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February 9, 2023

President Klaus Iohannis triggers referendum on the granting of pardons, decision stirs vivid reactions

On Tuesday, President Klaus Iohannis sent to the Speakers of the two Chambers of Parliament a letter in which he asks for Parliament’s consultation on the holding of a referendum on the granting of pardons. Consulting Parliament is mandatory for the President; however, the legislative’s approval is not.

The issue “of national interest” on which the President wants to consult the population is “The continuation of the fight against corruption and ensuring the integrity of the public office,” per the letter.

“On Tuesday, January 24, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis has started, in line with the provisions of Article 90 of the Romanian Constitution, the procedure concerning the holding of a national referendum through which the people can express their will on the following issue of national interest: The continuation of the fight against corruption and ensuring the integrity of the public office.

In this sense, the Romanian President has sent a letter to the Speakers of the two Chambers, asking for the consultation of Parliament on the aforementioned issue.

Romanian Prime Minister Sorin Mihai Grindeanu was also informed about the triggering of a national referendum.



To Mr. Calin POPESCU-TARICEANU, Speaker of the Senate

To Mr. Nicolae-Liviu DRAGNEA, Speaker of the Lower Chamber

Mr. Senate Speaker,

Mr. Lower Chamber Speaker,

Based on Article 90 of the Romanian Constitution and on Article 2 and Article 11 of Law no.3/2000 on the holding of referendums, I intend to ask the people to express, through a referendum, their sovereign will on the following issue of national interest:

The continuation of the fight against corruption and ensuring the integrity of public office.

Bearing in mind the aforementioned legal stipulations, I am hereby consulting Parliament on the holding of a national referendum on the aforementioned problem.

Respectfully yours,

Romanian President,




On Monday evening, the President said he would organise a referendum on the amending of the judiciary laws, since there is wide interest in the amending of Penal Codes and the granting of pardons.

“There were protests these days, incensed people came out into the streets to protest against this attempt to modify the criminal legislation through an emergency ordinance. (…) This topic has become a national topic. It’s obvious there is wide interest in the amending of Penal Codes and in the granting of pardons. If so, I will put this topic up for public consultation and popular vote. I will start the overtures for a referendum, one through which Romanians will be able to express themselves, will be able to say whether they agree with these overtures or not,” Klaus Iohannis said.

The Head of State also pointed out that the two issues were not topics in the elections campaign and Romanians have the right to express their opinion on them. “When they voted, these topics were not included in the governing platform. If the members of Government have made a topic out of this, they will have to bear the popular vote,” the President said.

According to the referendum law, law no.3/2000, the President can initiate a referendum on topics of national interest after consulting Parliament.


Referendum on issues of national interest


Article 11, Law no.3/2000

  • After consulting Parliament, the Romanian President can ask the people to express their will on issues of national interest through a referendum.
  • The issues that are subjected to a referendum and the date of the latter are established by the Romanian President, through decree.
  • Parliament’s point of view on the referendum initiated by the Romanian President will be expressed through a decision adopted in a joint meeting of the two Chambers by a majority of lawmakers present, within a 20-day period after the President files his request.
  • If Parliament does not issue its point of view within the period established by paragraph (3), the Romanian President issues the decree on the holding of the referendum after that period expires, the constitutional procedure of consulting Parliament being considered fulfilled.

The law also includes an article that lists the topics of national interest – Article 12 – but the Constitutional Court has declared its first paragraph not constitutional because it is the President’s exclusive prerogative to establish these topics. The paragraph still appears in the text of the law although the Court’s decision is mandatory and the paragraph no longer produces effects.


Article 12, Law no.3/2000

  • In the sense of Article 11, issues of national interest are considered:
  1. Adopting measures on the country’s reform and economic strategy
  2. Adopting special political decisions concerning:
  • The general regime of public and private property;
  • The organisation of local public administration, of territorial units, as well as the general regime concerning local autonomy;
  • The general organisation of education;
  • The structure of the national defence system, the organisation of the armed forces, the armed forces’ involvement in some international operations;
  • The closing, signing or ratifying of international acts for an indefinite period or for a period longer than 10 years;
  • Romania’s integration in European and Euro-Atlantic structures;
  • The general regime of religious denominations;
  • Abrogated
  • Citizens are called to say YES or NO on the issue subjected to a referendum, deciding with a majority of valid votes cast at national level.



