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May 25, 2022

The ruling power’s justice

The Constitutional Court does not seem to be in a hurry to clarify the problem of the ruling party’s president: is he or is he not allowed to be Premier? When Victor Ciorbea was in a hurry to notify the Court at the start of this year, for many that seemed to be a servile but useless gesture – that’s how unbelievable it is for the spirit of the law to be so flagrantly betrayed in favour of a single person, albeit also the most powerful person at this moment, following the recent elections. But these repeated deferrals of the decision only foreshadow an attempt to legitimise that which cannot be legitimised. During the protests against Ordinance 13, the Constitutional Court was seen as a last redoubt against the reaction – even President Iohannis tried to prompt the same Victor Ciorbea to notify the Court in order to block the ruling power’s initiative. But the rulings seen in recent months have proven that this is, in fact, an extremely politicised institution. It’s not surprising either, given the way in which its members are appointed. Let’s not forget that its president, Valer Dorneanu, was former Speaker of a Lower Chamber dominated by PSD. In other words, the former and current Speakers of the Lower Chamber come from the same party, which fairly simply explains the convergence of their political positions.

But if the Constitutional Court is the juridical arm of the ruling power, how long will the ruling party take the liberty to take advantage of its favourable decisions? Because the popular opposition to the reforming of the criminal system is not dead. Protests can resume at any point, and certain steps taken by the ruling power can trigger them, with unpredictable consequences. So that haste may be risky. But neither can the Court postpone forever a ruling on the criminally convicted persons’ possibility to become members of Government. To be honest, if the regulations were to be strictly observed, Liviu Dragnea couldn’t have become Lower Chamber Speaker either, because he was convicted in a court of law, precisely for electoral fraud. A simple interpretation favourable to him rapidly put an end to the debates, with the help of a comfortable majority. But the excessive room given to the interpretation of laws with a strong political stake can only keep alive major ambiguities and empower abuses. Laws as difficult as possible to falsify in their spirit would be an essential condition for stabilising our political system.

Tudorel Toader, the incumbent Justice Minister, is somewhat more mysterious than Valer Dorneanu. Already criticised by some PSD leaders, the minister seems to hold an unsuspected margin of autonomy. Of course, it can simply be a PR game: what you’re constrained to do is one thing – in this case, not to replace the DNA’s leader – and what you want to convey to the electorate is another. We can only wait for the minister’s future moves to more correctly place him on the chessboard of political disputes. For the time being, he seems to be only a new Florin Iordache. On the other hand, we don’t know yet where the probe into Ordinance 13, which is not buried yet, will lead. In the current war, PSD can rely, for the time being, on a Parliament capable of voting anything it wants – with the help of ALDE, UDMR, PMP and even some Liberals, possibly those with legal problems of a criminal nature. And it can also rely on a Constitutional Court favourable to its plans. So far, the only politically vulnerable point remains the Justice Ministry. Iordache’s short and agitated stint at its helm did not yet allow efficiently rendering it subordinate – not to mention the prosecutor’s offices, for the time being the tip of the spear in the fight against abusive politicisation. It’s obvious that a decisive battle will continue here.

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