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October 22, 2021

President holds third round of consultations with parties at Cotroceni Palace: Agreement on electoral law, differences over parliamentary immunity

President Klaus Iohannis invited to Cotroceni Palace the main political parties for talks on various themes of current interest including the electoral legislation, including the voting process in the Diaspora and the procedures for accepting the criminal investigation, detention, arrest or searching of senators and deputies. It was the third round of consultations since Iohannis became president.

The head of state was accompanied during the talks by several presidential advisors including Simina Tanasescu and Dan Mihalache.


Victor Ponta: ‘Electoral law to be completed and sent for promulgation <by 15 May>’


The talks started with the PSD delegation which included party President Victor Ponta, Executive President Liviu Dragnea, the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Valeriu Zgonea, and Ioan Chelaru, Chair of the Constitution Revision Commission.

After the meeting, PSD President Victor Ponta said the law on the financing of political parties, sent back to Parliament, would be adopted in agreement with the president’s requests and observations. The electoral law will be completed and sent for promulgation ‘by 15 May’, with mayors to be elected in one round and the president of the county council indirectly, by county councillors.

Victor Ponta also said that he raised the subject of the Constitution’s revision and asked for the President’s support with the matter, adding that he did so in the context where the “National Liberal Party has no stance defined on the matter.” ‘I raised an issue to the President and asked for his support, so that at least we get things clarified. It was about the change of the election laws coming in a package with the revision of the Constitution. Unfortunately, our Liberal colleagues have so far made no political decision on whether they back this move or not, and it’s important for us to know if we can still do the revision of the Constitution this year, or if PNL considers this project is no longer of interest. From our point of view, this would be a big mistake, because constitutional changes are necessary,’ Ponta said at the Cotroceni Presidential Palace.
He mentioned that the Constitution revision project is in a ‘very advanced’ stage, given that both the Venice Commission and the Constitutional Court of Romania have issued an official position and the process is now in for the .next step’.

‘We keep the text that earned the approval of the Venice Commission and of the Constitutional Court, pass it through the two Houses and then subject it to a referendum”, the Premier explained what the next stages of the revision process would be’.

Asked by the press, Ponta said parliamentary immunity had not been discussed, and noted that ‘both the law on the statute of senators and deputies and the Senate Regulation had been amended and would become effective’.

In as far as the voting in the Diaspora is concerned, the premier said his party supported the idea that the Standing Electoral Authority should organise the election abroad, ‘based on the citizens’ registration for voting within 6 months prior to election’. In addition, Victor Ponta also said PSD supported the return to the proportional system for the election of MPs, so that ‘every party takes responsibility for its candidates and we have a more professional Parliament, evidently with a reduced number of MPs’.


Vasile Blaga: ‘We accept the variant of the election of CJ president by county councillors’


After the consultations with PSD, the next party was PNL. PNL Co-president Alina Gorghiu was not on the delegation, but Vasile Blaga, Leonard Orban, Catalin Predoiu, Mihai Voicu, Gheorghe Flutur and Marian Petrache were present.

In the end, Vasile Blaga said he had told the president that ‘we have fulfilled our promises’, more exactly the Senate can approve the first three laws of the electoral package, the first one being the party financing law, which could be voted on plenary session on Wednesday.

The second law the Senate could vote on this week, as first alerted chamber, is the local election law, PNL continuing to support the election of mayors in two rounds, and will submit amendments in that respect.

‘A better law is necessary, if the variant with the mayors elected in one round of election is adopted, this is it, we will accept it. Out of two evils, we accept the option of the election of the CJ president by county councillors’, Vasile Blaga also said.

The third law is the one on political parties. ‘It’s in the Senate, we have no observation to make, no senator has made any amendment, the law has free way to being adopted’, Blaga said.

As for the voting process abroad, Blaga said PNL was happy with AEP organising it. Regarding the term of six months for registration to vote, it still needs to be discussed, as ‘constitutionally speaking, we don’t know if we can start the process before’.

‘There is no impediment to the whole package regarding the elections not to be adopted this season’, Blaga said.

Liberals support the streamlining of parliamentary procedures for Judiciary’s requests, National Liberal Party (PNL) Prime Vice-Presdient Ludovic Orban said after consultations with President
Klaus Iohannis at the Cotroceni Palace on Monday. He added that the Liberals pointed out that the ruling coalition still has a hindering stance against justice.
‘We have highlighted PNL’s constant position in support of Judiciary’s requests, pronouncing in favour of open voting on such requests. We also support the draft law initiated by PNL’s parliamentary groups, through which we intend to simplify the procedure and shorten the terms in the Parliament to approve the requests formulated by the Judiciary (…) and to openly cast the votes on requests of preventive arrest, detainment, search or opening criminal investigations [on Parliament members], Orban told media after the consultations.
‘We pointed out the fact that the governmental coalition keeps a position of obstruction to the Judiciary, which seriously impact Romania’s image and puts the Parliament in opposition with the obvious will of the citizens, preventing the delivery of justice. This attitude of the PSD [ruling Social Democrat Party] is very clear,’ he asserted. ‘The Liberal leader also insisted that the PSD Chair, PM Victor Ponta, although he is also a member of the Parliament, never voted on requests made by the justice minister or by the general prosecutor; he mentioned as
an example the case of former minister Elena Udrea. ‘It becomes ever more obvious that the PSD and the majority coalition are cooking up various projects that actually aim at preventing the delivery of justice,’ Orban added.