Liviu Dragnea: I knew Iohannis wants a referendum, it’s the logic of a man who lost the elections


Social Democratic Party (PSD) President Liviu Dragnea stated on Monday evening that President Klaus Iohannis’s plans to trigger a referendum on the judiciary laws were known to him, because they are “the logic of a man who lost the elections.”

“Both the Premier and I knew that the President wants to announce the holding of a referendum because this is part of the logic of a politician who has slumped in the polls, who has done very many mistakes, of a politician who has lost the elections, because he was basically the spearhead of PNL and USR in the December 11th elections, and who wants to revive – in my opinion in an entirely mistaken and risky way for Romania – some former supporters, choosing a path that is not correct and fair for a president,” Dragnea said.

He also stated that one of Iohannis’s targets is to prevent the Government from implementing the governing platform.

“Their plan, President Iohannis’s plan, is for this Government to be one way or another toppled by next summer, through any means,” the PSD President said, accusing the Head of State of breaking his vows and of seeking, through his presence at the Government meeting, to prompt a discussion about the granting of pardons in order to subsequently argue that this is a topic of national interest.

“I knew as early as a week, ten days ago, that the President was planning to announce the holding of a referendum. I knew that. This was the script, that is why he also put up that unconstitutional show at the Government. He barged in to create a lot of talk about and visibility for the granting of pardons topic, to be able to state this evening that this topic has become one of national interest, to be able to invoke the constitutional provisions concerning the holding of a referendum,” Dragnea pointed out.

He denied that PSD wants to impeach Iohannis.

“Iohannis is begging for his impeachment. I believe he wants an impeachment in order to have a rostrum, in order to travel through the country and play the victim. We’re not interested in this, I’m not interested now in the idea of impeachment,” Dragnea added.


“PSD will trigger two referendums next spring: on the family issue and on the immunities issue”


He pointed out PSD will trigger two referendums next spring – on the family issue and on the regime of immunities in Romania. “I disagree with parliamentary immunity, but also with the president’s immunity,” the Social Democrat reiterated, emphasising he does not know whether holding a referendum on amnesty and the granting of pardons is possible.

“There is a Constitutional Court decision that says he can decide in other domains too. But, at the same time, there is Article 74 of the Constitution, whose second paragraph says a very important thing – there is also the right for a number of citizens to have legislative initiative. On the other hand, citizens cannot have legislative initiative on fiscal policy, foreign policy, the law on amnesty or the granting of pardons. So, if citizens do not have the right to this legislative initiative, to initiate a law on the granting of pardons, I don’t know if it’s possible to organise a referendum in which citizens should say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on the pardons law because it contradicts Article 74,” the PSD President explained.

He denied that all those who embezzled money or caused damage would be pardoned, labelling this allegation as “a lie.”

“It’s a measure that the Government assumes because the situation in prisons is terrible,” the Social Democrat concluded.


Traian Basescu: Uninspired decision


President Klaus Iohannis has triggered the procedure of convening a referendum on the continuation of the fight against corruption. Ex-President Traian Basescu, well-versed in the game of politics and national referendums, claims that the topic chosen by Iohannis represents an uninspired decision and suggest it would have been better for him to hold a referendum on the union with the Republic of Moldova.

“Since it’s Union Day, wouldn’t it have been better to announce a referendum on Union with the Republic of Moldova?

“Uninspired decision. The topic of the referendum, announced by President Iohannis, is also included in the National Security Strategy approved by the CSAT [Supreme Defence Council], adopted by Parliament at the request of Mr. Iohannis himself, and is also included in the Anticorruption Strategy 2016-2020, adopted through emergency ordinance by the Ciolos Government.

“But, if he still wanted to announce the referendum on the Union of Principalities Day, it would have been better to call on Romanians to take part in a referendum on the topic of Union with the Republic of Moldova. At least we would have had a firm answer from the Romanian people to Dodon’s nonsense,” Traian Basescu wrote.


IntMin Carmen Dan: MAI’s priority is to implement the measures of the government program


The priorities of the Ministry of Internal Affairs are now to implement the measures of the government program, and if there will be a referendum, it will be performed transparently and with respect for the law, stated on Tuesday the Minister of Internal Affairs, Carmen Dan.

