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[ 23rd Oct 2003 ] referendum dot ro | leave a comment |

Life in the Romanian capital is boiling like in a huge ant hill. On foot by streets, in seats of subway trains, buses and at the wheels of cars numerous citizens and visitors of various colors and types are moving around Bucharest. Blinking semaphores, signalling cars, hogging taxi drivers and trams tapping on tracks. But here is a strange thing. Recently like bright blue spots from the daily kaleidoscope something started to appear. Omnipresent agitation posters. "DA" written with capital letters. Yellow five-pointed stars making up Romania's outline on the map.. The matter is the following. Soon a referendum is to take place. The subject is the country's new Constitution which was modified in accordance with demands that the European Union makes of candidate countries. Just because of couriosity, the traditionally apolitical resource decided to make exception by researching the issue.

Internet and the Referendum

The current Constitution of Romania was adopted back in 1991 as a result of the nation-wide referendum that took place on the 8th December the same year. Soon it's going to be modified. So, first yours truly decided to find out: what the population of the Carpathian country will vote for on the 19th October. What are the changes the numerous posters posters, banners and TV ads are encouraging to say a firm "yes" to? Initially my plan was to buy several news-papers and to read them when I have some free time. But then I thought, hey, why not such an information would be available somewhere on internet? Having in mind existance of projects like (e.g. "e-government", the system to provide better communication between the authorities and population with the help of the modern technology), it could be assumed that, let's say, the Parliament's web site would have such an info.

So it was true. On the site's main page, to the right there were the old variant of the fundamental law in html, and the new document with description of the mofications going to be made, in pdf format. The latter describes what and in which paragraph would change in case the referendum has a positive result. The both documents are available in several languages. The funny fact is that both are translated into English and French, like there are major minorities living in Romania speaking these languages.

During several days I was going to start reading the pdf with changes, having the full variant of the old Constitution open in another browser window. It was the only way to understand what actually was changed. Due to permanent being busy I had to postpone that every time, until a friend sent me a link to the Constitution given in a very useful presentation. I wonder though why the guys who are involved into maintenaince of the government web sites didn't come out with such an idea. So here there is a variant written in the following way: the intact text is black, modifications are highlighted with red, and the striked out red are removed parts, respectively. Probably, the most useful to read presentation. Great work.


Besides the text, the site contains some interesting comments. The resource belongs to moderate politicians, thus it's quite possible to agree with their point of view. "The new Constitution is definitely a step forward" -- they say, "but the aggressiveness of agitation for the referendum is formidable". Indeed, the majority of posters say the same thing -- "vote for Europe", not-so-transparently dropping hints that if you don't like their new propositions, neither you want to live in Europe. The whole campaign was aimed to equate the propositions to the new Constitution with entering into the European Union, which was actually not logic, since apart from "european" changes it has a lot of innovations related to the country's political system.

As to the posters, they are everywhere. In the subway there are batches of booklets, on TV there are endless ads. I even decided to make a small photo album with all the ad stuff they made with all possible combinations and places they were put at. There were funny things about it. Once I saw a "Vote for Europe" banner above a road. It was ok, if only it hadn't been put exactly over an ad of some candy or drink, whose slogan was saying something like "one gulp and you'll go crazy". So it was like because of Europe you'd go cazy. Unfortunatelly, it was late and dark, thus I didn't manage to take a picture with that thingie. Then, during whole the week it was raining and I also had a lot of work to do. Maybe I'll still manage to come to the area. It's called the Free press square, and also remarkable because of a building called "House of press". It's former "House of spark", an exact copy of the Lomonosov university from Moscow, a gift from the USSR.

What's new

So what are the innovations the new Constitution would bring to Romania? Let's read. In the first chapter there are some clarifications, about the authorities separation into three branches, that the representativeness of authorities is made through elections, etc. They are just the base principles of democracy. Also the Revolution of 1989 which put the end to the communist dictature was mentioned. More exactly, it says the following: "Romania is a jural, democratic and social state, in which human's dignity, rights and freedoms of citizens, free development of the human's personality, justice and political pluralism represent superior values, in the spirit of democratic traditions of the Romanian people and the ideals of the Revolution of 1989". The part about the Revolution and traditions was added.

It gets more interesting when it comes to the rights of national minorities. In the same chapter called "General principles" the emphasis is laid not only on the Romanian people, but also on the "citizens solidarity": "The basis of the state is unity of the Romanian people and solidarity of its citizens".

