Between 5 and 7.000 people gathered in Bucharest in Revolution Square to protest against the attempt by the current socialist government of Romania to overthrow conservative president Traian Băsescu. The protesters held signs reminding the plagiarism scandal in which prime-minister Victor Ponta (social-democrat) was involved and accusing the left wing (social-liberal) coalition in power of attacking the Constitution.
scandals shaking the Government
The less than two months of Ponta Government were marked by numerous scandals, starting with the attempted cover-up during the trial of former socialist prime-minister, Adrian Năstase. Mentor of current prime-minister, Năstase was convicted for corruption regarding his campaign financing, at the end of an 8 years long trial. The sentence for two years in jail for Năstase send shock waves over the entire political class, and the coalition in power stood by him when the former PSD leader allegedly attempted to shoot himself when Police came to arrest him, in an event that is still under investigation.

A plagiarism scandal emerged when it was found out that prime-minister Ponta copied almost one third of his PhD thesis on law, conducted by Năstase. Ponta promised Spanish newspaper El Pais he will resign if the investigating commission will find him guilty of plagiarism, but dissolved the commission during the deliberation day, in which all members of that commission found him guilty. Another embarrassing detail from Victor Ponta’s past emerged when the rector of an Italian university from Catania, where Victor Ponta maintains he obtained his masters degree in law, said Ponta never attended classes there.

Victor Ponta and his social-liberal coalition partners responded by reigniting the eight years war with current president, Traian Băsescu. The Constitutional Court ruled the dispute of who should represent the country at the European Union summit in Brussels, in favor of the president. But the prime-minister chose to ignore that verdict, and instead went to the Brussels meeting instead of the president. Moreover, the coalition took several measures to change the prerogatives of the Constitutional Court, and replaced People’s Attorney, who was the institution that could challenge the legality of some acts. In the perspective of the ongoing procedure of impeachment against the president, the law about the referendum was also changed, making it much easier for a president to be removed from power.

second impeachment against current president

It is the second time an impeachment is carried against president Traian Băsescu. The last attempt failed in 2007, when the referendum overwhelmingly confirmed Băsescu’s position. The conservative president won a second term after that in 2009, for a 5 years term, after a very tight victory. The position of Băsescu, under who’s first term Romania was admitted as full member of EU, is now much feeble. Romania was severely hit by the economic European crisis, and the president affirmed his full support for drastic austerity measures, that included 25% cuts on state employee and other pension and welfare cuts. These measures made Băsescu’s popularity plunge from high to alarm levels and cost the right wing coalition to lose power in April after two different governments were overthrown by the government.
In the probable event that the impeachment is voted by the Parliament, a referendum will be carried out, in which annalists predict Băsescu will suffer his first electoral defeat.

right wing coalition reuniting

The protests for the Constitution and for the incumbent president were organized by the former governing party, PDL (liberal democrat). But the star of the event was Mihai Răzvan Ungureanu (MRU), the former prime-minister, who was ousted out of office after 3 months, the shortest term in Romanian history. MRU is viewed as the logical successor of Băsescu and is expected to run for presidency should Băsescu be voted out by the people at the referendum. A history professor and former Foreign Affairs minister and head of Romanian espionage, Ungureanu is a highly educated yet mysterious character, entered the spotlights in January this year, when he was appointed prime-minister.

Ungureanu is expected to lead a right wing coalition formed with PDL and other smaller parties of conservative and Christian democratic view, in an attempt to overthrow the current governing coalition, USL formed by PSD (social democrat) and PNL (liberal).

Romanian public opinion is deeply divided between the two sides, and especially on the view of controversial president Traian Băsescu. In the same time with this protest, another smaller rally was held in University Square, attended by different civic groups, some against the president, others against all existing political parties.

concerns about Romanian democracy

The rapid events in Romanian politics raised concerns in the Western world. New York Times columnist, Paul Krugman, called the actions by the government as unconstitutional, while American ambassador in Bucharest, Mark Gittenstein, called them „a black day”, warning against possible consequences on the financial markets. The national currency continued to devalue following the uncertainty on the political scene. Several EU officials, including EU Commissioner for Justice, Viviane Reding, expressed their concern about the limitations of Romanian judicial system.

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