Constitution Hill

Well yesterday the parliamentary commission on modifying the Romanian constitution submitted their proposed changes, with all of the Romanian members voting “aye” (in favor) and the lone Hungarian voting “nay” (against) because the proposed changes did not frame the issue of regionalization the way the UDMR (Hungarian party) wanted nor was there any wording about the rights of minorities.

You can click on the link above for an English-language summarization of the report but since not everyone speaks Romanian I thought I’d detail what comes next.

  • The proposed constitutional changes go to the parliament, which must approve them (as a whole, not each change individually) by a two-thirds majority.
  • The proposed changes then go to the Legislative Council of the Parliament, which then has five days to write an advisory report.
  • The proposed changes are then sent to the CCR (effectively the “Supreme Court” of Romania), which has 10 days to issue an advisory report.
  • The advisory reports are then sent back to the same parliamentary commission which wrote the proposed constitutional changes and modifications or amendments can then be made.
  • The proposed constitutional changes (plus amendments and/or modifications) are then sent to the Senate.
  • Senators can add amendments and debate the proposed changes but must adopt the measures with a two-thirds majority for them to be sent to the House.
  • Members of the House can then debate the measures and/or add amendments but must adopt the proposed changes with a two-thirds majority for them to move on.
  • If both houses of parliament approve the measures with a two-thirds majority, it again goes to the CCR for an advisory report.
  • If everything is then approved, the measures are sent back to the Parliament, which then has up to 30 days to schedule a referendum on the proposed changes.

The referendum there in the last step refers to a nationwide vote in which a majority of the eligible voters must pass the constitutional changes in order for them to go into effect.

I don’t think there will be too many impediments in all of the other steps above as the USL controls the commission on modifying the constitution and therefore are already on board with the proposed changes but whether or not the voters will turn out to approve them is far less certain, in my opinion.

There are some key changes to the constitution proposed here, including changing the president’s term of office from 5 years (as it is currently) to 4 years. Also I saw some language saying that the president can only represent Romania at EU meetings if it’s strictly about “foreign affairs”, all of this the result of the brouhaha last June over who would represent Romania at the EU Council meeting (which I wrote about in detail here).

Another big change is that future referendums can be passed if only 30% of eligible voters participate, down from the current 50% + 1. Obviously after wasting a shit ton of money trying to get rid of Basescu through two different referendums and failing the last one due to insufficient turnout, the USL are determined to never let that happen again.

And while there was a lot of talk about “putting God in” the constitution, it looks like the final wording is just going to say that Romania “recognizes the historic role” played by the Orthodox Church and, interestingly enough, the royal house (monarchy).

There are some other interesting proposed changes about the courts but that’s probably too much inside baseball for people reading this so I’ll just tell you to check out this news article in Romanian if you want even more detail.

But I was a little intrigued by the final amendment tacked on by the commission (by member Tudor Chiuariu of the PNL) just before the vote came in. In Romanian it says:

In excercitarea prerogativelor sale BNR nu poate solicita sau primi instructiuni de la nicio institutie a statutului

In English this would be in exercising its prerogatives, the BNR (Central Bank of Romania) can neither solicit nor receive instructions from any branch of the governmentt.

What the hey? I sincerely cannot even begin to parse this one out because the BNR and its long-time leader Mugur Isarescu have been quite independent of all government branches, whether the parliament or the presidency for a long, long time. Isarescu has been running the BNR for nigh on 20 years now so whom he might be “soliciting or receiving” instructions from is beyond my capability to even guess.

It’s the “receiving” end of it that seems ominous to me though because it sounds like a pre-emptive move to go through all the effort of modifying the constitution itself to forbid any branch of the government to tell the BNR what to do, like down the line somewhere a president or prime minister might actually, you know, get involved with the money supply. And God knows we can’t have democracy interfering in weighty issues like that!

All in all, it’ll be interesting seeing the debates (and bombastic rhetoric) on these proposed constitutional changes and then when it gets kicked out to the public for their vote, to see whether or not it passes. I’ll definitely be keeping a sharp on all that this summer and update you if anything interesting pops up.

The playground of politicians
The playground of politicians

One thought on “Constitution Hill

  1. There’s no need for conspiracy theories, Sam. The amendment that got you on pins and needles was actually proposed by the BNR itself. Maybe Isarescu just felt he needed some sort of reassurance, given the latest “democratic” changes since USL came to power…


Got something to say? Try to be nice!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.