“A request was sent to this end. The legal proceeding will be followed, our ministry is in charge with the organization. We make such appraisals (related to costs – e.n.) only when a decision is taken to this end. My standpoint is that MAI’s priority is now to implement the measures of the government program. Respecting the law, we follow the legal steps and of course that depending on the decision to be taken, MAI will do everything possible and legal to have a referendum performed transparently and with the respect of the legal requirements, if there will be a referendum” stated the Minister of Internal Affairs, Carmen Dan, on Tuesday.

Asked about Liviu Dragnea’s announcement about two referendums performed in the spring, one related to the family subject, and the other about the regime of the immunities in Romania, Carmen Dan stated that she didn’t discuss with the PSD President, but “when they will be decided, probably funds will be indicated”.


Bucharest General Mayor Gabriela Firea: “It’s a hypocritical approach”


The referendum on “continuing the fight against corruption and ensuring the integrity of the public office” announced by President Klaus Iohannis “is a hypocritical approach” stated Bucharest General Mayor Gabriela Firea.

“I am trying to intuit that the President wants to sit with a flag on the top of the fight against corruption. But who are the corrupt people? I know there were some courts saying that he and his family obtained some houses by false documents. Also, those who are supported by him from his party and the parties joining him, PNL and USR, have members with legal problems and who are now subject of legal investigations. So I believe this is a hypocritical approach! It’s a hypocritical approach, and I actually believe it’s an approach to start very early the electoral campaign for the presidential elections” Bucharest General Mayor, Gabriela Firea, stated.

The mayor mentioned that the referendum has no connection with the vote of the Romanian people from December 11.

“I’d like to have President who is more involved in increasing Romanians’ life quality. “I’d like to have a President who is more involved in increasing Romanians’ life quality. What does the President do to bring Romanian people from abroad back in Romania, to make them have a well-paid job, to have highways, what results does he have? Zero! He teaches us now about the anticorruption fight, but what did he do for two years? Nothing! How can you be the leader of the anticorruption fight and of keeping and respecting the law, when you attend to an illegal demonstration? What for approvals are made? Does the law apply only to some of us, while the others can trample it? The bill on the amnesty, which is posted on the website also, doesn’t provide in any article the amnesty of those sentenced for corruption, or for rapists, or for murderers, or for drug dealers. It’s a hypocritical approach, an approach that has no connection with the lives of the Romanian people who had enough of living badly in their country”, Gabriela Firea added.


PM Grindeanu: It’s strange Iohannis didn’t use the term ‘pardon’. Maybe he realised it’s not legal


Premier Sorin Grindeanu stated on Tuesday that he saw President Klaus Iohannis’s letter about the referendum and he finds it strange that he did not use the term ‘pardon,’ believing that the Head of State realised that a public consultation on this topic would not have been “legal.”

Sorin Grindeanu made the statement when arriving at the PSD headquarters in Baneasa, where meetings took place with the members of Government, meetings which focused on the budget and in which PSD President Liviu Dragnea also took part, news.ro informs.

“I too have received the Presidency’s letter. (…) What I find strange, in contrast to what I saw last evening in the announcement, was that the term ‘pardon’ is not used. The President probably realised it’s not legal,” the Premier said.


 Tariceanu: “Letter through which Iohannis trigged the referendum, given to the press to cause ripples. Senate’s Standing Bureau will establish next steps”


Senate Speaker Calin Popescu Tariceanu stated on Tuesday that the letter through which President Iohannis announced he triggered a referendum was first offered to the press, “to cause ripples,” adding that the Senate’s Standing Bureau will establish the next steps.

“The document containing the letter through which the President announces he has started the procedure on holding a national referendum was first offered to the press, because it was not meant for Parliament. It was meant to cause ripples in the press,” Tariceanu wrote on Facebook. The Standing Bureau will establish what the next steps will be, Tariceanu added.

“In Parliament, we have regulations and a law which forces us in these conditions to trigger the procedures called for in order to hold the referendum that the President has demanded. We will discuss this within the Standing Bureau and we will establish the steps that must be taken,” the Senate Speaker said.


PNL asks Parliament to green-light referendum


On Tuesday, PNL asked Parliament to start the procedures to issue a favourable point of view on the referendum triggered by President Klaus Iohannis, a press release shows, stating that any other point of view would damage Parliament’s credibility.

