Constitutional Court of Romania (CCR) President Augustin Zegrean showed up at the General Prosecutor’s Office headquarters on Wednesday morning in order to be heard in the “Erratum” case that concerns the 2012 presidential impeachment referendum.
Judges Acsinte Gaspar, Aspazia Cojocaru, Horatius Dumbrava (member of the Superior Magistracy Council), Toni Neacsu (former Superior Magistracy Council judge) and CCR judge Tudorel Toader have been heard so far.
Prosecutors have started an investigation into the way Constitutional Court judges issued in 2012 a decision concerning the organizing of the presidential impeachment referendum. The investigation started after former Superior Magistracy Council (CSM) member Toni Neacsu stated that the CCR’s erratum that invalidated the 2012 impeachment referendum was allegedly not drafted by CCR judges but by Alina Ghica and Oana Schmidt Haineala, the heads of CSM at the time. Moreover, it was all allegedly done under the guidance of Supreme Court President Livia Stanciu and former National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) Chief Prosecutor Daniel Morar, all of them close to Traian Basescu.
The erratum, which resulted in the Romanians living abroad being taken into account in the voter turnout threshold needed to validate the referendum, was issued by judge Stefan Minea, whose election within CCR is now contested by PSD. The erratum basically saved suspended president Traian Basescu from impeachment and resulted in the referendum being invalidated.
The erratum was contested by some members of the CCR, including Tudorel Toader, who claimed that they were not consulted on the issue. The Court’s plenum however subsequently decided that the erratum issued by Stefan Minea was legal.
The erratum’s story
On 2 August 2012, the CCR adopted a decision concerning the organizing of the referendum, however it noticed that the decision lacked the legal grounds on whose basis the total number of voters that had to cast their ballots in the referendum that had taken place on 29 July 2012 was to be established.
After the decision was published, an erratum was added, pointing out the fact that all eligible voters would be taken into account, namely 18 million Romanians.
The erratum blocked the government’s initiative of conducting a mini-census in order to remove the Romanians living abroad from the permanent voters’ lists.
The erratum was drafted and signed by judge Stefan Minea, who sent it for publication to the Government and the Official Gazette.
The referendum was invalidated on the basis of this erratum, since of the total 18,292,464 persons registered on permanent voters’ lists, only 8,459,053 persons (46.24 per cent) took part in the referendum, so the voter turnout threshold of 50 per cent plus one needed to validate the referendum was not reached.
Subsequently, three of the CCR judges – Ion Predescu, Acsinte Gaspar and Tudorel Toader – stated that they were not consulted on the issue of the erratum, claiming that the referendum should have been validated since the 18,292,464 persons registered on the permanent voters’ lists, the number taken into account when adopting the validation decision, did not reflect the structure and size of the electorate at the time.
In their opinion, Romanian citizens residing abroad, as well as the deceased and those with expired ID papers should have been deducted from the permanent voters’ lists.
Former CCR judge Acsinte Gaspar: I was not convened and consulted on the drafting of the erratum
Former Constitutional Court judge Acsinte Gaspar showed up on Tuesday morning at the General Prosecutor’s Office headquarters in order to be heard as witness in the “Erratum” case that concerns the 2012 presidential impeachment referendum.
“According to the subpoena, I was summoned as a witness in a criminal case concerning the manner in which the “erratum” to CCR decision no.3/2012 was drafted, an erratum concerning the organizing of the referendum. I was asked a series of question that eventually found their answer. In the separate opinion I expressed alongside judge Tudorel Toader and judge Ion Predescu, a separate opinion published in the Official Gazette on August 21. If you want more elements, you can find them there. (…) I don’t know who drafted it, I wasn’t consulted. I found out about this erratum from the Official Gazette. I wasn’t convened, nor consulted,” former CCR judge Acsinte Gaspar stated.
Last week CCR judge Tudorel Toader was heard in the same case. Likewise, at the start of the month former CSM member Adrian Toni Neacsu was heard at the General Prosecutor’s Office as a witness.
Zegrean: “If we were to be summoned at the prosecutor’s office for every decision, where would that leave us?”
“There were several complaints and they were all rejected, it was decided not to commence criminal prosecution, complaints were made at the High Court, which rejected them. Two weeks ago it rejected two of them. Only how much fight Ghise (independent Senator Ioan Ghise – editor’s note) put into this. Here the case was reopened, meaning the appeal was admitted and sent to complete the rules of evidence. In my opinion the reopening of the case is not justified,” the head of CCR stated.
“Our law says we cannot be held legally, criminally accountable for decisions, for votes cast and for opinions expressed while in office. Well, if we were to be summoned at the prosecutor’s office for every decision, where would that leave us? Many people file complaints. Others have sued me in order to kick me out of office. Another one filed a criminal complaint arguing I should be sacked because I don’t see well,” he added.
Augustin Zegrean was heard in what concerns an erratum published in the Official Gazette on 7 August 2012, which pointed out that the Romanians living abroad should be taken into account at the referendum: “The legal stipulations of Article 2, Paragraph 1, Title C of Law no.370/2004 concerning the election of the president and of Article 17 of Law no.3/2000 concerning the referendum are applicable in this case.” If this had not happened the voter turnout would most likely have surpassed the 50 per cent plus one threshold needed to validate the impeachment referendum.
In fact, the dispute over the voters’ lists led to the resignation of two ministers at the time – Interior Minister Ioan Rus (PSD) and Administration Minister Victor Paul Dobre (PNL).
CCR President booed after hearings
Augustin Zegrean was booed on Wednesday after the hearings that took place at the Prosecutor’s Office in the “Erratum” case.
“They didn’t bring any charges against me. I was a witness in the case. They asked me whether the result of the elections was changed. We passed on what we received from the Central Electoral Bureau,” Augustin Zegrean said when leaving the hearings.
The CCR President also pointed out that the erratum that led to the referendum being invalidated was drafted right in his office. “It didn’t happen at night, it happened in the morning. The computer system’s clock was inaccurate, this can be verified,” Zegrean added.
Asked why he believes protesters are asking for his resignation, the President of CCR stated: “Ask them, not me. When I went to Parliament they called me the handicapped blind man. I didn’t bring them with me.”