Romanian ombudsman takes electoral law to Constitutional Court

Romanian ombudsman Renate Weber filed a motion with the country’s Constitutional Court (CCR) asking it to rule unconstitutional a change in the country’s electoral law, a change brought by the liberal government of Ludovic Orban via an emergency decree the night before it was ousted by a vote of no confidence.

In a letter dated February 21 to the CCR, Weber listed the three paragraphs that the government decree went against, chief among them being that the government cannot change electoral rights by way of emergency decrees.

“In accordance with paragraph (6) of article 115 of the Constitution, emergency decrees cannot be passed in the field of constitutional laws, the working of the fundamental institutions of the state, the rights, freedoms and obligations enshrined in the constitution, electoral rights and [material] goods cannot forcibly be taken into state property,” Weber wrote in her letter.

The decree was one of two dozen emergency ordinances the government passed on the same night. The aspect that several parties – including the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania, known by its Hungarian acronym of RDMSZ – disputed was that the decree would allow Romanian citizens to vote anywhere in the country, not only in the constituency where they resided. Such a change could fundamentally change electoral outcomes in Transylvania, where many Romanians don’t have a permanent – or even a temporary – residence and where a majority of ethnic Hungarians reside.

Weber also wrote that the emergency decree disregarded the recommendation of the Venice Commission (an independent advisory panel of the European Union) that electoral laws should not be changed in the 12 months preceding elections.

The ombudsman’s letter was prompted by the request of four parties: RMDSZ, the Social Democratic Party (PSD), Pro Romania and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE).

On February 19, the upper house of the Romanian Parliament, the Senate, already voted to reject said emergency decree. The decree can be scrapped in three ways: a) if the lower house of Parliament also rejects it, b) if the President refuses to sign it into law, or c) if the CRR declares it unconstitutional.

Title image: Judges of the Romanian Constitutional Court. (source: ccr.ro)

Author: Dénes Albert