In a short statement on Tuesday evening, at the end of a series hallucinatory events in the Parliament, Romanian President Traian Basescu addressed parliamentary party leaders Victor Ponta, Crin Antonescu, Daniel Constantin, Gabriel Oprea and Kelemen Hunor demanding them, repeatedly, “to immediately cease their actions against the institutions of the Romanian state. Naming them, a rather unusual twist in his latest statements, looks more like a warning.
A warning that these leaders have individual responsibilities in an illegitimate action, which the Presidents says it is seriously breaching EU values, with economic and external effects similar to those of the miners' violent "crusade" to Bucharest in June 1990. Through his attitude, Basescu also suggested that these five leaders might answer individually for what they were doing.
They cannot answer for their vote. As individuals, they might only answer in a criminal inquiry. Traian Basescu's accusation that the five acted against "institutions of the Romanian state" make us think about a chapter of the Penal Code entitled "Crimes against national security". The only article where the five’s actions might fit is art. 166 index 1, entitled "Actions against the constitutional order."
This article reads: "Taking any action aiming to change by illegal actions and by violence the constitutional order or the national, sovereign, independent, unitary and indivisible character of the Romanian state is punished with imprisonment from 5 to 15 years and interdiction of certain rights."
Are we in such a situation? Is the blitzkrieg-like action against the last forts of power an "action against constitutional order"? Do the action against Constitutional Court judges, or PM Ponta's ignoring a Court decision fit here? Not really. If read carefully, art. 166 contains a cumulative condition - "change by illegal actions and by violence". One may argue the illegal actions were there, but where is the violence? Given the cumulative condition, no violence means no crime.
Was there an abuse in office in the Government's actions over the past several months? The Ponta Government has obviously used powe in an abusive manner to defend the interests of various individuals - Ponta, who is accused of plagiarism, or businessman politician Dan Voiculescu, involved in a High Court case - but abuse of power is not a crime. Abuse in office must involves a material prejudice. Is there such a prejudice? Not really.
The only way these actions "against the state institutions" may be stopped or discouraged would be the launch of legal procedures. But this very thing seems very hard to accomplish, if not impossible for the time being. Basescu spoke of a "serious breach of EU fundamental values". He didn't say anithing about the law.
These attacks have worried U.S. ambassador to Bucharest Mark Gitenstein and European Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding. These are the first external signals and more will predictably come. It would be naive to think that after the serious democratic issues in Hungary, Brussels and the European governments will afford to wait once they can see such unprecedented gestures of blowing up the rule of law.
But Basescu knows that external pressures are not an easy to start mechanism, that the diplomatic bureaucracy takes time and that European leaders usually need infinitely more evidence to be convinced that we are dealing with a major attack on democracy in the very heart of Europe.
But time runs against Basescu. His suspension will come today, tomorrow, in a few days. The governing power chose its timing well to deal its hard blows: it's summer, holiday time, bored people, reduced external and internal capacity to react. No matter how fast Brussels and Washington would mobilize, they have little chance to prevent Traian Basescu‘s suspension, or the appointment of Crin Antonescu as interim head of state and the takover of power by Dan Voiculescu. External pressures may seem ineffective in the short term, but it is necessary and mandatory and could have long term effects.
President Basescu guessed all these so that on Tuesday evening all he could do was yell to the five. A cry of hopelessness. And so we mark a new premiere for Europe: in an original democracy, even coups d’etat become perfectly legal. It is now up to each and every citizen to defend the best he can the freedoms won after 1989, the justice and whatever he thinks he can defend. That is, to fight for them, not to cry and complain that a real dictatorship comes, as the one concluding now by the suspension of odious Basescu was a bad joke.
Where are the warring magistrates, judges and prosecutors who were outraged when they saw their wages cut that their independence was affected? Have they already dropped it? Have they all cooled down at the thought that they would all return in the leash of politicians who claimed power today by means of an outrageous action against the state of law?