A funny observation is that the less words were modified in a paragraph, the more its essence was changed. The most important changes are related to articles from which only one word was cut. For example: "Public, civic and millitary functions and posts can be occupied by persons who have only Romanian citizenship.." This means that now in case of gaining a second citizenship (which is permitted by the law), one still have a right to participate in the state's political life. In the same "Fundamental rights, liberties and obligations" it was added: "The Romanian state guarantees equal chances to men and women in possibility to occupy these posts".

Another example of how cutting out of a single word can affect the essence can be found in "Right on private property": "Private property is equally guaranteed and protected by the law, regardless of the owner's identity. Foreign citizens and persons without citizenship can not get a right to own land". Then a lot of specifications go, like it will be done within the agreements practiced in EU, and based on other international documents signed by Romania. Foreigners will be able to succeed lands they own. It was also added that poperty cannot be nationalized in sign of discrimination by any characteristic.

As to national minorities, the new Constitution will guarantee them a right to have documents circulation in their language in regions where they represent majority. First of all, it concerns the Hungarian who have really big communities in the center and in the West of the country. Living in their villages they don't have any contact with the Romanian language (neither they strive for learning it). So, this innovation is just aimed to legitimate the way how they things really are. Moreover, minorities, foreigners and persons without citizenship will have a right to speak in court through interpreter, even if they know Romanian. Before it was only possible if they didn't know it at all. Well, quite a democratic and positive innovation, which though doesn't change too much.

The rest is not so intersting, because it affects mostly the political system. So reading further articles already made me yawn. Deputees will now take an oath. Someone said they wouldn't enjoy their legal immunity anymore. That's not true. The paragraph about it was rewritten, though its essence remained the same: for commiting a crime one, like it was before, would be able to be arrested only if the chamber he belongs to would agree. By the way, it's quite a normal practice. I remember the course of the Constitution of Ukraine back at the university, which I liked a lot. Our teacher didn't operate dull formulations. Instead, he used to speak about the political stuff in a very interesting and popular way. Also he explaned where a certain practice came from. So, about the immunity. Its initial scope wasn't so that someone could hide his dirty deeds, though needs to say, often it's used exactly for that. However, the practice is aimed to provide better independence of the three branches of power. Imagine yourself a situation when the prime minister (executive power) decided to influence with brute force on some voting in the Parliament (legislative power, respectively). What does the chief of the government would do? He would order the minister of internal affairs to influence the voting on the project he doesn't like. So, everyone they manage to find gets arrested for the law-determined term of 24 hours. Having not gained the required amount of votes, the law doesn't pass. Everything is legal and clean. Arrested deputees can be considered a coincidence.

A "small" modification concerning the President's mandate duration -- it was changed from 4 to 5 years. As to other numbers, citizens' law intiative (which cannot affect taxes and international affairs though) can now be considered having gathered only 100.000 signatures, instead of 250.000 like it was before.

Also, according to the new Constitution, the President cannot revoke the prime minister. However, exactly the himself he proposes a candidature for the prime minister position to the Parliament. Cannot get the sense of this one.

And obviously, the articles about millitary blocks (for NATO) and currency (for Euro) were modified.


Initially it looked to me like in Romania there was no opposition to the new document at all, like everyone is for the united Europe and the society is as a whole in this impulse. It's not quite true. There are some malcontent ones. Here you can find the text in which the new Constitutional propositions are assailed. The majority of organizations signed under this text are rather of ultra-right kind. Like the one called "Christian forum "Noua Dreapta". Having digged at their web site (they have an English translation) one can easily find photos of actions of the "new right" (that's how the name is translated): throwing up hands in Nazi greeting, the "right" are protesting against the homosexual "liberty parade". Organizers of actions with 50 participants are a very persuasive opposition indeed.

To all appearances, it looks like the new Constitution will be adopted. Having in mind the active agitation and referendum preparations, it's hard to imagine that the majority will not vote "placet". Slogans with Europe -- the main fetish of the present will definitely have the desired result, and the country of the Carpathians soon will update its fundamental law. That's the prognosis of In the following few days we'll find out if it proves to be true. Stay tuned.

PS : It's a bit old note which I managed to translate only today. Actually, the referendum has already took place and the result was a positive one.

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