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Report – Political rights violations using undemocratic stipulations in Romanian Electoral Laws System

Oct 20th, 2009 | By | Category: Articole

To The European Parliament

Political rights violations using undemocratic stipulations

in Romanian Electoral Laws System

poster_remus_cernea pentru homepage

Contents:

Introduction

1. The electoral law for general elections generates a severe discrimination among the parties engaged in the electoral competition.

2. For the first time in the universal history of elections, the voting system is conceived in such a manner that some parties engaged in the electoral competition have no chance at all to win at least a single seat in the Parliament.

3. The law contradicts itself and only in certain circumstances, achievable out of pure luck, the parliamentary mandates may be assigned. The law is therefore useless in most cases.

4. The electoral law discriminates voters from different electoral constituencies, breaking the principle of the “equal voting power”. The “Code of good practice in electoral matters”, elaborated by the European Commission for Democracy Through Law – “Venice Commission” and adopted by the Council of Europe through Resolution 1320/2003, does not allow differences exceeding 10% in the number of voters within different uninominal constituencies except special circumstances when the difference can reach a maximum of 15%. The difference amongst electoral constituencies is frequently higher than 100% in Romania.

5. Some stipulations of the electoral law severely discriminate the independent candidates.

6. The electoral law no. 35/2008 promulgated by the President of Romania in March 2008 was later modified by the Urgent Government Decree no. 97/2008 from 29th of August 2008. The modified version operates 92 alterations but creates an even greater confusion. The map of electoral constituencies was finalized during September and the elections date was November 30th, less than three months after the changes of law were adopted.

7. The Law no. 35/2008 was so superficially conceived that it contradicts itself and it is restricting the access to media for some parties and independent candidates.

8. Excessive, arbitrary and abusive provisions of the law have made it extremely difficult for the independents to submit their candidacy in the Parliamentary Election of 2008 because Romania has the most restrictive preliminary conditions in the European Union for registering a candidature. For instance, the number of signatures required for making a candidate eligible is 4 times above the maximum limit accepted by the Council of Europe and the deposit submitted by the independent candidates is not refundable unless they obtain 20% of the votes in their electoral constituency.

9. If a Romanian citizen having his/her legal residence in Romania is abroad on Election Day, his/her legal right to vote is annulled. The right to vote is also denied to any citizen who is out of his/her residence city, town or village on Elections Day, even if the citizen is on Romanian territory.

10. The political parties’ law, no. 14 from January 9th 2003, stipulates the most disadvantageous requirements in the European Union for registering a new political party. A political party may become legal in Romania only if it is founded by 25,000 members residing in 22 Romanian counties out of 42.

11. The Romanian Constitution (Art. 82, paragraph 2 and Art. 104) violates the freedom of thought, conscience and religion by granting the right to be elected or to be appointed as President, Prime Minister, Minister or member of the Government only to the individuals embracing a monotheistic religion. The article 9 from the European Convention of Human Rights, ratified by Romania, is therefore violated.


Remus Cernea speaking at the 11th EUROPEAN GREEN PARTY COUNCIL MEETING

Malmö, Sweden, 16-18 October 2009

Introduction

The following report is based on an in-depth analysis of the electoral legislation in Romania conducted by Mr. Remus Cernea, President of the Romanian Humanist Association.

The report will reveal major issues that abusively restrict the right to elect and to be elected in a European Union member state.

The signatory party of this memorandum defends the civil and political rights of all the Romanian citizens and express its hope that the European Parliament and the other EU institutions shall make all necessary efforts in order to determine Romania to respect these rights.

Each member state of the European Union is entitled to decide alone upon its electoral system. Nevertheless, when the electoral law arbitrarily restricts individual rights and it is generating serious discriminations, the issue should become of European importance. A response from the EU institutions is therefore absolutely legitimate and necessary.

Among the European Union member states, Romania has the most restrictive procedure in registering a political party and the most discriminatory requirements for candidacy in the electoral process. Not least, according to the Romanian Constitution some citizens are deprived of the right to be elected or appointed in the office on religious grounds.

