A semi-presidential republic would be the best way to avoid "disequilibrium", the Romanian head of state says.
By Paul Ciocoiu for Southeast European Times in Bucharest -- 18/02/09Those who accuse President Traian Basescu of interfering with the executive power and aiming to enhance his prerogatives have new ammunition. The Presidential Commission for the Analysis of the Political and Constitutional Regime in Romania has emerged with a secretly prepared report containing 23 proposals for revising the country's fundamental law.
Critics see the proposals as means of boosting the presidency's power relative to other state institutions. Nonetheless, the head of the commission denied any undue influence from the presidency and said the panel sought, without ulterior motives, to map the country's current political system.
"The best solution for Romania is a semi-presidential, poised political regime," Basescu said in an address after the report's publication. "We need a constitution that will not push us into conflicts but rather take us out of them," he added.
"If we continue to elect a president who can't act, we will ignore the nation and diminish the democracy. The best term to describe the semi-presidential regime is equilibrium," he said in defence of his constitutional vision.
Under the proposal, high treason would be the only justification for impeaching a president. The report also recommends allowing the president to dissolve parliament as a last resort to end a political crisis.
The commission envisions a unicameral parliament and a review of MPs' immunity from prosecution, a privilege for lawmakers that has made the legislative branch one of the least esteemed public institutions. It also suggests banning officials from being a minister and an MP simultaneously.
The commission, furthermore, calls for reorganising the country's 41 counties into nine or 12 regions.
Revising the constitution is a protracted process, requiring action by the government, president, Legislative Council, Constitutional Court and parliament in succession -- after which more than half the population must still give its approval in a national referendum.
"If, in accordance with the constitution's Article 150, the government proposes that I revise the constitution, I will initiate the revision," Basescu said.
The opposition slammed the panel's proposals. Former Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu, leader of the opposition, said the commission was more concerned with "settling [the president's] scores with parliament" than with protecting citizens' rights. Former head of state Ion Iliescu labelled Basescu's initiative "unconstitutional", saying the president had no authority to revise fundamental law.
A 2008 European Values Survey showed that almost three quarters of Romanians want a strong leader whose problems with parliament would not prevent him or her from ruling.