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September 19, 2021
POLITICS

President Iohannis: I will trigger a referendum on 26 May. “Issuing a GEO in the judiciary would be illegitimate”. Polemics among politicians over polling centers

President Klaus Iohannis announce on Thursday that he will convene a referendum on 26 May.

“It’s certain. I will convene a referendum on 26 May, because this cannot go on. The PSD [the Social Democratic Party] continues the assault on justice,” President Iohannis stated at the Cotroceni Presidential Palace.

The President underscored that the PSD “should cease” the “permanent” attacks on justice and this party members should understand “that justice is not at their whim.” He also mentioned that justice is a topic of national interest and the citizens “have the sovereign right to decide whether they want or not to let corruption become a state policy.”

“There are some extremely simple principles in any rule of law and in any democracy, there are values which the people have gone out on the street for in December 1989 and over the past two years, too. It’s obvious that the PSD tries to ignore these truths. But I give them a news. They cannot do it anymore. Justice is a matter of national interest and the citizens have the sovereign right to decide whether or not to let corruption become a state policy. It is my attribute as president to urge the people to express their will on issues of national interest through referendum on 26 May. We have to let the citizens decide, because these PSD dilettante perverted the significance of the vote they received and are trying to hijack the Romanian state, making laws in their own interest. ”

 

“A GEO coming before citizens have expressed their will at the referendum would be illegitimate”

 

President Klaus Iohannis stated on Thursday that at this moment, given the announcement regarding the triggering of a referendum for May 26, issuing an emergency ordinance in the judiciary domain would be illegitimate.

“Thus eluding any constitutionality review before the ordinance comes into force. We must put an end to this practice, and we must do it now. Dilettantism and incompetence characterise the way the PSD governs. Combined with the intention to legislate in favour of felons, we have the image of a disaster for Romania. Adopting such a GEO would come into conflict with Parliament, since the Penal Code is being discussed in Parliament. The Social Democrats must stop these attacks against the judiciary; the Social Democrats must understand that the judiciary is not at the disposal of their whim. These are things for which people took to the streets. It’s obvious that the PSD is trying to ignore these things, but I will give you a piece of news. They can no longer do so. The judiciary is a matter of national interest. It is my right to call on the people to express their opinion on issues of national interest. The PSD is trying to hijack the Romanian state by drafting bills in their own interest. A GEO on this topic coming before the will of citizens is expressed at the referendum would be illegitimate,” Klaus Iohannis said.

“Why do you fear the referendum, Social Democrats? Instead of threatening to set up separate polling stations for the elections and the referendum, cease and turn towards the Romanians,” the President added.

 

PSD’s Dragnea: President Iohannis once again indicates he considers judiciary subordinated to him

 

National leader of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) Liviu Dragnea said on Thursday that at a meeting hosted by the Cotroceni Presidential Palace with leaders of the civil society on a referendum on justice, President Klaus Iohannis once again indicated that he considers the judiciary “to be under the authority of the president.”

“At the meeting at Cotroceni, President Iohannis once again indicated that he considers the Romanian judiciary to operate under his authority,” Dragnea said.

He added that Iohannis told the meeting that justice legislation “has been made to save Dragnea from going to jail.”

“Fortunately, most of the attendees rejected his approach,” said the Social Democratic leader.

 

Polemics over polling centres

 

Social Democratic Party (PSD) Treasurer Mircea Draghici, the person in charge of coordinating the party’s elections campaigns, stated on Thursday morning that if a referendum is held on the day of the European Parliament elections, the law only allows separate polling stations.

“The law only allows separate polling stations. Recall that separate polling stations were used when a referendum was held simultaneously with any other election,” PSD Treasurer Mircea Draghici announced, referring to a potential referendum.

Referring to a potential referendum, the PSD Treasurer added that the Social Democrats were told by everyone that “it would be better to leave the citizen to think freely, in line with their conscience.”

Asked whether this means that the PSD will not tell its voters what option to choose, Draghici said: “This is the feedback from the [party] branches. We always listen to people from our branches.”