“The National Liberal Party is asking Parliament to start the necessary procedures to issue a favourable point of view on the referendum triggered by President Klaus Iohannis,” reads a communique remitted to Mediafax.

PNL claims that an unfavourable point of view would affect the credibility of the entire Parliament.

“The topic that the Romanian President has brought to attention covers the debates that started in the whole society, and a point of view other than one favourable to the initiative risks affecting the credibility of the entire Parliament,” the Liberals claim, stating that the responsibility belongs to the PSD-ALDE parliamentary majority.

The Liberals are also asking PSD to state “loudly” whether they reject President Klaus Iohannis’s request for the people to be consulted.

“Such a stance would show the duplicity of this party that invokes the Romanians’ vote but that at the same time rejects their right to express themselves on a topic of national interest for which it did not request and did not receive a popular mandate,” the aforementioned source shows.

PNL also states that the granting of pardons and the amending of the criminal legislation were not part of PSD’s governing platform.

“The act of governing is not impeded in any form by not promoting these emergency ordinances tailored for politicians or their protégés,” the communique reads.

PNL also states that “PSD’s obsession for amnesty and pardon was shown ever since 2013,” referring to “Black Tuesday.”


Nicusor Dan: I’m asking Grindeanu not to adopt ordinances tomorrow. I’d go out into the street again


Save Romania Union (USR) President Nicusor Dan wrote on his Facebook page on Tuesday that USR is ready to ask the Ombudsman to challenge the ordinances on the granting of pardons and amnesty if the Government adopts them on Wednesday.

“I’m asking Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu not to adopt tomorrow, in the Government meeting, the emergency ordinances on the granting of pardons and the decriminalisation of some criminal offences. Up to now I haven’t found the meeting’s order of the day on the Government’s website, so anything is possible,” Nicusor Dan wrote on Facebook.

In case they are adopted, USR is prepared to ask the Ombudsman to attack the ordinances at the Constitutional Court. In parallel, Nicusor Dan’s political party is collecting signatures for the simple motion.

“Tomorrow we are starting to collect signatures for the simple motion against Justice Minister Florin Iordache, who lied to Romania’s Parliament at the confirmation vote. I will go out into the street again. Society’s pressure is the most important,” the USR leader emphasised.


Why does Iohannis avoid the word “pardon” and which would be the consequences of the referendum


According to a decision of the CCR, President has the possibility to decide the matters on which a referendum can be held, but the provision is contrary to the Constitution, which states that referendums cannot be held on matters such as pardon or amnesty.

The head of state stated on Tuesday, on his way to Strasbourg, that he will not use the word “pardon” at the referendum he announced, since the Constitution does not allow organizing initiatives on fiscal matters or on matters such as amnesty or pardon. But the question can be related to anticorruption and integrity.


Iohannis: PSD acts as if they were at the kindergarten


President Klaus Iohannis reacts after the attack launched by Liviu Dragnea. On his way to Strasbourg, in a conversation with the journalists, Klaus Iohannis revealed that the question at the referendum most likely will not contain the word “pardon”. And this is because it would breach the law.

Constitution provides that “Fiscal matters, the matters having an international nature, amnesty and pardon cannot be subject to the citizens’ legislative initiative”.

As for the reaction of the Social Democrats related to the idea of the referendum, the head of state said that “they acted as they were at kindergarten. I come with my dad, I also come with my dad. I have an uncle, but I have a stronger uncle”.

The President conveyed again to those having the Power that he’s not afraid of being suspended. He confessed that the PSD leaders are thinking of this since he won the presidential elections.

As for Sorin Grindeanu, the head of state believes that he has political experience and he’s a man to whom you can talk. This is the reason for which he accepted to appoint him as PM, Klaus Iohannis said. In this context, President also spoke about his presence at the Government’s session. He revealed the dialogue with the leader from the Victoria Palace.

“K. Iohannis: Do you enjoy for the guests?

Grindeanu: Yes, we do!

Iohannis: Since I came here, don’t you think it would be nice of you to invite me to attend the Government’s session?

Grindeanu: Please!”

Another subject approached by Klaus Iohannis in the conversation with the journalists refers to the Sebastian Ghita case. He waits for the police officers to explain how they lost the former MP and why they cannot find him. “If they find him, good for them, if not, they should explain why they don’t find him. If they can’t do this, then what are they doing?” asks the head of state himself.



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