Romania: Fight to the death between president and government
11 July 2012
Evenimentul zilei, Adevărul, Jurnalul Naţional
"Proof of coup d'état – Government ignores CCR [Constitutional Court] ruling," headlines Romanian daily Evenimentul Zilei. On July 10, the leaders of the USL, the coalition between socialists and a centre-right alliance supporting Prime Minister Victor Ponta, announced that the referendum scheduled for July 29 confirming the dismissal of President Traian Băsescu will be organised according to procedures defined in the emergency decree adopted by the government last week.
The decree requires a simple majority of ballots cast for the referendum to pass. Yet the Constitutional Court ruled that the referendum would be invalid if fewer than half of the 18 million registered voters turn out for the ballot. Under the Court's ruling, at least 4.5 million "yes" votes would be required to dismiss Băsescu. Following the government's formula, a simple majority would suffice, no matter how many votes are cast. "We are in the midst of a tempest and the institutions cannot escape it," the paper says.
As the controversy continues, the interim-President, Crin Antonescu, has already settled into Cotroceni Palace, the president's official residence. For the USL coalition as well as for Băsescu's PDL, the Democratic Liberal Party, "it is a question of life or death," notes Jurnalul Naţional –
One side is playing for its freedom, the other for legitimacy. Especially since Antonescu, before both chambers of Parliament, committed himself to quitting politics if the referendum is a triumph for Băsescu. There is no middle ground [...] The loser is dead and the winner takes all.
In this context, the Bucharest daily adds, the USL must motivate the electorate and must increase –
... the hate level towards the Băsescu regime so that even those who are not politically active will also turn out to vote. For the PDL, it would be better if voters stayed home. But how can Traian Băsescu, the political leader who became a legend as a never-defeated battling politician, justify an eventual call to abstention to his electorate?
A third daily newspaper, Adevărul, says the decision, in the end, will be with the people – even if the standoff between the Constitutional Court and the USL is "crucial for the future of Romania". For the USL to persist in applying the emergency decree would be a serious political error, the paper says, adding –
On the one hand, there is the accusation that the USL government does not respect the law and the Constitution. On the other, the supporters of Traian Băsescu will not abide by the results of the referendum. And the reaction from abroad will be devastating for a government that does not respect the rulings of the Constitutional Court. [...] We are in a political crisis with a single solution: massive participation in the ballot [...] No matter who is the apparent winner in the ballot box, abstention is not an option.