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August 14, 2022

Parties compete in integrity criteria, but… which integrity?

The electorate’s high expectations, underscored at the end of last year through large street protests, have determined most political parties to adopt certain conditions that candidates have to meet in order to enter the races for the local and parliamentary elections in the 2016 elections year. Thus, the Liberals have adopted a “Decalogue of integrity,” PSD a “Code of Ethics and Conduct,” the Popular Movement has integrity criteria stipulated within the party’s statute and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) is still working on these conditions that will be adopted within the party’s leadership bodies in several weeks’ time. The only important party that has not said anything about integrity criteria is the National Union for the Progress of Romania (UNPR), the party which goes from one crisis to the next and which has just signed a collaboration protocol with UNPR.

Nevertheless, we cannot help but take into account that a party leader sentenced by the court of first instance to one year in jail for defrauding a referendum – PSD President Liviu Dragnea – has signed a collaboration pact that includes an electoral collaboration protocol with another party leader accused of malfeasance in office and whose parliamentary immunity has been lifted – UNPR President Gabriel Oprea. We could justifiably ask ourselves where is that promising future that politicians guaranteed after the street protests generated by the Colectiv nightclub tragedy last October and after the protesters’ demands on President Klaus Iohannis.

The Liberals were the first to form a list of integrity criteria in view of this year’s elections. Thus, according to the “Decalogue of integrity,” adopted by the Liberals at PNL’s National Council meeting last December, the local, parliamentary and European Parliament elections will be out of bounds for: those who fall under the principles of lustration (who were members or collaborators of the former Securitate, were proven undercover officers, held paid positions within PCR’s leadership apparatus); turncoats (those who switched parties so that they ran for a third party without party mergers being involved in the process); those who hired spouses or first degree relatives within the public institutions they led or are leading; those who made business with the institution for which they want to run in the elections or with institutions under its control; those who filed false statements of wealth or interests, the forgery being established through court decision; those who owe money to the local budget with the arrears surpassing a year; those who received final court rulings for incompatibility and conflict of interest; those who manifested discriminatory attitudes through racist, chauvinist, xenophobic or discriminatory statements, established as such through final court rulings; those who obtained titles and diplomas through plagiarism, established as such through final court rulings.

In their Code of Ethics, the Social-Democrats stipulate that the persons that find themselves in one of the following situations will not benefit from the party’s political support: they are criminally prosecuted; they were arraigned; a court ruling sentenced them for corruption, tax evasion or violent acts; they are under pre-trial arrest, house arrest or conditional bail for any kind of crime; they held positions within the county and central leadership bodies of the Romanian Communist Party (PCR), the Communist Youth Union (UTC), or of the Association of Communist Students in Romania (UASCR); they manifested offensive, aggressive or inappropriate behaviour toward citizens, had extremist or discriminatory attitudes or made discriminatory statements based on gender, religion or nationality; were members or collaborators of the former Securitate, as political police, or were proven to be undercover officers; they have personal arrears to the local budget; they have commercial relations with the institution for which they want to run in the elections or the institutions it controls; they obtained diplomas or scientific titles through plagiarism or intellectual theft proved by court rulings; they were found by a court to be incompatible or in conflict of interest; they filed false or incomplete wealth statements or statements of interests, provided the irregularities were established by a final court sentence.

In what concerns ALDE, according to political sources the integrity criteria that will be adopted by the party in the upcoming period include: not being involved in businesses or contracts with the institution for which they want to run in the elections or institutions under its control; their statements of wealth or interest should not have problems established by a final court sentence; they should not have personal arrears to the local budget.

According to the Popular Movement statute, party members have to meet several criteria, including: not to have had his/her political or citizen’s rights limited or cancelled through a final court sentence; not to have been convicted for corruption or crimes assimilated to corruption; not to have been a collaborator or employee of the former Securitate as political police, as established by a final court ruling; not to have promoted and not to promote extremist ideas or actions (racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, etc.).

It remains to be seen whether these integrity criteria will really be applied in order to select the politicians that will run on the parties’ lists, or whether these codes of conduct will turn out to be simple shapes without content, purely theoretical definitions on paper, with no practical applicability. In that case, the natural question is “which integrity?”

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