President Klaus Iohannis announced on Monday that he would request to Parliament a new consultation that widens the span of the referendum on the judicial system, to make it “stronger and more efficient.”
“We will have a referendum on May 26. That the Social Democratic Government has failed is a known fact.
“The long-promised hospitals, especially the regional ones, no longer exist, not even on paper. The highways have been lost on the corridors of the relevant ministry. The economy is suffering because of the experiments made by the PSD. But the worst thing is that the PSD’s assault on the judicial system is without end; a constant, continuous assault that started with GEO no.13, which brought hundreds of thousands of Romanians into the street, that GEO no.13 through which the PSD wanted to get away from the judiciary, to whitewash their dossiers, to issue amnesty and pardon, at one stroke.
“Not only has this topic not been abandoned, but it has also been kept alive, and the Social Democrats still want amnesty and pardon for the corrupt. I cannot accept amnesty and pardon for the corrupt. An immense problem has appeared during the Social Democratic governments, and we know what the PSD want and how they act. This immense problem in the way the PSD are governing consists of emergency ordinances issued without transparency, without prior consultations, without clarity as to why GEOs should be issued,” Klaus Iohannis stated.
The President underscored that he would also consult Parliament, for the May 26 referendum to have a wider span.
“This is what is happening in extremely sensitive domains. The PSD governs via GEOs in the field of the judiciary, in the field of the Romanian state’s penal policies, and this cannot be tolerated any longer. Regulating the usage of these emergency ordinances is mandatory, just as it is clear that the possibility to challenge GEOs at the Constitutional Court must be introduced. For all these reasons, we realise that the initial consultation I held only concerned a part of the great problems that the PSD are creating. I have decided to re-consult Parliament, to consult Parliament anew, in order to expand the referendum’s span. I will address Parliament a new consultation that widens the referendum’s span, to make it stronger and more efficient,” Iohannis added.
He warned the PSD again as regards the ordinances: “I warn the Government not to issue GEOs in these fields – judiciary, penal policy – until the people have had their say, until we come to know the sovereign will of Romanians.”
The Head of State announced last Thursday that he would trigger a referendum on judiciary issues for May 26, the day of the European Parliament elections, arguing that “things can no longer go this way.”
“It’s certain. I will trigger a referendum for May 26, because things can no longer go this way. PSD is continuing its assault against the judiciary, started ever since they formed the Government. This time, the Social Democrats want to issue a GEO amending the Penal Codes,” Klaus Iohannis said.
The decision came as a result of the talks that the Head of State had with civil society on this topic.
“PSD’s hoodlumism has surpassed any limit. The Government resorting to a GEO is not in the spirit of the Constitution, it does not serve the democratic balance within the state either,” the President added.
The intention to hold a referendum on the judiciary is older. On 23 January 2017, Iohannis announced for the first time that he will start the demarche to hold a referendum on the amending of the judicial laws, pointing out that there is widespread interest in the amending of the Penal Codes and the issuing of pardons, and the people have to have their say on these topics. That announcement came against the backdrop of street protests against the draft government emergency ordinances (GEOs) on pardons and the amending of the Penal Codes.
“On Tuesday, 24 January 2017, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis triggered, in line with the provisions of Article 90 of the Romanian Constitution, the procedure regarding the holding of a national referendum through which people would express their will on the following issue of national interest: Continuing the fight against corruption and ensuring the integrity of public office,” the Presidential Administration announced at the time.
On 7 February 2017, Klaus Iohannis stated during the joint plenary meeting of the two Chambers of Parliament: “Your top concern has been to take care of the lawbreakers’ dossiers.” After his statement, PSD MPs started to leave the room. In reaction, the Head of State said: “You’ve grown tired already? Tough luck.”
On 13 February 2017, the joint plenum unanimously voted to endorse the referendum triggered by President Klaus Iohannis.
According to the Referendum Law, after consulting Parliament, the Romanian President can ask the people to express their will via referendum on matters of national interest. The issues subjected to a referendum and the date of the referendum are established by the Romanian President, via decree.
“Parliament’s point of view on the referendum triggered by the Romanian President will be expressed via a decision adopted by the two Chambers, in a joint meeting, with the votes of a majority of lawmakers present, within 20 days since the President’s request,” the law stipulates. If Parliament does not issue its point of view on deadline, the Romanian President issues a decree on the holding of the referendum after this deadline has expired, the constitutional procedure of consulting Parliament being considered fulfilled. The referendum will be validated if at least 30 per cent of registered voters take part in it. The result of the referendum is validated if at least 25 per cent of voters cast valid ballots.
Consultations also with parliamentary parties on referendum
After having discussed the previous week the subject of the referendum with representatives of the civil society, President Klaus Iohannis will also consult with parliamentary parties and formations on this matter.
