Category Archives: Romania

Romania – Presidential vetoes

The period of cohabitation in Romania is one year old.

Recently, relations between the president and the government have been less conflictual compared with this time last year. This is probably because the governing parties are still relatively popular and because President Traian Băsescu has separated himself from his own political party when it refused to choose his preferred candidate as party leader. Moreover, with the presidential election coming up later this year in 2014 and with the governing parties well placed to win, the government may have less incentive to challenge the presidency.

That said, President Traian Băsescu continues to use his powers against the government.

During the period of cohabitation (May 2012-May 2013), my calculations indicate that he has vetoed 13 pieces of legislation, the most recent of which was on 26 April. (Note, one additional veto was issued by the interim president, Crin Antonescu, in July 2012.) In addition, as far as I am aware, President Băsescu has also asked the Constitutional Court to rule on two bills during the current period of cohabitation, again the most recent of which was on 26 April.

But how do these figures compare? Well, using the same source with the search term ‘Cerere de reexaminare’, there were 11 vetoes in the previous year (May 2011-May 2012) and 16 in the year before that. So, the current level of veto activity is not any greater in those terms. Moreover, from May 2011-May 2012 he sent four bills to the Constitutional Court, all of them on the same day – 28 November 2011. Again, therefore, the current level of activity is no greater.

It would take a Romania expert to tell me whether the content and/or context of the vetoes was more critical during the recent period. However, it is worth remembering that President Băsescu was faced with an opposition majority in the Senate prior to cohabitation and that the majority in the lower house was not secure before then either. So, there was not a clear switch from unified majority government to cohabitation in May 2012. What is more, during the first legislature of his first term (2004-2008), President Băsescu vetoed more than 80 bills. So, generally, he has been very active in this regard.

Romania – President Băsescu vows to create a new right-wing political movement

Guest post from Cristina Bucur

The biggest opposition party in Romania, President Băsescu’s Democratic Liberal Party (PDL), held internal elections on March 23. Three candidates entered the race for the presidency of the party. Vasile Blaga, the incumbent leader, who was supported by the majority of local organisations and by most of the party’s elephants; Elena Udrea, a minister of tourism in Emil Boc’s government (2008-2012), who earned the support of considerably fewer local organisations but was backed up by President Băsescu and by the former prime minister; and Monica Macovei, who had only relatively recently joined the party but who was well-known for her anti-corruption campaigns as a justice minister in the coalition government formed by the Democrats (PD) and the National Liberals (PNL) in 2004 and then as a PDL MEP.

In the election, Vasile Blaga won a narrow victory at the first ballot, managing to pass the 50% threshold by just 44 votes. As she won only a few hundred votes fewer than Blaga, Udrea appealed the result but after a recount Blaga was elected. Macovei obtained about 3% of the delegates’ votes.

Displeased with the result and the procedural irregularities that prevented a second round of voting, President Băsescu announced his unequivocal separation from his former party. In a video message posted on his Facebook account shortly after the closing of the Convention, Băsescu accused the PDL of undemocratic practices and announced that they had parted ways for good.

The explanation for President Băsescu’s reaction to the defeat of his preferred candidate can be found in the evolution of the leadership contests in the PD/PDL after 2004, when he stepped down as party leader to become president of Romania. Following his election, Băsescu designated the ultra-loyal Emil Boc as his successor as the president of the Democratic Party. Boc ran unchallenged in the following year’s Convention and was almost unanimously elected as president by more than 3,500 party delegates. Following the break-up of the PNL-PD governing coalition in April 2007, the PD went into opposition. When the PD and a splinter group from the PNL merged in December 2007 to form the PDL, the leadership of the two parties chose Emil Boc as the leader of the new organisation. When the PDL won the 2008 general election and returned to power, Băsescu appointed Boc as prime minister. In this way, President Băsescu could finally count on the backing of a strong presidential party that was ready to serve as his personal power base.

The next internal elections in the PDL were organised in 2011. The leadership selection process had not undergone any significant changes compared to the Democratic Party’s previous internal contests. The central leadership’s full freedom to decide on the number of delegates representing each local organisation had done little to increase the competitiveness of internal elections and the inclusiveness of the party selectorate. In 2011, though, Emil Boc was already experiencing the negative effects of the economic crisis that his government had constantly had to deal with since 2008 and his popularity was declining rapidly. However, Boc was still backed by President Băsescu who fully endorsed the government’s austerity measures. Thus, although his leadership was challenged by Vasile Blaga, one of the party’s most senior members and the speaker of the Senate, Boc was still able to obtain twice as many votes from the party delegates at the 2011 Convention than his main rival.

