* “Nobody and nothing can claim the right to usurp the legislative authority of Parliament that is unique and indivisible”
In a joint session on Wednesday, lawmakers passed a declaration stating that the Legislative body is firmly committed to serve exclusively the nation it represents.
The draft version, adopted by a 203 to 94 vote, was sponsored by Senate Speaker Calin Popescu-Tariceanu (photo). The groups of lawmakers had about three weeks to come up with opinions on the document.
Parliament is firmly committed to serve exclusively the nation it represents; the structured and legal opinion of the Romanian society is legitimately and exclusively expressed by Parliament”, reads the declaration adopted in the joint plenary meeting on Wednesday.
“At the beginning of the first session of this new Legislature, the Romanian Parliament is firmly committed to rigorously adhere to article 69 of the Constitution and serve exclusively the nation it represents, while refusing to make its mandate the subject of imperative requests, irrespective of where they may originate. Parliament respects the right to free expression, but at the same time it understands that it is the only constitutional representative of the entire society. Whether opportune or inopportune, justified or abusive, the opinions of Romania’s President, the Supreme Council of Magistrates (CSM) and the Public Prosecution Service are particular and partial opinions. The structured and legal opinion of the entire Romanian society is legitimately and exclusively expressed by Parliament,” the declaration says.
The document also hails the rulings of the Constitutional Court of Romania (CCR) that explain Parliament delegating to the Government, under a special empowering law, the power to issue ordinances and the fact that the Executive “is under no constitutional or legal obligation to ask the CSM for an opinion on the matters on which it has ruled, while CSM is not legally empowered to issue such an opinion.”
“It is Parliament’s appreciation that such clarifications would not have been necessary under normal circumstances. The text of the Constitution is quite explicit per se. What made the ruling of the court opportune and necessary was the absence of manifest good faith in the interpretation of the fundamental law by institutional representatives of the judiciary, as well as the abuse of law committed by Romania’s President, who unjustifiably notified the court only to block a democratic political process. (…) In the future, Parliament will no longer accept being demoted to being a spectator to political decisions taken in line with non-transparent criteria by persons who have not won by vote the right to make decisions and by state agencies in their turn led by persons appointed to carry out tasks without a political nature, tasks judiciary in nature or related to national security,” reads the document.
“Such actions to discredit Parliament are devoid of rational motivation, and it should be firmly said that all the judiciary instruments used in the fight against corruption come from Parliament, as they are fundamentally the expression of its political wish to install the rule of law unconditionally and to strengthen the rule of law institutions.”
“Imperfections in the legislative framework for the fight against corruption, repeatedly signalled out by the Constitutional Court, are precisely the outcome of urgency, rarely justified, imposed on the law-making process, as some laws pass by having the Government undertake responsibility for them. The quality of laws increases any time Parliament is left to make decisions without being subjected to external pressure,” reads the declaration.
At the same time, Parliament “reasserts its political supremacy over all other public institutions, and it is determined to exercise its three fundamental powers accorded it under the Constitution: representation, legislation as well as confirming and overseeing the Government.”
“Parliament, as the expression of national sovereignty, represents the Romanian society overall with all its components. It equally represents those who have voted irrespective of political options, as well as those who have not shown up to vote. Parliament’s essential part is to provide a form of representation, through its debates, to the most serious and deepest concerns of society. Public knowledge is indispensable in any democracy, and the duty of any parliament is to increase quality and sphere of thought animating collective debates,” the declaration says.
It also mentions the fact that “the direct vote of the President has generated a false impression that the elected one is the first representative of the nation, some absolute president of all Romanians, more legitimate and representative than Parliament itself.”
“Once elected, the President, through the effect of the Constitution, becomes external to society, occupying the position of mediator between society and public powers. Romania’s President represents the Romanian state [Article 80(1)], with the three branches of government – legislative, executive and judicial – being separated as well as distinct from the society of citizens, the fundamental of the state, without becoming one with it [Article 4(1)]. Parliament is the body securing the constitutional link between President and society, as the procedure underlines when requiring the President to take an oath of office before the Parliament in joint session and then forward to the speakers of the two chambers of parliament the oath under signature. Parliament thus mirrors the will of society, while the President expresses the institutional architecture of the state and explains it when necessary.”