In an informal discussion with journalists at the end of the press statement made to announce that he will ask Parliament for a new consultation to extend the scope of the referendum planned for May 26, President Iohannis said that he will also consult with parliamentary parties and formations on the public vote.
He explained that there will be no “discrimination” and that he will discuss the subject with all parliamentary parties and formations.
PSD summons Iohannis to state the question and “stop using the judiciary as an electoral crutch”
On Monday, the Social Democrats asked Klaus Iohannis “to no longer use the judiciary as an electoral crutch to make up for the lack of any accomplishment during his presidential term,” and to state the question he wants to ask at the May 26 referendum.
“The Social Democratic Party will not express any point of view on Iohannis’s referendum until he states the question he wants to ask as part of this referendum. Today (Monday – editor’s note), Iohannis has said nothing new about the referendum, so there is nothing to point out in this regard. It is probably an April Fool’s joke, because Parliament was consulted on this topic two years ago too, and PSD’s parliamentarians voted in favour of the referendum,” reads a press release.
The Social Democrats claim that President Iohannis intends to shift the debate.
“It is clear that Iohannis’s intention is solely to shift the debate. Instead of having a debate on the economy, on the income of Romanians, on how Romania must be defended within the European Parliament, Iohannis insists on shifting the electorate’s attention to topics related to the judiciary. The President is accusing the PSD of insisting on the topic of the judiciary, but Iohannis is, in fact, the one who insists on this topic being brought to the forefront of the public agenda. It is clear that Iohannis is using the judiciary as an electoral trojan horse with which he wants to enter the electorate’s conscience, in order to determine them to vote for him and for the party he backs. It is a crude attempt to manipulate the electorate,” reads the PSD’s communique.
Iohannis has been blocking the judicial laws for three years
According to the aforementioned source, the Social Democrats will focus on topics that have to do with the European Parliament elections.
“We will not play into Iohannis’s hands, and we will continue, in the European Parliament elections campaign, to talk strictly about the issues of utmost interest for voters: the hiking of incomes, the hiking of the salaries of physicians and teachers, investing in healthcare, bringing European grants to Romania. And about how Romania’s interest must be defended by the future MEPs. The President is not in the position to warn the Government or Parliament – two fundamental institutions formed as a result of the citizens’ votes. The issuing of emergency ordinances represents at this moment the Government’s only way to avoid President Iohannis’s repeated blockages,” the PSD leaders state.
They point out that, in just three years in office, President Klaus Iohannis has used 56 constitutionality challenges to block laws issued by Parliament, “abusively using this prerogative conferred by the Constitution.”
“Thus, since the CCR [Constitutional Court of Romania] was established, more than 60 per cent of the constitutionality challenges against laws issued by Parliament came from President Iohannis, while Traian Basescu notified the CCR in only 31 cases (36 per cent) during a ten-year term, Ion Iliescu did so twice, and Emil Constantinescu only once. Iohannis must first of all respect the Constitution of Romania and no longer use the judiciary as an electoral crutch to make up for the lack of any accomplishment during his presidential term,” the communique concludes.
Vasilescu on new consultation that President has sent Parliament: We are treating his statement in the context of April 1st
Referring to President Klaus Iohannis’s announcement that he will consult Parliament again in order to widen the referendum’s span, PSD Spokeswoman Olguta Vasilescu stated on Monday that Parliament has already done its duty. She asked the Head of State to be clearer and more coherent.
“We are treating the President’s statement in the context of April 1st, because President Klaus Iohannis has obtained from the Romanian Parliament the possibility of convening a referendum on the topic of the judiciary, and we cannot see what else should there be in addition to that, since the range was very wide, so he can ask any kind of question on the topic of the judiciary. The only one talking about the judiciary and stirring this topic is President Klaus Iohannis himself. He talked about GEO no.13 too, which dates back to two years ago,” Olguta Vasilescu stated on Monday for RFI.
“For the time being, the President must send an address to the Romanian Parliament, so we would see what he wants. But, in our opinion, he already has this prerogative, conferred by the Romanian Parliament, and nobody is stopping him from holding this referendum. Maybe only the absence of a question,” the former Labour Minister added.
Vasilescu added that Iohannis must be clearer about what he wants, stating that if the Head of State is bored at the Cotroceni Palace that does not mean we must endlessly discuss certain topics.
“In our opinion, Parliament has done its duty toward the President. We expect him to be clearer and more coherent. We understand he is getting bored at Cotroceni, because he does not have much to do when not on holiday, but that does not mean we must endlessly discuss certain topics that suit the President during an elections campaign,” the PSD Spokeswoman concluded.