However, two events triggered the organisation of new intraparty elections just one year later. First, the coalition government between the PDL and the Hungarian minority party (UDMR) collapsed in early February, following several weeks of street protests that had been triggered by austerity cuts. Second, the party suffered a crushing defeat in the 2012 local elections and obtained about 15% of the vote. Much to President Băsescu’s displeasure, Emil Boc was constrained to step down as party leader and new intraparty elections were organised. Boc’s refusal to run for a new mandate allowed Vasile Blaga to win the presidency of the party with an overwhelming majority. However, the leadership change did not lead to an improvement in the party’s electoral performance and the PDL suffered another defeat in the general election that took place in December 2012. This time the party’s vote share shrank from 32% in 2008 to little more than 16%. Vasile Blaga refused to assume responsibility for the electoral defeat and resisted all calls for his resignation. As a result, another national Convention was scheduled in March 2013 for the election of a new leadership.

Traian Băsescu’s involvement in the internal party campaign that preceded the PDL’s 2013 Convention was not limited to lending support to Elena Udrea’s candidacy. He also condemned the previous year’s overthrow of Emil Boc and criticised the new leadership’s inability to improve the party’s score in the 2012 general election. While he addressed the PDL Convention, Băsescu urged the party delegates to make as radical a change as they had done in 2001, when his own election ended the ten-year leadership of Petre Roman, who was no longer able to assure the party’s electoral growth. Băsescu also affirmed that he intended to come back to active party politics when his presidential term ended in 2014 and contribute to the return of a strong right-wing party to power after the 2016 general election. Finally, in his farewell message to the party following the re-election of the leader who was not able to deliver an electoral victory in the 2012 contest, President Băsescu affirmed his determination to pursue this course of action outside the PDL

Cristina Bucur

Dublin City University

cristina.bucur2@mail.dcu.ie

http://dcu.academia.edu/CristinaBucur

Romania – Agreement on Institutional Collaboration during cohabitation

Time to reflect on a remarkable document that appeared in Romania just before the holiday season. This is the officially titled Agreement on Institutional Collaboration between the President of Romania and the Prime Minister of the Government.

The document was first seen being handed to Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament, by President Traian Băsescu at the EU Summit meeting on 14 December. It was then made public on the website of both the president and the PM, Victor Ponta. There is an English version here. (Thanks to Elliott Bulmer). The official nature of the document is, thus, clear.

The document is explicitly designed to regulate the current period of cohabitation, or, perhaps more accurately, the period following the formation of the new government in December 2012. The aim is clearly stated: “The institutional cooperation agreement is aimed at keeping the country stability and ensuring a functional climate for a good governance and ensuring the confidence of international markets, through harmonization of joint positions within the Executive power, with observance of the constitutional powers of the Romanian President and Government”.

Some of the document has a general ‘political spin’ flavour to it. So, both parties agree to “respect for Constitutional values and fundamental institutions of the state …”. Let’s face it, though, it is difficult to imagine either party ever justifying an action against the other by saying that they are not respecting the rule of law.

That said, there are some more specific commitments. For example, the document states that the parties “commit to refraining from attacks against the rule of law institutions and those included in external commitments, of financial and political nature, opting to cooperate in their common positions towards IMF, WB, Council of Europe, NATO, MCV, Schengen, etc.”.

Interestingly, they agree a formal division of labour (let’s call it the ‘segmented decision-making model), whereby the respective powers of the president and the PM are identified: “President: foreign policy, defence policy, representation to the European Council, according to Constitutional Court’s Decision. Prime Minister: Economic and social policy, country’s government, current problems that do not have direct impact on national security, external relations at inter-government and European levels.”

Perhaps more interestingly still, they identify certain areas of cooperation where they explicitly state that they have to work together. They are:

– foreign policy and cooperation with MAE (Foreign Affairs Ministry):
– policy within EU and cooperation with MA Eur (European Affairs Ministry) and MAE;
– appointment of generals;
– appointment of Ambassadors;
– appointment of the General Prosecutor, Chief Prosecutor of DNA, or other positions requesting Constitutional powers of President and Government;
– developing common positions on third topics;
– domestic policy topics with incidence in the national security area.

The document states that if agreement cannot be reached in these areas, then “the final decision-maker will have priority”. That may beg a question as to who the final decision-maker actually is, but presumably it relates back to the general spheres of influence identified above.