The latest electoral law issued in Romania in 2008 is flagrantly disregarding the “Code of good practice in electoral matters” legislated by European Commission for Democracy Through Law – “Venice Commission” and adopted by the Council of Europe through Resolution 1320/2003. The options of some political parties in registering candidates are limited and the rights of independent candidates to run for a public office are arbitrarily restricted. The electoral system introduced in 2008 for general elections is a discriminatory and an unjust one, causing serious violations of fundamental rights. Romania is far from having free and fair elections. A thorough analysis of electoral practices in Romania will confirm the previous statement.

The immediate consequence of these provisions is the severe deterioration of democracy in Romania creating the perfect environment for distorting the political will of Romanian citizens. In the absence of a vigorous intervention from the empowered European institutions the electoral process will continue to be unjust and discriminatory, strikingly contrasting with the electoral systems in the democratic countries.

A deep reform of the Romanian electoral system is required and there is evidence that without assistance from European experts the mission is next to impossible. The European expertise and scrutiny are crucial in fighting the local party interests and in imposing the democratic standards.

The major issues concerning the Romanian electoral system are stressed below. Some of them are the subject of a complaint lodged by the president of the Romanian Humanist Association to the National Council for Combating Discrimination on September 23 2008. The Council failed to reply an answer so far.

Malmo 01 crop pentru site

The 11th EUROPEAN GREEN PARTY COUNCIL MEETING,

Malmö, Sweden, 16-18 October 2009

1. The electoral law for general elections generates a severe discrimination among the parties engaged in the electoral competition.

The new electoral system introduced for the general elections in November 30th 2008 is one with uninominal constituencies applications.

The law stipulates that a deposit of 5 monthly minimum wages should be paid for each candidate. Thus, the cost of a candidacy was 2500 RON, approximately 700 Euro or 1,000 USD at the moment of the general elections in November 2008. The amount was particularly high considering the low income of Romanian citizens, among the lowest in Europe.

There are 315 seats for the Chamber of Deputies, 137 seats for the Senate and 19 seats for minorities summing up to a total of 471 parliamentary mandates. Our calculation indicates that a party cannot afford to register candidates in all uninominal constituencies for both Chambers of the Parliament unless is able to pay about 316,400 Euro (453,000 USD) which constitutes an exception in the European Union.

Such a deposit is not required in countries like Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain or Sweden.

There are other countries where a deposit is required but, as you will see below, the amounts are considerably smaller than in Romania:

  • Czech Republic, the deposit is 7000 Euro nationally for each party;
  • Estonia, two minimum wages for each candidate;
  • Greece requires a non-reimbursable fee of 146.74 Euro for each candidate;
  • Latvia, a maximum of 7100 Euro at the national level depending on how many lists of candidates are proposed by each party in the 5 constituencies of the country;
  • Lithuania, an average monthly salary;
  • Netherlands 11,250 for each party nationally;
  • only Britain has a comparable amount summing 500 Pounds sterling (about 700 Euro) each candidate[1], but there is a huge difference of income between British citizens and Romanian citizens. Average annual salary in Romania is about 3500 Euro while in the UK is over 20,000 Pounds Sterling[2].

These provisions arbitrarily restrict the right of Romanian citizens to participate in elections. It is completely ignored the “Code of good practice in electoral matters” legislated by the Venice Commission, which was enacted by the Council of Europe through Resolution 1320/2003, stating in the article 1.3 paragraph vi: “If a deposit is required, it must be refundable should the candidate or party exceed a certain score; the sum and the score requested should not be excessive.”[3]

The circumstances are worsened by the procedure of assigning the parliamentary mandates, another discriminative aspect of the Romanian electoral system.

As noted above, the deposits required for parties to propose candidates in all constituencies are considerably high. However, the parliamentary seats are not assigned according to the results obtained by the candidates in their constituencies, but proportionally, based on percentages of votes obtained by the parties at the county constituencies level in the first instance, and national level in the second stage. Thus, the parties  affording to register candidates in all uninominal constituencies will get the more votes,  while other parties,  unable to pay for all constituencies, are disadvantaged from the start and will only collect votes from constituencies where they submitted deposits. Such a system is absolutely unique, discriminatory and undemocratic!

Under the circumstances, the electoral competition in 2008 was deeply corrupted. Each candidate of a smaller party was running against several candidates from another party on the basis of difference in number of constituencies where parties submitted deposits and proposed candidates.

