Voting for the European Parliament Election 2019

1. The EU Parliament Election: YES for a small conservative anti-immigration party

Having dual citizenship, US and EU (Romania), I will be able to vote for the European Parliamentary elections on May 23-26, 2019. For this election, Romania will have a number of 32 members of European Parliament (MEPs), and after the departure of United Kingdom from the European Union (Brexit) – 33 MEPs. On the political arena, seven parties are on the cards to be elected. They are aligned with the following Euro-parliamentary groups: (1) EPP/popular (right) – PNL, PMP, UDMR; (2) S&D/socialists (left) – PSD; (3) ALDE/centrists – ALDE, PRO Romania; and (4) New parties – USR+ 2020 Alliance.

Traditionally, the Euro-parliamentary elections in Romania have a low turnout (around 35%) and serve as a barometer for internal (local, parliamentary and presidential) elections. Unfortunately, this year, the situation was no different. Instead of focusing on presenting to the voters their European projects, the political parties preferred to adopt pro and con positions regarding the ruling center-left coalition (PSD and ALDE) and its leader, Liviu Dragnea (currently, the Speaker of the House in Romania), convicted of corruption . The only exception was the People’s Movement Party (PMP), led by Traian Băsescu. Băsescu, a President of Romania between 2004-2014, is the first candidate on his party list and also the first former president running for a position of MEP.

I watched closely the political parties’ electoral debates, rallies and election offers. The Dragnea issue overwhelmingly dominated the electoral campaign and divided the parties into two aggressive camps: for (PSD and ALDE – a party of PNL dissidents) and against (PNL, USR+, PRO Romania – a party of PSD dissidents, and UDMR, who initially supported PSD, but joined the anti-PSD camp just a few days before the election). On the other hand, PMP (a small traditionalist party formed in 2013) has opted to present the voters more clearly their diversified electoral offer on issues of economy (the Rhine-Danube Canal, agricultural subsidies), society (anti-immigration and Judeo-Christian values), politics (integration of the Republic of Moldova into the European Union by re-uniting with Romania), and military (strongly pro-NATO stance and reluctance toward a European Union army without the US).

That is why I am fully convinced that, by voting for PMP for the Euro-parliamentary election in 2019, Romania will have an authoritative voice through President Băsescu in Brussels. He is already known as a good negotiator and a fine connoisseur of European Union intricate procedures.

2. The Justice Referendum: NO for a fake populist initiative

The current President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis (a former PNL member), decided that a referendum on justice could be held with the European Parliament elections on 26 May 2019 in response to the PSD-ALDE government’s intentions to amend criminal legislation and to decriminalize certain offenses. Many have seen, and rightly so, in the government’s actions an attempt to escape Social Democrat leader Liviu Dragnea from the long arm of the law.

In order for the referendum to be validated, a 30% threshold of the voters registered in the permanent electoral rolls was established, according to a December 2013 referendum act. This threshold was lowered from 50% following the failure of an impeachment referendum against President Traian Băsescu in 2012.

The Justice Referendum 2019 contains two topics considered by President Iohannis to be of national interest, namely: (1) the prohibition of amnesty and pardon for corruption offenses, and (2) the ban on government emergency ordinances in the field of criminal offenses, punishments and judicial organization, as well as the right of other constitutional authorities to directly refer the Constitutional Court to ordinances.

President Iohannis, having a generous and commendable intention to fight corruption effectively, urged the electorate to vote with YES on both questions.

Unfortunately (and I say this as a former judge, law professor and legal scientist), legally, the questions are weak, and politically, they have a minimal impact.

From a legal point of view, prohibiting amnesty and pardon for acts of corruption will create discrimination between offenders convicted of this kind of crime (who will not benefit from amnesty and pardon) and offenders convicted of the rest of the crimes, many of which are much more serious than corruption offenses, such as murder or treason (and these offenders will benefit from amnesty and pardon). In addition, in terms of formulation, the questions are too technical for non-specialists and, quite rightly, have created much confusion even among the followers of President Iohannis.

From a political point of view, the questions have a limited vision and seem to be formulated as if the PSD and its allies were to lead Romania forever, without taking into account the parties’ alternation in power, specific to democracy. No earlier than May 2016, the center-right government of Dacian Cioloş issued an emergency ordinance amending the criminal and criminal procedure codes and the judicial organization statute, precisely in those areas that President Iohannis wants now to exclude from emergency ordinances.

Moreover, it is more likely that in the future, for other right-wing governments, situations may arise to justify such decisions. But those decisions will, in turn, be strongly criticized by the leftist opposition on the basis of the same referendum.

Political opponents of President Iohannis have directly announced that they would boycott the referendum (ALDE) or, more subtly, ignore it (PSD), in order to invalidate it by a 30% vote cast. Unfortunately, both President Iohannis and his political opponents are using this referendum (which should have had simpler and clearer questions about justice) not in the idea of ​​reforming Romania, but to score demagogically political points.

As a responsible voter, I will not boycott the referendum and I will not ignore it, but I will vote at this referendum in order to contribute to the 30% validation threshold. I am convinced that the noble intentions of the President will benefit from a majority of YES votes for the two questions.

I will, however, vote NO to both questions for the above-mentioned reasons. It is my reaction to show politicians of all kinds that my vote is accountable to both my own conscience (as a voter) and professional education (as a lawyer), and that this vote cannot be manipulated by any politician in one way or another.

 

NOTE – A version of the article was published in MEDIUM.

 

TIBERIU DIANU has published several books and a host of articles in law, politics, and post-communist societies. He currently lives and works in Washington, DC and can be followed on MEDIUM.

 

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6 comments to Voting for the European Parliament Election 2019

  • MARCELA DESCULTU

    The article describes in detail and very clearly the European Parliament elections in 2019 in Romania. There are several phenomena that took place. The party of former President of Romania, Mr. Traian Băsescu, the People’s Movement Party, has managed to send two MEPs to Brussels, including Mr. Băsescu himself, which is a first one for this type of election. The former president is widely regarded as a person capable to representing his country to the European Parliament. He has many years of political activity in the country’s leadership.

  • MARCELA DESCULTU

    Other political parties focused on the domestic fights and the leader of the party in power, Liviu Dragnea, a social democrat. Dragnea was convicted for instigating abuse of service the second day after the election and sent to prison the same day for three years and a half. His situation dominated the electoral campaign in Romania for other political parties which, instead, chose to ignore the issues of European Union.

  • MARCELA DESCULTU

    The People’s Movement Party opted to avoid getting into domestic debates and stayed focused on their electoral offer for the European Union. Aside from the issues related to the European Parliament election, the article provides explanations also for the Justice Referendum, organized on the same day.

  • DANIELA

    The referendum questions, initiated by the current President of Romania, Mr. Klaus Iohannis, were harshly criticized for being too technical and confusing. It let the impression that, once approved, some offenders (e.g., for corruption) would be discriminated against others, but removing them from the benefits of amnesty and pardon.

  • DANIELA

    The author justified his negative vote for this referendum. The president had a generous intention of fighting against corruption, but the questions were poorly worded.

  • DANIELA

    Many voters, not being lawyers, were put in difficulty on how to answer the referendum questions in an honest and unbiased manner. However, most of them, by voting affirmatively, meant support for the president’s endeavor.

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