 

Referendum law contradicts Draghici

 

According to Article 15, Paragraph (2), of Law no.3/2000 on organising and holding a referendum, in case the referendum takes place simultaneously with the electoral process for the European Parliament elections, then “both elections take place within the same polling stations, the electoral operations being handled by the same electoral bureaus, established in line with the law.”

 

Catalin Radulescu: There will be separate polling stations at the referendum. Is 10-20 metres too far to walk?

 

House lawmaker Catalin Radulescu stated on Thursday, for RFI, that there will be separate polling stations for the European Parliament elections and the referendum, and those who want to cast ballots at the referendum will have to walk 10-20 metres.

“Mandatorily, there must be separate polling stations. You can’t hold them at the same polling stations, because these are European Parliament elections, we are preparing for these European Parliament elections, and all parties have prepared and are preparing. (…) Of course, there will be separate stations. There can’t be one [sic] station; people can’t come to the same polling station to vote in the European Parliament elections and then get a list with one question. So, there will be separate stations. Whoever wants to go to this referendum, which, at any rate, as you know, all European institutions do not recommend it, all European institutions state very clearly that a referendum must not be held at the same time with elections because it distorts the sense of the elections too,” Radulescu stated for RFI.

Asked why the PSD is not taking into account the European institutions’ recommendations to give up on its amendments to the judicial laws, the House lawmaker replied: “The European institutions never said [that], some people said it.”

“The Venice Commission and the GRECO Commission never said it, these are the Opposition’s lies. If you look at the two commissions’ statements and letters, they never said, for example, that the section for investigating magistrates is not good or should not be set up. It is being proven each day that they were misinformed by the members of the Opposition,” Radulescu added.

Asked whether having separate polling stations on May 26 represents the pettifogging of voters, Catalin Radulescu said: “Why would we pettifog the voters? If they are so interested in taking part… I’m telling you something: the Romanian voter will come for the European Parliament elections.”

He claimed that voters are not interested in the referendum because it is a false topic and the Romanian judiciary currently scores 18 per cent in approval ratings.

“Parliament currently scores 40 [per cent]. Confidence in Parliament may be low too, because Parliament was criticised by people who wanted to bring the Romanian Parliament lower. It’s just that the patriotic, the nationalist current has grown very much in the Romanian Parliament. Certain European bodies might have a very big surprise, because that’s what they did with all these countries, with Italy, Austria, Hungary, Poland and Romania too,” the Social Democrat lawmaker said.

He claimed that the PSD does not fear this referendum. Referring to the setting up of separate polling stations, he said: “Because that’s how it must be done, separate stations, precisely because this pretext (simultaneously holding the elections and the referendum – editor’s note) will create great confusion at the ballot box. If there are two lists over there, people will not know what’s with those lists. There will be one station where they will very clearly go to see the parties they want to vote for, after which they will walk to the other station, if they want to do so, to vote in this referendum. We cannot force someone, because the referendum isn’t mandatory. (…) Whoever wants to vote [in] this referendum will go and will have this desire to walk 10-20 metres because these stations will be within the same building. I mean, let’s talk very plainly, in a kindergarten there will be two stations, the one to the left for this, the one to the right… Do you think 10-20 metres is too far to walk?”

“Firstly, the Romanian is honoured to have been born a Romanian. The Romanian is Romanian. The Romanian is intelligent by nature. But you should know that Romanians… We held consultations, and everyone asks that there be two separate stations, because they want to go and vote in the European Parliament elections. After that, if they want to, they will walk to a different station; if they don’t, they won’t. (…) The referendum is non-binding, it has no kind of effect, it cannot institute an obligation, because the Constitution states very clearly what is in the Constitution. The Constitution would have to be amended in Parliament after this referendum. Well, how would they amend it given our majority? (…) We’re not amending anything until we finish this fight against this hydra that has ruined this country, has ruined people and has sent innocent people to jail; we will not stray away from this demarche until we do what we promised people we would do,” Catalin Radulescu added.

 

Ludovic Orban: As expected, PSD leaders flirt with offences in connection with the referendum. Polling stations are mandatorily joint, according to the Referendum Law

 

National Liberal Party (PNL) leader Ludovic Orban believes that, as expected, PSD leaders are flirting with offences in connection with the referendum, claiming that the polling stations must be mandatorily joint polling stations according to the Referendum Law. His reaction comes after PSD elections campaign coordinator Mircea Draghici stated that there must be separate polling stations for the European Parliament elections and the referendum.