A perfect way to illustrate the abnormal method of assigning the mandates would be the example of The Green Ecologist Party Alliance in the general election on November 30th 2008. The Green Ecologist Party Alliance has been able to pay the deposit required by law for 70 candidates in the Chamber of Deputies and 48 in the Senate. In the Chamber of Deputies, the 70 candidates of the Green Ecologist Party Alliance had to confront 315 opponents from the major parties. Taking out the number of seats reserved for the representatives of minorities, the ratio was 1 versus 4,5. In the Senate, 48 candidates of the Green Ecologist Party Alliance had faced 137 candidates from the major parties. The ratio was 1 to 2.85.

The articles of law no. 35/2008 generating discrimination among the parties are: article 29, paragraph 5[4] stipulating that each candidate must set up a deposit of 5 (five) minimum monthly wages (2500 RON = 500 RON x 5); and article 48 stressing that the parliamentary mandates will be distributed according to the score obtained by political parties at the constituency level, in the first stage and the score obtained at the national level, in the second phase of the procedure.

Malmo 02

The 11th EUROPEAN GREEN PARTY COUNCIL MEETING,

Malmö, Sweden, 16-18 October 2009

2. For the first time in the universal history of elections, the voting system is conceived in such a manner that some parties engaged in the electoral competition have no chance at all to win at least a single seat in the Parliament.

Three out of eleven political parties found themselves in this absurd situation on 30th of November 2008.

The list of the parties which have registered candidates at the Central Electoral Bureau shows that 11 parties and 31 independent candidates have participated in general elections.

The law provides two thresholds for acceding in the parliament. The first is 5% of votes received nationally for the Chamber of Deputies, and 5% of votes received nationally for the Senate, and the second is 3 candidates placed first in their constituencies for the Senate and 6 for Chamber of Deputies.

Since the parties achieving positions 9th to 11th (PNDC, PSR, PRE) who proposed 6, 2 and 1 candidates do not have the minimum number of candidates provided by the electoral threshold, their applications became superfluous.

Extremely restrictive conditions for registration of candidates (a deposit of 2500 RON) and unfair and discriminatory allocation of seats led to a unique situation unmatched in any other democratic country.

Malmo 03

The 11th EUROPEAN GREEN PARTY COUNCIL MEETING,

Malmö, Sweden, 16-18 October 2009

3. The law contradicts itself and only in certain circumstances, achievable out of pure luck, the parliamentary mandates may be assigned. The law is therefore useless in most cases.

    Thus, the electoral law no. 35/2008 stipulates in Article 5. (1) that: “Deputies and senators are elected in uninominal constituencies established under Art.11, by uninominal ballot, according to the principle of proportional representation.“ Therefore, if a party obtains 5% of the votes will get 5% of the seats. However, Article 48 (11) stipulates that: “In the first stage, at the uninominal constituency level, a seat is given to candidates belonging to a competitor that has met electoral threshold according to Art 47. (2) and who have obtained a majority of valid votes cast in their  uninominal constituency.” This means that those candidates of parties that obtain in their constituencies at least 50% plus 1 vote will automatically gain parliamentary seats, without reaching the redistribution stage.

    But it is very likely for one party to win 5% of the national votes and its candidates obtained over 50% plus 1 vote only in 8% of the uninominal constituencies, for instance. In such occurrence the law will prove its self-contradictory character  since it is impossible to determine how many seats the party will actually receive: 5% according to Article 5 (1) or 8% according to Article 48 (11).

    Malmo 04

    Remus Cernea in Malmö, Sweden, 18th October 2009

    4. The electoral law discriminates voters from different electoral constituencies, breaking the principle of the “equal voting power”. The “Code of good practice in electoral matters”, elaborated by the European Commission for Democracy Through Law – “Venice Commission” and adopted by the Council of Europe through Resolution 1320/2003, does not allow differences exceeding 10% in the number of voters within different uninominal constituencies except special circumstances when the difference can reach a maximum of 15%. The difference amongst electoral constituencies is frequently higher than 100% in Romania.