Finally, there are two remarkable paragraphs that give us an insight into the actual decision-making process. Paragraph 6 states that decision-making “is mainly the meeting or direct discussion between President and Prime Minister. Exceptionally, other persons can be involved, with the permission of the two officials, or a topic can be delegated to the administrative system of the two institutions – advisers, technical apparatus.” Paragraph 7 then identifies a conflict-resolution mechanism: “The dispute resolution mechanism comprises advisers and Ministers, with a person designed by each side to manage each component. The designation will be made according to the topic debated, and there will be avoided [sic] controversial persons or unacceptable to the other party”.

This is the first document of this sort that I have ever heard of. While it does contain some very general statements of intent, it also some contains some quite detailed commitments. Of course, it has no constitutional or legal status. Therefore, it is not justiciable. So, it is a ‘working agreement’. If either side violates it, then the only sanction is political or electoral. Even so, there will be some pressure to keep to it.

The pressure to keep to it is emphasised by the fact that the document has not just a domestic but an external audience too. The fact that President Băsescu was handing it out to Brussels is one sign of that. It is also worth noting that the document was issued just before the Venice Commission issued its ruling on the impeachment events earlier in the year. The ruling was quite critical. So, there was a sense that the public institutions felt that they needed to be publicly seen to have regulated the situation. There was a fear that the EU may not be as forthcoming with its aid if this was not the case and that foreign exchange markets and international lenders might react badly at the prospect of ongoing conflict. So, there is an international realpolitik at work.

Whatever the motivation, it doesn’t take away from the uniqueness of the document.

Romania – New government

Following the legislative election earlier this month, there is a new government in Romania.

On Monday President Băsescu nominated Victor Ponta, the leader of the Social Democrats, as PM. Ponta has been PM since May 2012.

PM-designate Ponta has now named his government. There are details in Romanian here and slightly fewer details in English here.

In the election, the USL coalition won 273 seats in the Chamber of deputies. Of these, the Social Democrats (PSD) and the National Union for the Progress of Romania (UNPR) won 159 seats, while the National Liberal Party (PNL) won 101 seats and the Conservative Party (PC) won 13 seats.

In the government, my calculations suggest that the PSD has 12 ministries, the PNL has nine and the PC has two. The UNPR has no ministries but does have one of the three Vice-PMs, with the PSD and the PNL sharing the other two.

So, as we would expect, the distribution of ministries pretty much reflects the parties’ support in the new legislature.

My understanding is that the government will be presented to President Băsescu. Will he object to any of the nominees? If he does, expect another post.

It goes without saying that the election result prolongs the current period of cohabitation.

Romania – The electoral system and the 2012 election

This is a guest post by Cristina Bucur, Dublin City University

The legislative elections held last Sunday in Romania were won by the government coalition led by Victor Ponta, the prime minister and leader of the Social-Democrat Party (PSD), and Crin Antonescu, the leader of the Liberal Party (PNL). Contesting the election as the Social-Liberal Union (USL), the two parties won 59% of the votes cast and 67% of the parliamentary seats. Despite this huge parliamentary majority, the USL’s vote is not much greater than the sum of the separate scores obtained by the two parties in 2008, when they won 52% of the vote. On the other hand, President Băsescu’s Democrat Liberals (PDL) suffered a clear-cut defeat, as their share of the vote shrank from the 32% obtained in 2008 to just under 17% of the votes and 14% of the parliamentary seats in 2012. The PDL contested the election as part of the Right Romanian Alliance (ARD), a pre-electoral coalition formed with several small centre-right parties. A third party, the PP-DD, which is a new populist party created by Dan Diaconescu, an eccentric media baron and TV talk show host, won 14% of the vote and 68 seats. The only other party that managed to exceed the 5% national threshold was the Hungarian minority party, the UDMR, which won 5% of the vote and 28 seats.

The relative margins of the USL’s victory and the ARD’s defeat can be better grasped if one takes into account the mechanics of the Romanian electoral system.

