Romania’s referendum on Basescu is not valid. What’s next?

It seems the society is polarized. PM Victor Ponta said, with a clear reference to Basescu, that he thinks that any politician who willingly ignores 9 million votes is out of touch with reality. On the other hand Traian Basescu says that he will try and generate a sentiment of reconciliation in society.

Questions:

1. Is it any chance Romania will move towards reconciliation? Is it necessary, in fact?

2. What kind of reaction do you expect from the EU? I mean not just the reaction on the results but how will Brussels behave towards Bucharest in upcoming months before the elections?

Answers:

Cristian GhineaDirector, Romanian Center for European Policies

1. Chances for reconciliation are very poor, unfortunately. For the time being, both sides claim the victory – Basescu says the boycott has succeeded, the USL coalition says they have 8 million votes against Basescu. Fact is: the impeachment referendum failed. But it’s a lose-lose situation. And most probably lose – lose will continue to be the prevailing scenario in the near future, with the political crisis continuing. Reconciliation is necessary, but it depends on what they reconcile on. Many people in Basescu`s party would be happy to make a deal and to dismantle the anticorruption institutions. I remind you that DNA (National Anticorruption Directorate) has a tremendous record in the last years – more than 1000 people convicted for corruption in 2011 (attention: convicted by the independent judges). Of course our politicians went crazy about this. Therefore, it would be a nightmare to see PDL and USL striking a deal against the anticorruption prosecutors, I beg to reject such reconciliation. Nevertheless, as far as preserving justice independence is concerned, reconciliation is the only chance to stop the political war. They should start with Barosso’s eleven demands list, in which he asks for a cross-party selection of the Ombudsman. This should be the first test for the reconciliation.

The key issue is disciplining the radicals within the USL. From my sources, I learned that the plan to get rid of Basescu was prepared long ago and they wanted to act after the parliamentary elections. Then Basescu appointed Ponta prime-minister and the radicals wanted to act immediately. Ponta resisted for a while, then changed his mind and agreed. Now, after failing, Ponta should be in position to discipline his own Taliban wing, but we`ll see if he`ll seize this opportunity.

2. The EU`s intervention had effects. The behavior of Crin Antonescu (interim president and co-head of USL) and Victor Ponta changed after the strong EU criticism. They toned down their revolutionary discourse to making calls for calm. I`m not buying into this new tone as being sincere, but honestly I don`t care: what’s most important is that it worked. EU should have an informal dialogue with Romanian politicians and push for the above mentioned reconciliation (again, Barroso`s to do list is very good – it protects the anticorruption institutions). Let`s not forget that the European Commission is co-signatory of Romania’s agreement with the IMF and the World Bank and that Romania used the money to control the effects of the economic crisis (let’s pay attention to evolution of the national currency).

Sergiu Miscoiu, Executive Director, Centre for Political Studies and International Relations

1. Reconciliation is more than necessary, but this should be based on principles and on the national and European interests. The first step has been made by President Basescu (who has actually based his entire carrier on conflicts and dissensus), who said that the only solution is to cooperate with all the parties in order to recover the disaster of the last month. And accepted to resign in exchange with amending the Constitution (unicameralism and 300 MPs at maximum). But he is weakened and the gov. coalition totally rejects such a scenario and seems to intend to ignore the President and to continue to seek the obtaining of total command in Romania. If this will happen, war will continue, as the President will forcefully retaliate by using the General and Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, the Secrete Services and the Western allies and our situation will escalate again in September. A second suspension by the Parliament is not excluded, the worse scenario ever.

2. The EU will have to react in a more decisive way by imposing strict conditions to Romania, by sending a mission of observers of the state of democracy and by opening the discussions concerning the suspension of the voting rights in the European Council. As carrots didn’t work, it seems that they should use the only remaining sticks, paradoxically, against the Romanian elites and in the interest of the abandoned Romanian people. This would be the best way to pressure the existing parties in the Parliament to change their traditional paths of conflict into more responsible attitudes.

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