So it’s not yet over. Romania still has two presidents: one suspended (Traian Basescu) and one interim (Crin Antonescu) taking his place. It’s not wholly unlike the Antipopes of Avignon in the Middle Ages, who claimed that they were the rightful occupants of the throne of St. Peter.
As usual, the outstanding Reuters team in Romania has a first class news report outlining the current situation.
In brief: the Romanian Constitutional Court (CCR) was yesterday expected to declare Sunday’s presidential impeachment referendum result invalid, given that the turnout was slightly below the 50 per cent required.
Instead, the CCR announced that it would delay its decision until September 12th, and asked that Romania’s electoral roll be checked in the meantime. (We wrote about Romania’s outdated electoral roll being a problem three weeks ago).
Until then, be it August 31st or September 12th, Basescu cannot return to office, and thus remains Antipope, with Antonescu remaining Pope. Or something like that.
While nobody should really be surprised by the twists and turns of Romanian politics anymore, few people predicted yesterday’s events. Even the USL appeared to have downed arms, and were resigned to the referendum being declared invalid. The CCR has given them new hope, although we think that all the court is actually doing is covering its own backside.
Cast your minds back and you may remember that the CCR has done much the same thing before, in 2009, when after the closest presidential election in years it demanded that all spoilt ballot papers be recounted. After 137,613 ballat papers were checked, only 2,137 were validated (just 1.6 per cent of the spoilt ballots: 1,169 votes were for Basescu and 968 for his opponent Mircea Geoana). The court then approved the election result and declared Basescu the winner.
We will not second guess the CCR, but we think that this delay will have much the same outcome. A few thousand dead voters will be removed from the electoral roll, but not enough to change the outcome. We expect the referendum to be declared invalid on September 12th.
However, it is worth pointing out that one CCR judge, Aspazia Cojocaru, yesterday said that ‘if it was up to me the referendum would be declared null and void.’ She did not add ‘and repeated’ but that was the word on everybody’s lips. Needless to say repeating the referendum is the nightmare scenario which nobody – and we mean nobody – wants.
Finally, it is worth noting the current make-up of the CCR.
There are nine judges, three appointed by the president, three by the senate and three by parliament. While in most cases a simple 5-4 majority will suffice, in the case of the referendum a 6-3 majority is needed.
Now, while we perish at the thought that their honours would ever vote along political lines, for the sake of clarity here are the the nine current CCR judges and their political affiliation:
Augustin Zegrean – Appointed by Traian Basescu
Petre Lazaroiu – Appointed by Traian Basescu
Iulia Motoc – Appointed by the PDL
Mircea Stefan Minea – Appointed by the PDL
Axinte Gaspar – Appointed by Ion Iliescu
Ion Predescu – Appointed by the PSD
Aspazia Cojocaru – Appointed by the PSD
Tudorel Toader – Appointed by the PNL
Valentin-Zoltan Puskas – Appointed by the UDMR
Makes you wonder if we actually ever will get a decision…
Am now thinking we could hand the decision over to them.