The Romanian version of a mixed electoral system combines a single round of voting in single-member constituencies with a two-round system of seat allocation for parties that surpass an electoral threshold of 5%. Only those candidates who win over 50% of the votes in single-member constituencies are automatically elected. The remaining seats are distributed among the political parties first at the county level (using the Hare quota) and then at the national level (according to the d’Hondt method), provided they pass the 5% threshold. The result is that the number of parliamentary seats is flexible. The number of deputies will increase if a party is able to elect its candidates with 50% of the vote in the single-member constituencies. For example, imagine the situation where ten seats were up for election and where, proportionally, seven were won by the USL, two by the ARD, and one by the PP-DD. However, now imagine that USL candidates were elected in all ten single-member constituencies. In that case, three additional seats would have to be added to the total number of parliamentary seats in order to satisfy the overall proportionality of the vote. Thus, the more single-member constituencies a party wins, the less likely it is to benefit from the redistribution at the county level and from the supplementation of seats at the national level. The opposite is true for parties that are not able to win single-member constituencies systematically.

At the 2012 election, there were 452 single-member constituencies, 315 for the election of deputies and 137 for the election of senators. In 2008, the redistribution of mandates increased the number of seats by only 1. The 2008-2012 legislature was thus made up of 471 MPs. By contrast, in 2012 an additional 118 seats were generated because of the USL’s success in the single-member constituencies, bringing the total number of MPs to 588. (As a side note, the results of a referendum organised in 2009 indicated that the Romanians were in favour of reducing the number of parliamentarians to a maximum of 300 persons.) Around 28% of the members in the 2012-2016 legislature will have won their seat due to the combined mechanisms of seat redistribution and supplementation. The scale of the USL’s victory and the extent of the ARD’s defeat are revealed by the extent to which each party benefitted from the mechanics of the electoral rules: while only one of the 395 seats won by the USL was attributed by supplementation, 55 of the 80 seats allocated to the ARD coalition were obtained in this way. For the PP-DD, 61 out of 68 seats were allocated through supplementation, whereas for the UDMR only one of its 27 seats was artificially created.

Overall, these results confirm the calculations made by all political parties in the political debate that surrounded the PSD-PNL’s attempt to change the electoral law in May 2012 in order to introduce a first-past-the-post (FPTP) system at the national level. While the main government parties did not benefit at all from the redistribution mechanism entailed by the current mixed system, almost 70% of the ARD parliamentarians would not have been elected in the new legislature had the FPTP electoral bill not been turned down by the Constitutional Court in June 2012.

Cristina Bucur is nearing completion of her PhD on principal-agent theory and ministerial deselection at Dublin City university

Romania – Legislative election

In Romania the legislative election was held on Sunday. The vote was for both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. Here are the official results:

The Chamber of Deputies

  • The Social Liberal Union – 58.63 percent (273 seats)
  • The Right Romania Alliance (ARD) – 16.5 percent (56 seats)
  • The People’s Party-Dan Diaconescu (PP-DD) – 13.99 percent (47 seats)
  • Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania (UDMR) – 5.13 percent (18 seats)

The Senate

  • The Social Liberal Union – 60.1 percent (122 seats)
  • The Right Romania Alliance (ARD) – 16.7 percent (24 seats)
  • The People’s Party-Dan Diaconescu (PP-DD) – 14.65 percent (21 seats)
  • Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania (UDMR) – 5.23 percent (9 seats)

Agerpress reports that 18 minority lists will also win one seat each. Turnout was low at 41.76 percent. Indeed, two local/regional referendums were ruled invalid because of low turnout.

So, the incumbent government has been returned with a huge majority. Indeed, the victory is large enough for constitutional amendments to be proposed by the majority. Any such amendments will still have to be approved in a referendum. However, the government’s majority is so large that it may be able to change the referendum rules to make it easier to pass the amendments that the government wants.

For the time being, there is still a period of cohabitation. Before the election, the USL was worried that they would win the election but President Băsescu would try to appoint a maverick USL figure as PM in the hope of either splitting the party or at least reducing the authority of the current PM and party leader, Victor Ponta. However, the scale of the victory is likely to make this very difficult. For President Băsescu, the fear is that he will face another impeachment vote, which is likely to be passed. This time the turnout in the referendum may be high enough to dismiss him. The USL has also talked about revising the constitution more generally to weaken the powers of the president.

So, the election is over but the consequences are still likely to be felt in the coming months.