Gabriel Oprea: ‘We unconditionally support President Iohannis’


The third political party to follow at the hearings was UNPR. The delegation included Gabriel Oprea, Neculai Ontanu and Catalin Chereches.

Party President Gabriel Oprea said, after the meeting, that the electoral code must be changed and that ‘clear procedures must be set so that justice should not be subordinated’.

He stressed that a national consensus was needed, which calls for ‘cooperation, sometimes even compromises, for power and opposition’.

‘UNPR understands in a constructive way its share of responsibility for the national consensus (…). We unconditionally support President Iohannis, especially in the current international context’, he noted.

MP Eugen Nicolicea, Parliament Liaison Minister, in turn said that ‘UNPR keeps it word and implements what it consents to and what it gives its word for in the meetings with partners, and the president is a partner we support’.

Nicolicea also said that, in as far as integrity and immunities were concerned, UNPR had proposed that ‘the incompatible MP should lose his/her mandate without a vote in Parliament’ and asked for clear deadlines for lifting immunity, already adopted in the Statute of Deputies and Senators.

UNPR also supported the lifting of immunity by ‘small majority’, meaning the majority of present MPs.

UDMR also ‘supports a relaxed consensus in Parliament ‘on electoral lists and vote in the Diaspora.

‘Next week we will conclude this debate. The law of parliamentary election will hopefully be adopted by June’, he also said.


Kelemen Hunor: ‘We want no county to have less than 2 senators and 4 deputies’


After a break, the representatives of the Conservative Party followed. The delegation was led by District 4 Mayor Cristian Popescu Piedone, as party President Daniel Constantin was on a trip to Brussels. The other members of the delegation were the Chairman of the Legal Committee of the Chamber of Deputies, Bogdan Ciuca, Damian Florea, Constantin Avram, Eugen Durbacă and the Minister of Education , Sorin Cîmpeanu, although he is not a member of PC, but being proposed by the Conservatives for the post of minister.

Bogdan Ciuca said PC supported at least a part of the legislative changes regarding the electoral law should be adopted by the end of the current Parliament season.

The UDMR delegation was led by President Kelemen Hunor. He said, after the consultations with the president, that UDMR was happy with the election of mayors in a single round, an option supported by PSD, as well as an electoral threshold of 3% for the election of county councillors.

‘In as far as the parliamentary elections are concerned, the return to the national list system is also supported by us. Proportional representation is a principle we endorse and no county should have less than 2 senators and 4 deputies. It is a substantial reduction of the number of MPs, the number 300 is not final, there will be more than 300 (…). On the vote in the Diaspora, it would be good to adopt the solution of voting by post, it’s an extremely important criterion: prior registration for voting as it happens in Germany or France’, the UDMR leader also said.

At the same time, Kelemen Hunor said: ‘On the Constitution, we believe that, this season, this year, before the 2016 election, a correct and substantial change is not possible’.

The last delegation to hold consultations with the president was the one of the parliamentary group of the National Minorities.


Tariceanu unhappy about PLR not being invited


The President of the Liberal Reformist Party (PLR), Calin Popescu Tariceanu, was upset that his party had not been on the list of those invited by President Klaus Iohannis to Cotroceni for consultations on legislative topics, and stressed that, whilst PLR had not run in the 2012 election, it still had legitimacy.

‘I found out with regret from the media that the Liberal Reformist Party was not on the list of parties invited to Cotroceni by the president of Romania for consultations on legislative matters’, the PLR leader stated in a press release, according to Mediafax.

Tariceanu states that his regret is amplified by the fact that the PLR MPs were doing their duty in the legislative body to provide political stability to the current Cabinet, the PLR ministers notably contribute to the activity of the Government and the PLR political activity in the ruling coalition has boosted the recent adoption of measures of Liberal origin that will stimulate national economy, including the new Fiscal Code and the reduction of the value-added tax on the 1st of June.

‘The request to change the name of the party that we have made to the relevant court has been admitted, which gives us legality. It is true that PLR did not run in the 2012 election and that circumstance might be raised as a reason for not inviting the party to the consultations at Cotroceni because of some assumed lack of legitimacy of the PLR MPs or even of the party as a whole. We have contradicted the theory in the past and I continue to do so. PLR, its MPs and members have unquestionable legitimacy given by the electorate who, in 2012, voted for the USL lists and decisively rejected Basescu’s PDL, currently camouflaged behind the name of the new PNL. In 2012, PNL received the votes in the form it had then, during the election campaign and not as it has transformed overnight, without any consultation of its voters, into a party where Traian Basescu’s behavioural and staff heritage is visible to anyone’, Tariceanu said.

Another absence from the Cotroceni talks was PMP, the party that, like PLR, was registered with the tribunal after the latest parliamentary election of 2012.

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