The Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ) and the Social Democratic Party (PSD) submitted a motion of no-confidence on Thursday against the liberal government. The motion, entitled “The Orban /PNL government – the privatization of Romanian democracy” will be read aloud on Monday. According to the initiators, the government of the National Liberal Party (PNL) must be dismissed because it changed the electoral system on the eve of the elections, which violates European standards and because the adoption of these changes was made unilaterally, without consultation and debate, by the ruling party assuming responsibility. According to political sources, the motion has been signed by 208 MPs from PSD and RMDSZ, Transylvanian news portal transindex.ro reports.
“The Orban Government must be urgently dismissed not only because this measure of changing the electoral system on the eve of elections violates European standards, but – especially! – because the adoption of these changes was carried out unilaterally, without consultation and debate, by the ruling party assuming responsibility. The European electoral standards were set out precisely to combat the parties’ temptations to change the rules during the game and thus create an advantage in the electoral competition,” the initiators of the anti-government approach show. According to the editors of the document, the PNL, with the multiple use of assumption of responsibility, became the “gravedigger” of Romanian democracy, and with this change in the electoral system, it crossed a “red line”, which cannot go unpunished.
“You ignored every warning on purpose, rode roughshod over constitutional rules, and you have trampled over European standards just to satisfy your desire for power! The Constitutional Court has told you already, by the two decisions on January 29, 2020, that you are going the wrong way, that it is an abuse of power to use assumption of responsibilities on drafts already under parliamentary procedure, that PNL seriously violates the constitution! Mr. Orban, you have opened a Pandora’s box that may have tragic repercussions on all Romanians in the future. Democratic rules are not optional!” claim the signatories of the motion.
The initiators believe that changing the electoral system four months before the elections pushes Romania to the edge of Europe. According to the document, the PNL in the last three months was not governing the country, as its governance program focused only on provoking early elections.
The editors of the document point out that the one-round mayoral elections were introduced in 2011 by liberal politicians.
“This clearly proves that PNL does not want to change the electoral law because it would benefit the Romanians, but because it is right for them,” they wrote. They also asked the question: If the one-round mayoral elections were suitable for the PNL in 2011, why change it? They also underline: The PNL’s reason that more people would go to vote in one-round elections is not valid, as the same attendance was registered (48.44 percent) in 2008 at the last two-round elections, as four years ago, when mayors were elected via the one-round system.
“In 2016, 3,186 mayors were elected, and 2,275 of them, or 71.4 percent of the mayors, received more than 50 percent of the votes, meaning that they would have won in a two-round election as well. Only 911 mayors won the elections without receiving more than half of the votes in the first round, but 604 of them received 40–50 percent of the votes. Therefore, their reason, that many of the mayors would win by receiving less than 20 percent of the votes in a one-round election, is not valid,” the document states.
It also extrapolates this argument to the 2008 elections, stating that “91 percent of the mayors would have won the elections regardless of the number of the rounds.” So the PNL’s argument about legitimacy is not valid either, the initiators point out. According to the signers of the document, the PNL urges the early elections because they are afraid that they would lose in the autumn, as it would be shown by then that “they haven’t done anything” as the ruling party in the government.
The Venice Commission has repeatedly warned the PNL that rules cannot be changed during the game, and the amendments must be applied only at the end of the next electoral cycle, not during the current electoral cycle, they write. “In other words, the Venice Commission does not say that the one-round election would be less democratic than the two-round elections. So the PNL argues incorrectly when it states that two-round elections are more democratic and that is why the laws can be changed anytime before the elections,” the initiators state.
According to the document, the main problem is not whether the elections are “held in one, two or ten rounds;” the important thing is that any changes should reflect European norms. “We are not afraid of the elections. Those who are afraid are the ones who change the rules four months before the elections because they know otherwise they will have problems. But this is not a democratic reason. So, dear colleagues, given the PNL’s intention to privatize democracy in Romania, we ask you to support this motion of no-confidence! Romania is not heading East. Do not let Romania go down this road,” the document states.
Title image: The Venice Commission has repeatedly warned the PNL that rules cannot be changed during the game. Photo: Parlamentul Romaniei