Romania – President still suspended

This is a guest post written by Cristina Bucur

On 29 July Romania held a referendum to confirm whether or not President Traian Băsescu should be removed from office. Initially, it appeared as if the vote to dismiss the president had failed because fewer than 50% of voters turned out at the referendum. However, Romania’s Constitutional Court has now announced that it will issue its ruling on the validity of the referendum on September 12. Although the 50% participation threshold required for the validation of any referendum in Romania was not met, the Court argued that the information received from the state institutions regarding the number of eligible voters registered in the electoral roll was contradictory. As a result, the government was urged to submit to the Court the updated permanent electoral lists based on which the referendum was organised by August 31. Meanwhile, President Băsescu cannot resume office until the Court reaches a final decision. The Constitutional Court’s decision is just another part of a long and highly contested process about what constitutes a valid referendum. The debate regarding the participation threshold began in 2007, when President Basescu was suspended for the first time during a period of cohabitation with the Liberal Party (PNL). The initial referendum law, adopted in 2000, stated that a local or national referendum is valid if at least 50% +1 of the people registered on the electoral roll participate in the vote (Art. 5). This text reinforced the condition that the President can only be dismissed by a majority of registered voters (Art. 10). The participation threshold was nevertheless removed from a new law adopted on May 5, 2007, immediately after Băsescu’s first suspension on April 19, 2007. According to the new text, the decision regarding the president’s dismissal belongs to the people who turned out to vote. On that occasion, the referendum was invalidated not because the turnout was 44%, but because nearly 75% of people voted against the president’s dismissal (according to the Constitutional Court’s decision 5/2007 of May 23, 2007). Romania’s first cohabitation period ended in December 2008, when President Băsescu’s PDL party came back to power. The Boc I government, which was a coalition between PDL and the current prime minister’s PSD, reintroduced the minimum participation threshold as a condition for the validity of a presidential impeachment referendum. This amendment was enforced through an emergency ordinance that was issued for the organisation of the parliamentary reform referendum, which took place on November 22, 2009. A new bill that restored the referendum law to its 2000 form was eventually passed by the lower chamber in March 2012 and promulgated by president Băsescu in April 2012. A week later the Ungureanu government was defeated in a confidence motion, which started a new period of cohabitation between president Băsescu and a coalition government led by Victor Ponta (the prime minister and PSD leader) and Crin Antonescu (the PNL leader and coalition partner of the PSD). In May 2012, the MPs of the new parties in power put forward a legislative initiative to eliminate the minimum participation threshold, which was passed by the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies on June 18 and June 26 respectively. The bill was sent by the PDL to the Constitutional Court but the government did not wait for the Court’s new ruling and issued an emergency ordinance on July 5 that removed the threshold from the referendum law. The Court’s final decision on July 10 stated that while the constitution does not give any details on the organisation of an impeachment referendum, the 2000 Law does require a participation threshold of 50% for all local and national referenda. As a result, an attempt to remove this requirement only for the presidential referendum was seen as unconstitutional. As the government accepted the participation threshold, the campaign debate moved into its final stage that focused on the number of voters required for the validity of the referendum and the accuracy of the electoral roll. While the PDL advised their members and supporters to boycott the referendum in order to invalidate it irrespective of the results, the USL voiced concerns regarding the number of eligible voters registered on the electoral lists and argued that it was out of date and overestimated the size of the electorate. Following a 46% turnout, of which 88% were in favour of removing the president, the USL alliance contested the accuracy of the number of eligible voters included on the electoral lists to the Constitutional Court. On the day of the Court’s ruling even the Minister of Interior and Administration who organised the referendum notified the Court that the Ministry cannot guarantee the “verifiability” of the number of people included on the electoral lists as it lacks the legal means of controlling the data compiled by the local authorities. It is not clear how these developments affect the results of the local elections, which were organised last June using the same electoral lists, or indeed the organisation of the next general election, which is scheduled to take place next November.

Cristina Bucur, Dublin City University, cristina.bucur2@mail.dcu.ie

Romania – President resumes office

In Romania, the referendum to remove President Traian Băsescu from office has failed.

The Constitutional Court has still to validate the results, but the unofficial figures show that 46.23 per cent of registered voters voted and that 87.52 per cent of those voting approved the motion to remove President Băsescu. However, a valid poll of 50% of registered voters was required. Therefore, President Băsescu, who has been suspended since the vote in the parliament, now returns to office. President Băsescu’s supporters had called for abstention, knowing that this was the most likely way to defeat the motion.

The reaction of PM Victor Ponta was not very conciliatory. He is reported as saying that President Băsescu “has been politically impeached. The legend of Traian Băsescu, the politician loved by the people, is dead. Basescu has to go. He no longer represents anyone”. For his part, President Băsescu is reported as saying that “those that organized the failed coup d’etat have to answer before state institutions”. So, there is strong language on both sides.