According to the document, Parliament is the only law-making authority of the country, as mentioned in Article 61(1) of the Constitution, and “nobody and nothing can claim the right to usurp the legislative authority of Parliament that is unique and indivisible.”
Parliament’s declaration also says that after Parliament casts a vote of confidence for the Government, the Government and all public administration bodies will be subjected to Parliament’s oversight, and the Legislature is the only political authority that may call the Government to account for its entire activity.
On the other hand, “Romania’s Parliament deems unconstitutional and unacceptable the judgements passed by Romania’s President, the CSM or officials of the Public Prosecution Service on the Government’s decisions and actions, because “they illegally and abusively disregard Parliament’s exclusive right to call the Government to account in various forms provided for in laws and Parliament’s regulations.”
Tariceanu: President and CSM attacked, shoulder to shoulder, a perfectly legitimate constitutional act that the Gov’t adopted
On Wednesday, in Parliament, Senate Speaker Calin Popescu Tariceanu launched a harsh attack against President Iohannis and the CSM, accusing them of attacking, “shoulder to shoulder,” government emergency ordinance no.13 (OUG 13), “a perfectly legitimate constitutional act.”
“CSM wants to be independent within the framework of institutional architecture, but CSM seems to want this independence solely in relation to Parliament, because we notice that, when the current President went to the CSM, immediately afterward, they filed, shoulder to shoulder, constitutional challenges against a perfectly legitimate constitutional act that the Government adopted, as underscored by the CCR,” Tariceanu stated at the debates on the declaration reaffirming Parliament’s role and prestige.
The Senate Speaker warned that Parliament is the sole institution that represents the people, while the President is only the representative of the state. “I can’t help but point out: I want all of us to understand that the President represents the state and is not the head of state. This institution does not work based on the navy or army formula: supreme command. It doesn’t work,” the Senate Speaker added.
Tariceanu also accused President Iohannis of starting a political war in the last two months, the Constitutional Court’s (CCR) intervention being needed to “set things back in order.”
“Undoubtedly, during this period there was major interference on CSM’s part in the activity of the Executive branch, and an interference on the part of three-letter institutions in the activity of the Government and Parliament. We went through a crisis period of almost two months, one in which the President triggered a political war, fuelling the discontent of one part of the population and trying to overturn the result of the elections,” Tariceanu added.
Turcan: With this vote, PSD-ALDE prove that white is black and black is white. Parliament mustn’t intervene in the activity of the DNA, the Prosecutor’s Office and the President
PNL Interim President Raluca Turcan criticised on Wednesday the adoption of the declaration reaffirming Parliament’s role and prestige, labelling it a behaviour through which PSD-ALDE want to prove that “white is black and black is white,” and warned that the Legislative must not intervene in the activity of the DNA, the Prosecutor’s Office and the President.
“Today’s vote in Romania’s Parliament shows once again that the PSD-ALDE majority is willing to vote in Parliament to prove that white is black and black is white. Voting in Parliament that the President is accused of abuse means a grave infringement of the Romanian Constitution. The President used his constitutional prerogatives and I believe Parliament should be the first institution that guarantees that the other institutions of the Romanian state, including the Romanian President, have the right to use their constitutional prerogatives,” Raluca Turcan stated.
She added that the leaders of the ruling coalition – Liviu Dragnea and Calin Popescu Tariceanu – understood nothing from the message conveyed by protesters and that the political parties they lead render Romania’s position vulnerable within the European Union.
“I’ve seen how Mr Tariceanu is willing to use Romania’s Parliament for a political obsession. Mr Dragnea and Mr Tariceanu have defined their opponent. It’s Klaus Iohannis, not poverty, not corruption, not demagoguery. PNL firmly rejects such a political behaviour. The overture today shows that neither Dragnea nor Tariceanu understood absolutely anything from the message of the street. The street asked for solid and functional institutions, asked for equality of treatment, asked for respect for the law,” the PNL Interim President added.
Turcan added that Parliament cannot and should not brutally intervene in the institutional activity of the DNA and the Prosecutor’s Office, just as it cannot intervene in the Romanian President’s activity either.
Predoiu: Tariceanu offered a declaration whose role was that of political Viagra, Dragnea squeaks like a little mouse from time to time
In his turn too, on Wednesday, PNL First Vice President Calin Predoiu criticised the declaration reaffirming Parliament’s role and prestige, a declaration proposed by Calin Popescu Tariceanu and adopted in the plenary meeting, calling it “political Viagra” that PSD and ALDE MPs “swallowed up whole.” In what concerns Liviu Dragnea, the Liberal said that he is “pulling the strings” through Tariceanu, “squeaking like a little mouse” while hiding behind him.
