Romania's governing alliance of Liberals and Social Democrats (USL) launched a massive series of moves on state institutions and key people in the Parliament, the Constitutional Court and the People's Lawyer (Ombudsman) on Tuesday. The moves fall in line with the phases of an action plan by USL - first presented by HotNews.ro in its Romanian version - to suspend President Traian Basescu, who the USL leaders see as the main obstacle in their taking over effective power in the country. Opposition leaders decried on Tuesday what they called a "coup d'etat" and a major attack on the Constitution and the state of law.
UPDATE Romanian USL-dominated Senators voted on Tuesday to dismiss Senate Speaker Vasile Blaga. USL immediately pushed its leader Crin Antonescu as new Speaker
UPDATE 2 - 10.30P.M. House of Deputies Speaker Roberta Anastase - a member of Vasile Blaga-led Democratic Liberals (PDL), who support President Basescu - was also voted out of office by USL-dominated deputies on Tuesday evening. PSD immediately nominated deputy Valeriu Zgonea to be voted new House speaker.
The Romanian-language of HotNews.ro has quoted converging political sources to describe a political plan by the USL - the governing alliance formed of PM Victor Ponta's Social Democrats (PSD) and Crin Antonescu's Liberals (PNL) - to achieve a quick suspension of President Traian Basescu.
- Two months after taking over government, USL has been noted mainly for its political disputes with President Traian Basescu. USL has been claiming Basescu is the last major obstacle in its attempt to govern the country properly, accusing him of controlling various institutions and key people to impede the work of the government. Their moves so far have been repeatedly described by the political opposition and opposing opinion leaders as attacks on democracy. Also see: US Ambassador to Romania Mark Gitenstein's stand on the issue
According to the USL action plan to obtain the suspension of the President, as presented by HotNews.ro:
- A first phase would be the replacement of the Ombudsman (People's Lawyer)
- A second step would be a change of the Law regulating the Constitutional Court by means of a governmental emergency ordinance.
- A third step would be replacing two judges at the Constitutional Court
- A fourth step - replacing the speakers of the Senate and the House of Deputies (positions currently held by members of the pro-Basescu opposition Democratic Liberals - PDL) with USL representatives.
- A fifth phase - replacing Senate speaker Vasile Blaga with Liberal leader Crin Antonescu.
- A sixth step - changing the law on uninominal voting in a single round
- The seventh step - the launch of a parliamentary procedure to suspend President Traian Basescu.
Several of the steps were launched as early as Tuesday. The reasoning behind them and what are the effective changes pushed by USL:
Phase 1.The Ombudsman has the constitutional power to challenge the government's emergency ordinances at the Constitutional Court. Or, the Ponta Governments plans to change the Law on the functioning of this Court by means of an emergency ordinace.
- The first phase was already launched, as USL announced it was pushing it's own man, Valer Dorneanu, as interim People's Lawyer. A parliamentary committee already approved the dismissal of incumbent Ombudsman Gheorghe Iancu from office on Tuesday.
Phase 2. The Law on the functioning of the Constitutional Court may be changed so that the Court no longer have compulsory word on Parliament decisions, but only a consultative one. The law may be changed so that the members of the Court may be changed more easily as well, considering that USL sees the Court as loyal to President Basescu.
- The moves have already started. The Constitutional Court members called on the President and the Parliament on Tuesday to take a stand on the latest attacks against the institution lately, which it says are the equivalent to "dismantling" the Court. But PM Victor Ponta said on Tuesday he had no intention to use an emergency ordinance in order to change the law.
Phase 3. Two judges of the Constitutional Court whom Ponta's Justice minister accused of incompatibility would be replaced once the law is changed. A "loyal" court thus formed is seen as no longer an obstacle in attempts to suspend the president. Three of the Constitutional Court judges have been named by the Presidency and the now in opposition PDL.
Phase 4.Changing the speakers of the Senate and the House of Deputies would simplify parliamentary procedures.
- Moves to change them already began on Tuesday. One PSD Senator explained on Tuesday how Senate speaker Vasile Blaga would be removed, while Blaga accused a "coup d'etat" as "USL calls for [a future] extraordinary session [of the Parliament] by breaching the Constitution"
Phase 5. Liberal leader and USL co-leader Crin Antonescu would replace Vasile Blaga as speaker of the Senate. Should Basescu be suspended, Crin Antonescu would become interim president until a referendum takes place to dismiss the president.
- Asked on Tuesday whether he was ready to take over as Senate Speaker, Crin Antonescu answered: "Yes!"
Phase 6. A changed Constitutional Court would pass more easily a law on uninominal voting in a single round of elections - a first such bill was rejected by the current Court recently.
Phase 7. Once control is taken over the Constitutional Court, the Ombudsman and the two chambers of the Parliament, USL would launch the parliamentary procedure to suspend the President. Meanwhile, it may also push for changes to the Referendum law in order to achieve simplified means to dismiss the suspended President.
USL members spoke publicly of "preparing steps" to suspend the President. They were described by PSD (part of USL) member Daniel Savu as a means to "restart Romania", while PNL (part of USL) member Relu Fenechiu claimed that changes to the Constitutional Court and the Ombudsman were needed because "anything the government does is declared unconstitutional by the Ombudsman or the Constitutional Court".
Meanwhile, former prime minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu urged "honest citizens" on Tuesday to join a meeting in downtown Bucharest on Tuesday evening to protest "the way Romanian democracy is trampled".