“I warn both the PSD leaders and the Government’s civil servants that limiting the free exercise of the right to vote, including in the case of a referendum, constitutes an offence stipulated by the Penal Code. Law no.3/2000 on organising and holding a referendum, in its current form, clearly stipulates the obligation to set up joint polling stations in case the referendum takes place simultaneously with the European Parliament elections. This stipulation is found under Article 15, index 1, paragraph 2: “both polls take place within the same polling stations, the electoral operations being handled by the same electoral bureaus, established in line with the law,” the Liberal leader claimed.

He publicly warned that the potential modification of the legislative framework via a Government Emergency Ordinance, in the sense of setting up separate polling stations for the referendum, would expose both the GEO’s initiators and those who are part of the endorsement circuit to the risk of falling under the incidence of criminal law. And that is because the obvious goal of such a potential legislative act is to hamper the free exercise of the right to vote, an offence assimilated by the Penal Code in the case of the referendum too. At the same time, doing so would mean preventing the good-faith exercise of rights and freedoms, which is stipulated as an offence by the law on ministerial accountability.

In fact, the Constitutional Court’s jurisprudence shows that Emergency Ordinances “cannot affect the regime of the fundamental institutions of the state, the rights, freedoms and duties stipulated by the Constitution, the electoral rights,” and the issuance of such ordinances must cumulatively meet three conditions outlined by the latest Constitutional Court decision regarding a GEO on a referendum: the existence of an extraordinary situation; addressing the said situation cannot be postponed; the urgency must be substantiated in the body of the ordinance (Decision no.361/2016), Orban argues.

“Hence, any potential regulation introduced by the Government via Emergency Ordinance in the case of the Referendum Law, in the sense of the things mentioned by PSD representatives, is definitely unconstitutional! At the same time, we insist on also emphasising the fact that any other information propagated by the PSD is false and part of this party’s disinformation campaign. There is no Venice Commission recommendation, as regards the code of good practices in the field of referendums, that contravenes holding a referendum simultaneously with other types of elections. In fact, the Constitutional Court itself recently noted that such a potential interdiction would represent a violation of the Constitution,” the Liberal leader added.

 

USR: PSD preparing GEO on separate polling stations for EP elections and referendum

 

Save Romania Union (USR) Senator Florina Presada stated on Wednesday evening that the PSD is preparing a government emergency ordinance (GEO) that would separate the polling stations at the European Parliament elections and the referendum, even though the two polls will take place on the same day.

“The irony! Ten years after the PSD (part of the coalition formed with the PDL within the Boc Government) was introducing – via GEO – an article in the Law on referendums (Article 15.1), which says that in case elections and a referendum are simultaneously taking place the same polling stations are to be used, the same PSD is today preparing to cancel the measure, also via GEO. They want to separate the polling stations in which citizens will cast ballots in the European Parliament elections and in the referendum triggered by the President for 26 May 2019,” Senator Florina Presada stated, according to a press release remitted to MEDIAFAX.

In her opinion, using the IT System for Monitoring Voter Turnout (SIMPV) is at stake.

Presada also shows that the legal basis for the use of the SIMPV currently exists only in the case of European Parliament elections and that the USR has tabled a bill for the SIMPV to be used in the case of a referendum too, however the bill is blocked within the special committees of the House (after the Senate rejected it on 25 February 2019 even though it had received a positive report – with amendments – from the Judiciary Committee and was all right from a technical standpoint).

“The referendum triggered by the President needs a voter turnout threshold to be validated. Hence, the PSD probably hopes that this will be hard to prove in the absence of the SIMPV, hence the separation of polling stations too. Separating the polling stations for the European Parliament elections [from those for] the referendum could lead to lower voter turnout for both the elections and the referendum. All opinion polls show that in case of a higher voter turnout the PSD will register a disastrous score of less than 30 per cent,” Florina Presada added.

The USR Senator also pointed out that twice as many polling stations mean expenditures twice higher – from expenditures on infrastructure to expenditures on paying the members of the polling stations’ electoral bureaus.

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