This is, of course, the second time that President Băsescu has been suspended, the second time there has been a referendum to remove him, and the second time that such a referendum has been defeated. The first occasion was in 2007 during his first term of office. Then only 44.45% of voters voted and of those voting only 75.1% voted to remove President Băsescu. So, if the referendums are comparable, then he has lost some support, but not enough to remove him from office.

Romania – Motion to suspend the president introduced

Some of you may have been following events in Romania on my Facebook page, but things are certainly moving quickly.

Yesterday, the new majority moved to unseat both the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies and the President of the Senate and to replace them with representatives from the majority parties. There is a report at Balkan Insight here.

Today, thanks to information from Cristina Bucur, the government issue a decree that suspended the Constitutional Court’s power to rule on decisions made by parliament.

Immediately afterwards, the USL majority has begun proceedings to remove President Băsescu from office. As noted in a previous post, Art. 95 of the constitution states:

  1. In case of having committed grave acts breaching on provisions of the Constitution, the President of Romania may be suspended from office by the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, in joint session, by a majority vote of Deputies and Senators, and after consultation with the Constitutional Court. The President may explain before Parliament with regard to imputations brought against him.
  2. The proposal of suspension from office may be initiated by at least one third of the number of Deputies and Senators, and the President shall be immediately notified thereof.
  3. If the proposal of suspension from office has been approved, a referendum shall be held within thirty days, in order to remove the President from office.

The summary of the letter outlining President Băsescu’s alleged grave acts is available in Romanian here. There is a long list of grievances. The letter was proposed by the new Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies and the President of the Senate. So, their appointment yesterday can probably be understood as part of the overall sequencing of events.

President Băsescu will almost certainly be removed. There will then be a referendum on whether the president should be removed. As reported previously in this blog, the referendum law has only recently been amended to make it easier to remove the president  in the vote.

Two further steps in the sequence are likely to follow. The majority may try to remove members of the Constitutional Court and replace them with more sympathetic appointees. The government may also then reintroduce the first-past-the-post bill to maximise the chances that it will win an overall majority in this year’s legislative elections. The Constitutional Court struck down the original bill just last week.

The majority is defending all of its actions by claiming that in Romania the top posts are always replaced when there is a change of government. This argument may have some merit, but the speed with which it is happening is remarkable. More remarkable is the fact that it is happening during a period of cohabitation, that the president is one of the posts that the government wants to change, and that the majority came to power without an election.

Romania – PM goes to European summit

The saga of who should represent Romania at the European summit has been resolved, sort of.

On Wednesday the Constitutional Court ruled that President Băsescu should represent the country. There is a report here. However, immediately, PM Ponta declared that he would be going to the summit. He claimed that he had the legitimacy to represent Romania because parliament had declared that he should do so. He also claimed, in effect, that the Constitutional Court could not make such a decision because it was full of political appointees who were favourable to the president. He is not wrong in that regard. That said, it seems as though he is not challenging the legitimacy of the Court per se, because the argument is being made that the Court’s rulings only take effect when they are published in the Official Journal. This will take about a week. So, PM Ponta seems to be saying that he has the legal authority at this point. Next time may be different.

Anyway, faced with the PM’s determination to attend and perhaps noting this legal situation, President Băsescu decided not to go the summit. He is reported as saying that he decided not to attend because he did not want to create an embarrassing decision. He also recalls that this is the first time he has not represented Romania, even though there was a period of cohabitation during his first term.

This conflict is just one of a series that have occurred since the period of cohabitation began. For example, previously, I posted about the law that makes it easier to remove the president from office. Presumably, a vote to do so will follow soon. The PM has also been accused of plagiarism. The PM, in turn, has accused the presidential palace of spreading the plagiarism story.

More generally, the government has been at odds with the Constitutional Court. For example, as I posted on the Facebook site, the Constitutional Court has just ruled that the government’s plan to introduce what amounted to a first-past-the-post electoral system has been struck down in its entirety. The Court also ruled against the former socialist PM, Adrian Nastase, who then tried to commit suicide. For its part, a law was passed by parliament a couple of weeks ago that stripped the Constitutional Court of its power to rule in political cases (presumably, ones like the issue of who should represent Romania at the EU). That said, I am not sure how such a law fits with the constitution.

The tension between the government and the Court is not surprising because the Romanian president does not have many constitutional powers. Therefore, the Court with its presidential majority represents perhaps the most significant block on the new government’s powers.

All in all, as long as cohabitation lasts, I am confident in predicting that there will be plenty of posts on Romania.