Ever since the beginning, Klaus Iohannis has been seen by Romanians as a life buoy after the ten years of Traian Basescu administration, considered as a ‘rough’ president who had far too often voiced his opinions on everything and poked his nose into the job of the premier, public administration and judiciary. In November, people mobilised themselves and voted, in an impressive manifestation that woke Romanians both in the country and abroad up from numbness, the faultless German who was going to do things the German way, grab the broom and the dustpan and tidy up the country, restore respect for Romania, both locally and internationally, place this country where it belongs, among the solid European states with a good international reputation.
It’s been three months of term in office. Klaus Iohannis is a type of president Romanians are not used to, one who minds his own business and who only intervenes every now and then, short and to the point, when the train he oversees starts shaking on the rails and faces the risk of derailment, as a teacher (which he actually is) who passes down the aisle in the classroom and warns some pupil who does not sit quietly at his desk.
But, after three ‘honey’ months, the first criticism comes and not from abroad, not even from the opposition, but from the guts of the country Iohannis shepherds. Whether or not substantiated – that’s debateable – but it’s nevertheless a fault which should cause one to think about it. That’s because the blame comes exactly from the people who voted for him – the many and tiny who make up the gear of the mechanism, who count more than anything else, for the true power in a country belongs to the people. That’s because nothing matters more than the pulse of the street, what the regular person thinks. And the regular Romanian thinks President Klaus Iohannis is like a boyar who travels too much in his chariot to the boroughs of other country heads, who participates in feasts across the border and who forgets about his own people. Regular Romanians have started talking about the fact that the German they have voted for to clean up is travelling too much and spending too little time in his own country.
The criticism regarding Iohannis’ extended silence does not only come from regular people, but also from politicians and journalists who opine that this silence could turn dangerous if it prologues too much, as it may be read as complicity. Complicity to promulgated laws that hamper the German working mechanism promised by the president in election – ‘Romania of the thing well done’. Complicity to non-lifting of MPs’ immunity after corruption charges are brought by the National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA) and protected by their peer members of Parliament, complicity to everything that threatens to destabilise democracy and Romania’s European roadmap.
But are such voices right in what they are saying – that the president is warming up airplane seats more than his throne at the presidential palace? Or is this what a head of state should be doing, but Romanians don’t know that, being so used to the much too nationally involved president?
Under the Constitution, Section 80 (1), ‘the president of Romania represents the Romanian state and is a guarantor of national independence, of the unity and territorial integrity of the country’ and paragraph (2) states ‘The President of Romania watches over the observance of the Constitution and good operation of public authorities. For that purpose, the President operates as mediator among the powers of the state and between the state and society’. Section 85 (1) states that ‘The President of Romania designates a candidate for the position of prime minister and appoints the Government based on the vote of the Parliament’, and paragraph (2) says that, ‘in case of government reshuffle or vacancy of the office, the President revokes and appoints, at the prime-minister’s proposal, some of the members of the Government’. Under Section 90, ‘the President of Romania, after consulting the Parliament, may ask the people to express, in a referendum, its will on matters of national interest’ and Section 91 (1) states that ‘the President signs international treaties on behalf of Romania, negotiated by the Government, and submits them for ratification to Parliament (…)’ and, under paragraph (2), ‘at the proposal of the Government, the President accredits and recalls Romania’s diplomatic representatives and approved the setting up, closing or and change of the rank of diplomatic missions’. Not least, Section 94 notes: ‘the President of Romania also has the following competence: a) offers decorations and titles of honour; b) offers the ranks of marshal, general and admiral; c) appoints to public office, under the law; d) grants individual pardon’.
Although, so far, this president has had an irreproachable conduct at a high level, in the eyes of regular Romanians Klaus Iohannis, only after three months in office, presents a shortcoming in what regards the things stipulated at Section 80, paragraph (2). The people wants his role of mediator, especially in this troubled reality of the country, to be more visible. Would a more accentuated involvement with domestic affairs of the country be wrong? Would Romanians eventually see that as closeness to their problems or as a threat to democracy?
Yet, before the matter is dissected to get the answers, Iohannis should start listening to the voice of the people and pick up on the rumour created at a street level lately, especially after the revolt against MPs’ practice of giving their colleagues safe heaven from justice, because only in that way the citizens will feel respect, protection and satisfaction for not wasting their votes on yet another president who doesn’t really care about them.
P.S. This was written before the President’s intervention in the Dan Sova case