“Today, Mr Tariceanu offered Parliament a draft declaration as political Viagra, believing that Parliament becomes stronger this way. And PSD and ALDE MPs swallowed it whole. Parliament will be stronger only when it is led by strong people who do not fear justice and who have no problem interacting with other state institutions and branches of government. Parliament will become a serious and strong institution through the result of the parliamentarians’ work, not through simple declarations acting as artificial stimulants from a political standpoint,” Catalin Predoiu stated at the end of the plenary meeting in which the declaration reaffirming Parliament’s role and prestige was adopted.
“This declaration abounds with unconstitutionalities, intolerance and obsessions with other branches of government. The path Parliament took today under the leadership of Mr Tariceanu – assisted by Mr Dragnea from behind, who is no longer talking, is silent, squeaks like a little mouse from time to time but pulls the strings through Mr Tariceanu – is not the right path,” Predoiu added.
Basescu: Who asked you, dear MPs, to submit Parliament to prosecutors?
During the plenary meeting of the two Chambers of Parliament on Wednesday, Popular Movement Party (PMP) Senator Traian Basescu expressed his disagreement with the draft declaration proposed by Senate Speaker Calin Popescu-Tariceanu.
“I believe it’s an erroneous initiative. It’s as if we’d like to vote some constitutional obligations and rights that are very clearly stipulated in the Constitution of Romania. Why do we need a declaration to exercise our prerogatives?” Traian Basescu said.
According to him, the declaration is an attempt to “eliminate the Romanian President from the political game.” The ex-President emphasised that alongside Parliament there are also other elements of society that represent the Romanian people or parts of the Romanian people. “There are those who take to the streets, there are NGOs, there is the Romanian President. It’s true, Parliament is the supreme body, because it legislates,” Traian Basescu pointed out.
The ex-President stated there are behavioural problems on the part of MPs, problems that some are trying to hide behind a declaration which he considers uninspired. Likewise, Basescu said the document’s “exaggerations” are not all right since they will render MPs prone to criticism.
“Who asked you, dear MPs, to go to the Prosecutor General and ask whether you can re-hire the people your parliamentary offices hired the previous mandate. Who asked you to submit Parliament to prosecutors? Who asked you, dear MPs, to go to the CSM and ask whether to pass a pardon for three years or for five years, and they said ‘no, not three years,’ and you came with your hat in hand to the Judiciary Committees and said ‘yes, we’ll make it three [years],’ when the Constitution says you are the ones who legislate? Who is asking you to keep going hat-in-hand to institutions other than Parliament? If you want authority, behave appropriately,” Senator Traian Basescu said.
He said that if the need for such a declaration is being felt then the declaration should be very seriously revised because PMP will vote against it in its current form.
USR Senator Vlad Alexandrescu: A denial of the constitutional order
On Wednesday, USR Senator Vlad Alexandrescu criticised the declaration reaffirming Parliament’s role and prestige, labelling it a denial of the constitutional order, claiming that its adoption would have grave consequences for the future of the Romanian state.
In his speech, the USR Senator dismantled the criticism levelled against the Romanian President, criticism according to which he allegedly “undermined Parliament’s role and prestige” by intervening in the Government’s prerogative to legislate, which Parliament had delegated to it, allegedly committing “an abuse of law by blocking a democratic political process,” “illegally and abusively usurping Parliament’s exclusive right to call the Government to account for its activity.”
“By using a constitutional prerogative, the Romanian President decided to play a role in this grave issue ever since January 18, by taking part in the Government meeting and pleading that it should first put up for wide consultation the text of the future OUG 13, given the fact that a modification of the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code must be widely debated in society before being transformed into a legislative act. He encouraged the Government to send in Parliament, as a bill, the text that results from this consultation. With this action, the President prevented the adoption of OUG 13 on January 18 and defended Parliament’s right to legislate in what concerns the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code,” Vlad Alexandrescu stated.
He also stated that President Iohannis simply used his constitutional prerogatives also when he notified the Constitutional Court about the existence of a juridical conflict of a constitutional nature between the Government on one hand and the Parliament and the Supreme Magistracy Council on the other hand.
