. As President of Romania, I can state in this context that I will never use the referendum instrument on populist topics, solely to garner votes”, said the head of state.
National Defence Strategy to be introduced to Parliament
Romania’s President told the joint session he will introduce to Parliament in the ongoing session a national defence strategy.
‘My respect to Parliament is also expressed by me carrying out my presidential duties. In the ongoing session, I will introduce to Parliament a national defence strategy in accordance with the Constitution,’ Iohannis told Parliament.
He added that he is ready to mediate sensitive issues, mentioning cybersecurity to the point.
‘There is readiness on my part to mediate sensitive issues where the absence of dialogue has led to blockages. Cybersecurity legislation is such a theme. I believe we can find a balance between the need for increased security justified by the new international realities and the defence of inalienable individual rights and freedoms, on which a democratic society is built,’ Iohannis explained.
The President finds it natural for each party to have a vision and themes they want to steer to their electorate’s content.
‘Big expectations can lead to big achievements. When people look at us closely and hopefully, there are all the reasons for us to be more mobilised and more responsible. The partnership I have mentioned does not entail us agreeing on everything, because that is what democratic mechanisms, majorities and votes are for. I find it natural for each party to has its own vision and themes they want to steer to their electorate’s content, but what I mean here is a partnerships steeped in dialogue and respect toward which everyone contribute their own approach in order to improve what is left behind them,’ said Iohannis.
I expect calendar agreed on electoral calendar be observed by Parliament
President Klaus Iohannis said that he expected the parliamentary parties and formations to observe the calendar agreed concerning the adoption of the electoral legislation in this parliamentary session, showing that this way the legislature would have the chance to regain people’s confidence.
‘Following the consultations with the political parties we agreed on a calendar, which supposes that until the end of this session we have a law package concerning the local and parliamentary elections, the voting of the Romanians in the Diaspora, the funding for parties and election campaigns, the law of parties. I expect this calendar to be observed. This way we shall show two things: that the reform of political institutions has been initiated and that there is a framework for it. And that when we have a debate and we are responsible, even if we have different opinions, we can build for Romania. By observing the agreed calendar, Romania’s Parliament has during this session the opportunity to fulfill an expectation, to have a first concrete result and to begin genuinely regaining people’s confidence,’ Iohannis said in the joint Parliament plenary sitting.
He underscored that the amendment of the legislation on funding parties and election campaigns, as well as a new law for political parties must lead to an increase in transparency, integrity and participation, but also to the disappearance of some unwanted phenomena, such as the election bribe or the election tourism.
‘The election campaigns aren’t competitions for giving out buckets, nor festivals of unlimited resources, the provenance of which everyone wonders about, but no one answers,’ Iohannis said.
The head of state mentioned that the legislation change alone will not be sufficient, but only accompanied by a change of conduct, mentality and attitude, underscoring that politicians play a special role in thinking electoral candidate selection methods that lay stress on performance, professionalism, prestige and integrity.
Cutting MP seats should be taken out of populism sphere
Romania’s head of state emphasized that cutting the number of MP seats in both chambers of Parliament is a theme that should be taken out of populism sphere.
‘Even the theme of cutting the numbers of MP seats should be taken out of populism sphere. We all agree that the existing system has generated an oversized law-making forum, and that we all want a smaller parliament. And not because democracy would be too costly, not because the entire law-making corps should be penalised or blamed, but because we want a more efficient and more representative Parliament. Democratic solidity depends on Parliament, on its power to regain its role and public trust,’ Iohannis told a plenary session of Parliament.
He added that the entire political class should provide solutions for electing mayors, county council chairs and MPs.
‘We, the entire political class, should consider whether or not the election of county council chairs and mayors in one-round ballots was a timely decision, whether or not by doing so the administration was brought closer to the citizens, making it more responsible, more representative, and we also should consider how to increase the quality of politics. If we devise the electoral system starting from these desiderata, we will be able to provide answers more quickly and more grounded,’ said Iohannis.
He added that the MPs should provide an adequate answer to the overseas Romanians as well, mentioning that there is political will to this end from all quarters.
‘Thinking about the vote of the overseas Romanians in terms of electoral advantages and disadvantages, like how many votes can be won, is a trap that I believe we are wise enough to avoid,’ the President said.
Iohannis said it is not his part to say what technical solution is the best, adding that there are specialists to this end, but it is his duty, in his capacity as guarantor of the citizens’ rights and freedoms and a mediator between the state and the society, to make sure the fundamental right to vote of all Romanians is respected, no matter where the Romanians live.
‘Face-lifting that in fact conceals the conservation of the status quo is another practice that we have to abandon if we really want to move things in Romania. Many cosmetic changes have been applied to institutions and mechanisms in Romania, just for the show, that have failed to lead to real changes. If we are strong enough to recognise that, we will take an important step forward. The veneer of change that conceals resistance to change is no solution. Sooner or later those who practice it pay a political price at the polls, because people see and understand things. Let us never underestimate the matureness of
voters!’ Iohannis concluded.
I saw there is consensus regarding demands by judiciary
He stated that the talks carried out with “political actors” made him believe a legislative solution may be reached very soon to speed up and simplify procedures regarding requests to allow detainment, arrest or searches on MPs and those related to the initiation of criminal proceedings against ministers and ex-ministers.
‘One of the main points, in relation to which I saw there is consensus, referred to the response given by Parliament to the demands made by the judiciary branch. The discussions with the political actors made me believe that we can very soon find a legislative solution to help with the speeding up and simplification of procedures in the case of requests to allow detainment, arrest or searches on MPs and those related to the initiation of criminal proceedings against ministers and ex-ministers”, said Iohannis in Parliament.
The head of state also showed that “beyond the practical aspects, of celerity and transparency, this is also going to be regarded like a signal of public commitment and political will in what concerns the independence of justice and the support given to it in doing its job.”