“Freedom of expression of thoughts, opinions, or beliefs, and freedom of any creation, by words, in writing, in pictures, by sounds or other means of communication in public are INVIOLABLE.” (Constitution of Romania, Art.30, Par.1)
The modern state appeared as a result of the free expression of the opinion of each of us. A freedom that was reached not easily at all, but with numerous sacrifices that became universal symbols.
The evolution of humankind itself is based on the recognition and observance of human rights and liberties. Alongside the obligations each of us has. And the fundamental law of the modern state – the Constitution – was also born out of this guaranteeing of our human rights and obligations.
A simple mechanism in essence, which works as long as both sides involved, the citizens and the state they form, honour their duties and respect their rights. Otherwise, we all know what the downside is or what it can lead to.
In our recent history, there is a moment which, despite being taken to the extreme because of existing conditions, created another destiny for us and our country, because of the expression of public opinion. Or, more precisely, of the courage to express your opinion in public.
We all know that the first months of this year were and continue to be marked by the protests of Romanians who, using their right to free expression, (re)made their opinion known. One that, coincidentally or not, is different than the one held by current government members. Nothing more natural, I would say, for a state in which the Constitution stipulates the same things for all and in which citizens are an active part of the governance. Not just a passive mass that must receive and tacitly and resignedly accept any act on the part of those holding ruling power.
But when we would have thought that moments such as the issuance of the government emergency ordinance (GEO) 13 represent only accidents or unfortunate overbidding, dangerous ideas and bills are being born precisely in Parliament, the institution that represents or should represent first of all the form of citizen representativeness, and only then the form of political representativeness. Which, even though they may not have any chance of becoming laws, in other words executory acts, interpret the Constitution on the exclusive basis of special interests and, as such, of limitative interests, creating extremely grave precedents that make us wonder:
When did the Constitution become the discretionary and completely interpretable hammer that hits us, the citizens, every time the ruling power wants to anchor and seal its position?
More precisely, a lawmaker on his third (!) mandate in the country’s legislative forum – in which time he made full and unbothered use of the Romanian politician’s traditional “right” to leave one party and join another, then leave that one too, joining another one, leaving, joining and re-joining the party that brought him to Parliament the first time, in brief, experiencing the whole range of parties – has filed a legislative initiative suitable for a dictatorial or archaic system rather than a democratic one. Party switching is not punished, on the contrary. It creates extended mandates and ideas to limit others.
We are talking about the legislative proposal to supplement Article 397 of Law no.286/2009 on the Criminal Code, filed by Lower Chamber lawmaker Tudor Ciuhodaru and meant – allegedly – to cover a legislative vacuum.
Of all the vacuums possible and some really needing to be addressed, which do you think this is?!
Nothing short of “the incrimination of certain types of actions carried out with the purpose of changing the constitutional order or hampering or preventing the exercise of state power,” punishable by 6 months to 3 years in prison and the suspension of some rights!
Just like that and just now. Without any link – of course!! – to the recent events and the ample expression of disagreement with the ruling power’s projects.
The reason or, better said, the reasons for this project?
Those would be the… extremely tolerant profile of the Romanian state.
Namely, precisely because there is tolerance, one of the characteristics of democracy, we should… reduce some of it. Too much tolerance leads to too much democracy. And, in a democracy, people can come up with dangerous ideas. Such as the idea of expressing a point of view contrary to those who rule and who took the commitment, once validated through the popular vote, to defend and respect the rights and interests of the citizens they represent. Rights which include, in particular, freedom of expression.
Another reason is the fact that the new Criminal Code does not condemn all forms of infringement of Article 1 and Article 13 of the Romanian Constitution.
Article 1 concerns the Romanian state. And Article 13 concerns the official language. Guaranteeing as supreme values, among others, “human dignity, the rights and liberties of citizens, the free development of human personality, justice and political pluralism (…), in the spirit of the democratic traditions of the Romanian people and of the ideals of the December 1989 Revolution,” the separation of powers, as well as the supremacy of the Constitution and of the law.
Hence… the ideals of the revolution. The maximum expression of a people when its rights and liberties are not only broken but also taken away. The same Revolution that allows Mr Ciuhodaru not to mind his job as medical doctor but to issue laws meant to censor. In what concerns the rest, dignity, justice, pluralism etc., it seems that, in the view of the same gentleman, they refer only to those in power.
The last two reasons that complete this proposal’s illogical and completely undemocratic line refer to “the absence of measures that would deter and punish any action against the constitutional order carried out by persons, organisations or parties that led to the exacerbation of these demonstrations” and “the demand for the Szekely Land’s autonomy.” Pointless to note here the exploitation of a topic that, far from being resolved, has become the puppet of any politician or party that wants to justify its anti-democratic and exclusively interested actions. Obviously, this gentleman politician, more diverse in political stripes than the rainbow, will argue his initiative in the same manner.
Moving on from this enumeration that is absurd, ridiculous and offensive for the intelligence and dignity of any Romanian, what is really important in this bill is the barefaced declaration that anyone who opposes the ruling power must be punished.
In this politician’s language, which proves once again that any parliamentary initiative should be supervised and filtered before wasting the time, money and energy of all of us, risking to become laws made by politicians for politicians and against everyone else, the Romanian Constitution is exclusively at the discretion of the ruling power. The state power, as this lawmaker calls it. Omitting that this power is null as long as it does not have or no longer has popular endorsement and that the state is not him, nor the party he represents and which allows him to behave in this way. According to his proposal, this endorsement must be maintained coercively too, if necessary. Any measure is called for to maintain power. Completely in line with the principles of democracy and rule of law, is it not?
If we, the citizens, are limited through such politicians who are part of the governing act and who are using the Fundamental Law in a discretionary manner and based on their understanding and their special interests, who can still limit them?
Those who function believing that only they are the state and the Constitution is some kind of pocket guillotine? Those who consider themselves representative and intangible and who transform our rights into indulgencies?
Since 1989, the issue of amending the Constitution has been cyclically raised. However, always only to settle it in line with the new power’s interests.
In what concerns the citizens, it was thought, regardless of who was in power, that a general phrase, adapted in no way to our specificity as a people and country, suffices.
Convenient, so that any Tudor Ciuhodaru of these almost 30 years would interpret our rights and frame them – how else – within the policy of this or that political party.
The issue of amending the Constitution to put it in line with and unequivocally securing our rights – which politicians got us accustomed to see as exceptions, not as rules – was never raised.
Just like the issue that Parliament, through its members and, obviously, the political parties they are members of, has the duty to respect the Constitution and, through it, the citizens of the Romanian state, by drafting laws in line with democracy and national needs – not politically interpreted -, was never raised.
Apparently, the law we talked about in this editorial is among many others, labelled from the start as being at least “novel” in a negative way.
And also apparently, the political party whose member that parliamentarian is should guarantee the cancellation of the bill by distancing itself from it.
But, there remains a dilemma which, in my opinion, should become a topic of debate and immediate initiative:
In an eminently politicized state in which the only landmark and the only measure is the political one, in which the Constitution is transformed into party statute and political guidebook by anyone who imagines that holding office means being able to do anything, in which the powers of the state have become only one, who and what should still assure us that tomorrow, for example, our opinion should not be dictated in its turn too from a single place and by a single person?