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September 17, 2021

The cancellation of the “reforms”

Emergency Ordinance no.13 was only a tactical error. Pointless haste. Now, slowly, criminal law is being radically modified, through provisions amounting to dozens of ordinances, and the protests have disappeared. Not only are hundreds of thousands of people not revolting, but, with a few exceptions, not even hundreds of people are revolting.

Had the government members done this from the start, we would probably still have Sorin Grindeanu at the helm of the Government. And the head of the DNA would have been dismissed long ago. But the wrong step taken one year and a half ago was a lesson. They moved their strategic centre from the Government – insignificant, especially in the new formula – to the CCR. Valer Dorneanu is the veritable keyman of today’s PSD state. He is determined to follow Liviu Dragnea’s path even more than the super-docile Viorica Dancila is. How naïve were the protesters in the winter of 2017!

They imperatively asked that E.O. no.13 go to the CCR, where it could only have been legitimately blocked. However, the truth is that, had it reached the table of the said judges, even that ordinance would have received an endorsement of constitutionality. Without hesitations. PSD holds not only the presidency of the CCR, but also most of its members, so that almost any case is won beforehand. Only the pragmatism of those who do not want to be excessively conspicuous results in some cases not being settled – like most of them are – in favour of the ruling power.

Today’s Romania is ruled via the CCR, assisted by the main television broadcasters – including the public broadcaster, unashamedly censured by its own leadership – and by a hand of jurist parliamentarians who are revolutionising criminal law through unbelievable amendments. Apart from that, except for the Justice Minister, all other ministers have an extremely colourless activity. If it were not for strikes and specific protests they would not even appear on TV news anymore.

Some could say it is a common trend in the region. Hasn’t the judicial system changed in a worrying sense in Hungary and Poland too? However, there is a significant difference compared to Romania. There, the modifications concern mainly the political system, by subordinating the judicial system – more precisely, by taming the judicial system so that it could no longer oppose controversial governmental and parliamentary decisions. But they do not seek to change the status of the defendant, so as to protect him/her excessively. More precisely, in principle we are not talking about any defendant, we are talking about the one charged with corruption, but, inevitably, many others will also benefit from unhoped-for advantages. Not that corruption does not exist, even at a high level, in Hungary and Poland.

But the corrupt are protected differently, if doing so is desired, not by fragilizing the entire judicial system. The Hungarian or Polish criminal did not come out of these reforms at an advantage. In Romania however, a social revolution is about to take place. Inevitably, criminality will rise significantly, even the violent one. For the simple reason that video or audio recordings would no longer be usable as evidence. Inevitably, the activity of crime rings – far more difficult to catch and convict – will rise. The number of sex crimes, especially those targeting children, will rise. Corruption, especially, will rise exponentially in a country in which it is already at alarming levels.

The political pressure in this direction comes not only from the top, from the few leaders who risk doing time for corruption crimes. It also comes from the many mayors and local councillors who found themselves limited in their actions in recent years by the DNA. And, at the same time, it comes from the many who prefer a clientele-based system in which they can prosper more easily and without the risks seen until now. More time will pass until a more coherent and incisive popular opposition coalesces. The Opposition parties are weak, fragmented, and short of winning strategies. They cannot win just by waiting for the ruling power’s mistakes to accumulate so that people would once again take to the streets in large numbers. Their lack of political vision was seen when Mrs Dancila was appointed Premier. They took advantage of that moment to criticise President Iohannis even though he is the only political actor who was still able to stymie the PSD plans a bit.

To gain popularity, Opposition parties should come up with concrete proposals for the future cancellation of the current changes brought to the judicial system. Should propose a reform of the CCR, a body that has become reactionary and affiliated to the interests of one group at the expense of the interests of the majority of citizens. And should even think about a constitutional strengthening of presidential prerogatives, abusively ignored in the current political context. Should come up with proposals for strengthening the independence of the judiciary. And should protect the DNA from political assaults like the ones attempted by the defendants from the current PSD.

There are probably plenty of Romanians who support the campaign of today’s ruling power, but the others, those who can be won over for the cause of a society less dependent on corruption, are the stake. It is true that Traian Basescu won the presidency with an anti-corruption rhetoric, only to become today rather allied to the ruling power, at least in what concerns this aspect. The problem has returned acutely, everything depends on the inventiveness of those who will orchestrate the Opposition’s future campaigns. Those with remarkable ideas in this field will take over power from a ruling coalition which is sufficiently politically rotten that all it takes is a redoubtable adversary. They do not have to make who knows what promises to the electorate, but only to firmly correct today’s deleterious “reforms.” Without such a minimal programme, they would not even deserve being voted. Just a few years from now, only history books should recall Florin Iordache, Eugen Nicolicea, Valer Dorneanu or Tudorel Toader.


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