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April 13, 2021
EDITORIAL

The two elephants in the room – Amnesty and Pardon

*“You know the story about the invisible elephant in the room. There are two elephants – the ordinance on pardons and the ordinance on amending the penal codes” – Klaus Iohannis

 

On Wednesday, President Iohannis participated, for the first time in his term, in the ordinary Government meeting. And the presidential participation was lightning fast. Just like it can be said the Government meeting was just as lightning fast, to the extent in which Prime Minister Grindeanu was preparing to leave for the U.S. this morning in order to honour, alongside PSD boss Liviu Dragnea, the invitation to attend the international event of the year – the inauguration ceremony of the new President of the United States, Donald Trump.

Out of haste and most likely out of the upsurge of the enthusiasm of taking part in such a historic moment, the Grindeanu Government forgot to present to the press, as normally done, the order of the day of the meeting whose official topic was the amending of the Penal Code, through emergency ordinance, in what concerns the amnesty and pardon law.

Just like it seems that also omitted was the mandatory stage in which the Grindeanu Government, in this case Justice Minister Florin Iordache, should have engaged in prior consultations with the relevant factors of the legislative and judiciary domain and, of course, with the citizens, because this bill, so controversial and so unnaturally hastened to come to life and become endowed with potentiality, concerns them in fact.

However, getting back to President Iohannis’s unpredictable gesture, what we can certainly say at this moment is that the war between the two palaces – Cotroceni and Victoria – has entered another level. That of check mate moves that an arbitrating and taciturn president – who has in the meantime become a president active at a high level of risk and unpredictability, tactically packaged in the same deep silence he already got ourselves used to (clearly only some of us) – is making spontaneously and, it seems, extremely embarrassingly at the heart of the new Government and beyond the walls of the bastion of Social Democrat power.

According to the Romanian Constitution, the president can take part in Government meetings in the following conditions:

 

ARTICLE 87 – Participation in Government meetings

 

  • The President of Romania may participate in the meetings of the Government debating upon matters of national interest with regard to foreign policy, national defence, public order, and, at the Prime Minister’s request, in other instances as well.

On a first reading, the official topic behind the Government meeting does not seem to justify in any way the need for the presidential presence. Something that was also felt in the post-debate speech that Premier Grindeanu gave before the press, when, asked whether he knew beforehand that President Iohannis would be present at this meeting, he said: “…yes…I found out from security that he is heading toward the Government.”

A statement made with an obvious trace of irritation and dissatisfaction with the unprecedented presidential gesture.

However, the president’s gesture, so highly appreciated in the public space, should be looked upon with a lot more attention and objectivity, beyond the media show hues, admiration and the tendency to treat far too superficially and popularly an aspect that is as serious as it is important (I would say vital), which has to do with the outlook of the way in which the country’s Constitution and laws can undergo changes whose effect, like in the case of amending the Amnesty and Pardon Law, could be disastrous on the short and medium term.

In a country such as Romania is at this moment and for some time now, one in which both Speakers of the Chambers of Parliament – Liviu Dragnea and Calin Popescu Tariceanu – are criminally probed and criminally convicted for crimes of this nature at the high level of the Romanian state, the two representing the leaders of an alliance that will lead Romania for at least the next four years, the newly confirmed Government’s haste to secure for itself the exclusivity and plenipotentiality of issuing emergency ordinances, especially in domains that are vital for the state, such as the judiciary and the Penal Code, truly represents a reason for concern, which must have in the person of the Head of State not only a counterbalance and a guarantor of objectivity but especially the conduit that can offer the country and its citizens a final certainty that the separation of powers is respected and the country’s Constitution and laws cannot be converted into a gameboard for interest, pleasure and entertainment at the whims of the political brotherhood that holds power. Now or at any time.

Moreover, with a Parliament in which the ruling majority is mover and shaker under the eyes and impotent and volatile numbers of a decorative Opposition, de facto inexistent, and under the despotic, exact and precise leadership of the majority’s absolute leader Liviu Dragnea, which “wilfully” churns out any bills and gives them the final form of state laws mandatory for the many but not for the few and privileged ones at the helm of the legislative mechanism, President Klaus Iohannis’s absence or indifferent taciturnity could be labelled as disastrous negligence for national security and stability. If not actually included in a far more complicated and severe category. That of tacit agreement with the current ruling power on keeping an absolutely baleful comfort and appearance.

And the most relevant example in this sense was the one seen several days ago, at the Chambers’ final joint meeting focusing on voting the make-up of the commission of inquiry into the budget adjustments carried out during the Ciolos Government, when Liviu Dragnea, obviously angered by some MPs’ shy and fearful tendency to take to the rostrum and express their points of view on the issue for which the Commission was formed, quietly ordered Mr. Tariceanu, in his capacity as bullhorn and counter of votes, to… “cut short” those wishing explanations and clarifications.

So, what happened should not only garner our attention in an entirely special and mature way, but it should also prompt us to think about what is happening on the Romanian political scene and, even more so, behind the scenes, and about this whole Social Democrat show of force which is reaching extremely acute notes in its rush for power and for conquering all sorts of positions and tools that would strengthen and seal this newly-won power, as Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar himself said it in a way that leaves no kind of ambiguity: “If we show weakness, instead of consolidating the fight against corruption and organised crime, against criminality in general, (…) by showing weakness with acts of clemency, we will prove that the Romanian state’s institutions are weak, we will prove, without saying it, that the Romanian state’s institutions cannot find the appropriate solution for detaining those who were proved to have committed crimes, who received final convictions, those who are under pre-trial arrest.”

So, who urgently needs Amnesty and Pardon and why?

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