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Non-integration of the Romanian political class to the European Union

George ANGLIȚOIU

The Romanian political agenda is focused these days on the political objective of introducing the unicameral parliamentary system. The natural question is whether the initiative is worth the effort, and if so, which is the model to be followed?



Prerequisites for unicameralism

 

The objective of introducing a single-chamber Parliament has the incumbent President as a promoter, although he is not the initiator of the proposal. The civil society, through various non-governmental organisations, and as of late (but before Traian Băsescu) PSD leader Mircea Geoană phrased out the need for such a constitutional modification. Readers will likely remember that in various articles and comments I voiced my support for unicameralism, yet on several imperative prerequisites.

The first prerequisite refers to giving up the current list-voting election system. One of the main reasons for the under-performance of the Romanian political community in the transition period resides in the maintenance of an electoral formula which fails to promote candidates' actual value, but specific back-stage manoeuvres. When the electoral lists of a party or coalition of parties are drawn up through headquarters-directed arrangements and distribution of privileged candidates to constituencies depending on the perceived eligibility rate in the respective constituencies, the resulting Parliament will a priori lose some of its relevance and effectiveness. The core mission of a parliamentary assembly in any democracy is to represent the electorate. But how is this noble (and quite lucrative) goal to be reached, if more often than not candidates pop up in electoral lists for counties they have no relation to, whether by birth, career or affinity? Which accounts for the newly elected representatives' lack of interest, shortly after the electoral campaign concludes and results are validated, as the fatigue accrued in the electoral battle in constituencies must be compensated by absenteeism and indifference. Fridays are, under the law, dedicated to MPs' activity in constituencies. We invite our readers to pay a visit to their representative on such days, and keep our fingers crossed, wishing them to at least meet him there, let alone get his attention (or interest) on a problem.

The second prerequisite refers to rejection of the alternative proposed by the former Opposition/incumbent Power in 2001-2004, namely that of uninominal voting. In order to avoid the arrangements specific to the current formula, the nominal alternative lays emphasis on the voters' selecting their favourite candidates out of the electoral lists proposed by political parties. Consequently, the mathematics of positioning in the list would be avoided, yet the alternative threatens to baffle the electorate, which will face the same huge lists of candidates, whom they had little time to see in action. The hazard rate would be a lot higher, as voters risk making erratic, uninformed choices.

 

The Anglo-Saxon model

 

The imperative condition for a successful reform of the parliamentary system is nonetheless related to a reform of the electoral system, in the sense of bringing it closer to the Anglo-Saxon one. Thus, the British and American electoral systems stand out as the best solution in terms of representation, effectiveness and accountability, as they are based on competition between candidates within a constituency, and not on list-voting. The traditional Anglo-Saxon model is a lot closer to citizens, as it proposes actual people, identifiable candidates, individually engaged in the electoral competition (regardless of their membership to a particular party), which allows for better assessment of both their moral past as members of the community, and of their political-professional development.

The famous House of Communes (the lower chamber of the British Parliament) is the best concrete example for what our unicameral Legislative body should look like.Given the very physical positioning of the Power and Opposition - face to face - the efficient pace and tension are ensured, which should define a Parliament of citizens. Winston Churchill, MP, could never afford to snooze in the House of Communes or to regularly and without grounds skip chamber meetings. The voters in his constituency could never be lied to for another term in office, as in the British political life the concept of accountability is a vigorous one, which can ensure one's political rise or rapid fall.

The House of Communes counts 646 MPs for a total population of 60,441,457, whereas the Parliament of Romania is made up of 469 members (137 of whom in Senate) for a population of 21,698,181, according to the census in 2002. The calculation is quite simple: for a population approx. three times larger, UK has a number of MPs only approx. by one third larger than Romania.

 

A flooded country, yet brimming with MPs

 

The Romanian parliamentary model is not one-of-a-kind, but follows the French one, as most of our public life parameters do. The French bicameralism may have been useful in the early times of the Romanian modern state, when attachment to the French culture, based on the major role Paris played in the world, was different. The French model may have served the cause of the representative existence of Greater Romania (between the world wars) precisely in view of ensuring harmonisation and access of as many ethnic communities and territorial entities that had recently joined the State-.

Today however, bicameralism is only a waste of time (as long as the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate have the same, overlapping attributions), a huge financial loss and an unacceptable political relationship with an electorate perplexed by the disgusting show offered by the local sinecure hunters. Because, after all, what levers can the Romanian nation divided into county constituencies use, for instance, with respect to the elected MPs who decide to leave the party on whose lists they were elected, and to suddenly change their political complexion, according to their personal interests? None whatsoever, because the current legislation does not sanction "political migrants" by having their parliamentary office suspended. What are the means available to Romanian voters to sanction the parties in the current political configuration, which decide to cross over from left to right, although elected for a different political doctrine? Isn't it political fraud, which has got out of control? What can the nation do about the corruption in the Parliament's administrative system, where the Secretary General can build a luxury underground leisure facility without Chamber leaders knowing anything about it, lead the flawed reconstruction works on the Senate wing in the Palace-, and still keep his office in spite of the huge scandal thus created?

But let's take a look at the past month's parliamentary agenda, considering that September naturally precedes the month when the European Commission is to release its annual report, against which Romania's EU accession date will be assessed. Are the safeguard clauses in the focus on the two legislative chambers' attention? Are the floods in the focus on MPs' attention, when they ought to be in constituencies, to support their disaster-stricken voters?

The Romanian parliamentarians' attention focuses however on the regulation modifications, which would allow for the speakers of the two chambers to be replaced. The result? A grotesque and never-ending show, featuring indecency and coarseness funded on public money.

 

Final questions

 

Did you know that the British PM comes on a weekly basis to the House of Communes, to answer for the Government's activity, or that the American President, again once a week, addresses the nation over the radio? Did you know that the Anglo-Saxon political model avoids summit-level overlapping and competition, either by assigning the prominent role to the Head of Government (UK, where the Head of State, the monarch, only has formal prerogatives), or by integrating the two offices (USA)?

 

 

 

by George ANGLIȚOIU

Publicat în : English  de la numărul 30

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