“Hence, the President did not undermine Parliament’s role and prestige, but defended it instead, because he asked the Constitutional Court to note that the Government abusively exercised its prerogative to legislate, thus usurping Parliament’s full competence in terms of legislating in such a sensitive field,” Alexandrescu added.
Presidential Administration: Political declaration adopted by Parliament, worrisome signal about way it relates to other state institutions
Despite invoking Parliament’s role in the institutional architecture of the Romanian state, the political declaration that the Romanian Parliament adopted today – whose detailed analysis from a juridical standpoint puts into doubt the rigor of concepts and arguments – in fact represents a worrisome signal concerning the outlook that Parliament has on the way it relates to other state authorities and institutions, as well as to civil society, a communique remitted by the Presidential Administration shows.
“Taking as a pretext a legislative act that the Government adopted in the absence of any legislative delegation from Parliament, and that was strongly challenged by civil society, invoking a Constitutional Court decision whose substantiation is not yet known, Parliament’s political declaration affects the very principle of loyal cooperation between state institutions, grounded and constantly developed in the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court.
“Parliament’s adaptation to the reality of contemporary Romanian society entails more than the simple affirmation of the fact that its ‘legislative authority is unique and indivisible,’ that it ‘benefits from an exclusive right to call the Government to account,’ that it is the ‘only constitutional representative of the whole society,’ that ‘the structured and legal opinion of Romanian society is legitimately and exclusively expressed solely by Parliament’ or that ‘Parliament ensures the constitutional link between the President and society,’” the communique reads.
According to the same document, a solution to the deterioration of Parliament’s public image and the slump in citizens’ confidence in the authority that today reaffirms its ‘political supremacy over all the other public institutions’ will not be found by shifting the responsibility on the Romanian President, the CSM or on other ‘state agencies of a judiciary or national security nature’ or, in the last resort, on citizens who dare to freely express themselves against actions that jeopardize the rule of law and the values of democracy.
“The impression that Parliament is allegedly an institution ‘reduced to the condition of spectating some political decisions’ could be changed through the undertaking of authentic and transparent debates, through responsible and predictable law-making process further to the general interest of society, through efficient overall oversight of the Executive not limited simply to questions and interpellations addressed to the members of Government,” the communique shows.
“The Romanian Constitution establishes that the Romanian President is directly elected by citizens. His legitimacy and representativeness are equal to Parliament’s and, consequently, the Romanian President does not become ‘by effect of the Constitution, exterior to society.’ On the contrary, when he acts, the Romanian President expresses the interests of society. Just like the Constitutional Court noted, an eloquent illustration of the fact that the Romanian President is obliged to play an active role and his presence in political life cannot be limited to a symbolical or protocolary exercise consists of the stipulations of Article 80 of the Constitution, which consecrates the Head of State’s role to watch that the Constitution is observed and the public authorities are properly functioning, exercising the function of mediation between the branches of government and between state and society. Consequently, the positions expressed by the Romanian President are far from being “opinions,” least of all “particular or partial,” and gain concreteness in actions and acts meant to realise the Romanian President’s representative role,” the communique shows.
“The Fundamental Law has consecrated an essential principle for the conduct of all authorities and citizens, namely that “nobody is above the law.” This means that, on one hand, public authorities, including those representative at a national level – Parliament and Romanian President – are expected to respect the existing constitutional framework. On the other hand, this means that no public authority can limit the others’ prerogatives. To the extent that “the opinions of the Romanian President, of the CSM and of the Public Ministry’s representatives” are labelled “unconstitutional and unacceptable,” the political declaration adopted by Parliament today can be considered a form of pressure. Thus, the Romanian President or the Supreme Magistracy Council notifying the Constitutional Court would become questionable, and the investigation and judging of corruption crimes would become questionable actions. The Constitutional Court itself would have to seriously reflect each time it must solve a case that involves Parliament too, since the latter assesses the constitutionality of the actions and decisions taken by other public authorities,” the communique adds.
“The Romanian Constitution has built a system in which institutional autonomy is balanced through mutual collaboration and loyal cooperation between the state’s fundamental institutions. Taking act of the Political Declaration adopted by Parliament, the Romanian President will continue to exercise all of his constitutional prerogatives, to the benefit of the Romanian people, the sole holder of national sovereignty,” the document concludes.