    The electoral competition is uneven since in a certain uninominal constituency an MP may be elected by collecting 10,000 votes while in some other constituency 100,000 votes is required. Uninominal constituencies should have a relatively equal number of people entitled to vote, to ensure an equivalence of voting power.

    Instead, the Romanian electoral law adopted by the Parliament permits a difference of 30% among the number of voters from different constituencies. Even worse, the law no. 35/2008 was amended by GEO 97/29.08.2008 introducing an ambiguous term in the text – “usually” – when referring to this threshold of 30%. Thus, in practice, the demarcation of constituencies has led to differences even greater than that, often reaching 40-50% and even 100% in most of the Romanian counties.

    The law stipulates in Article 5 paragraphs 2 and 3 that the number of voters in each constituency should be 70,000 for a deputy and 160,000 for a senator. However, constituencies for the Chamber of Deputies no. 16 and no. 17 in Bucharest had less than 47,000 voters each, while other constituencies had about 88,000 voters, a difference greater than 30%, overruling the law stipulations. In the county of Constanţa, the smallest constituency for the Chamber of Deputies had about 39,000 voters and the largest over 80,000. In the county of Neamţ, the smallest constituency for the Senate has 136,934 voters and the largest has 222,134.

    This irregular delimitation of constituencies has made the fraud possible, favoring some candidates in particular. The leaders of the major parties could easily run in constituencies that were previously cut and adjusted in order to maximize their chances of success. There are plenty of evidence proving that most of the top political figures did not face a strong opponent in their electoral constituencies.

    The 2008 parliamentary elections put Romanians in front of a strange phenomenon: the major parties have distributed the electoral constituencies among themselves, in a convenient way for everybody. A short trip in the country, from region to region, or in the Capital city, would have been enough evidence to understand that parties were campaigning intensively only in the constituencies where they were supposed to win. In many constituencies one single party was present in the outdoor advertising leaving the impression that voters had no other choice. Electoral process was again corrupted by the absence of a real competition within each constituency.

    5. Some stipulations of the electoral law severely discriminate the independent candidates.

    The electoral law stipulates, although not in a firm manner, that independent candidates may obtain a mandate only if they achieve 50% plus 1 of the valid votes cast in their constituencies.

    Given the fact that a candidate on behalf of a party can be elected with 50% plus 1 vote, in the first stage, or based on any percentage in the second stage of redistribution, the independent candidates are obviously discriminated. In order to avoid this type of discrimination, the law should grant the seat to those independent candidates who win the largest amount of votes in their constituency, regardless the percentage.

    The situation is worse because of the law which is very ambiguous in this regard. The version adopted by the Senate was specifically stating that only the independent candidates who obtained 50% plus 1 votes would enter the Parliament. However, in the final version of the law, adopted by the Chamber of Deputies, in Article 48 (4), the formula of 50% plus 1 vote was replaced by the word “majority”. The term “majority” may be understood in different ways in this particular case: it could mean 50% plus 1 vote but it may also mean the greatest number of votes obtained.

    Unlike any previous general elections in the last 20 years, on November 30th 2008, not a single independent candidate won a seat in the Romanian Parliament.

    6. The electoral law no. 35/2008 promulgated by the President of Romania in March 2008 was later modified by the Urgent Government Decree no. 97/2008 from 29th of August 2008. The modified version operates 92 alterations but creates an even greater confusion. The map of electoral constituencies was finalized during September and the elections date was November 30th, less than three months after the changes of law were adopted.

    Given the importance of elections for political stability and democracy of a country, the Council of Europe advises not to modify an electoral law later than one year ahead of the election date. Romania has defied this recommendation.

    The “Code of good practice in electoral matters”, Section II. Conditions for implementing the principles (which are the bases of a democratic electoral system), and point 2. Regulatory levels and stability of electoral law, (b). stipulates that: The fundamental elements of electoral law, in particular the electoral system proper, membership of electoral commissions and the drawing of constituency boundaries, should not be open to amendment less than one year before an election, or should be written in the constitution or at a level higher than ordinary law.

    The radical change in the voting system only 8 months before the election has led to a poor understanding of the procedures from the population, the press and institutions and the electoral process has been damaged severely: the turnout was the lowest in 20 years and the algorithm deciding how the seats will be distributed remained a surprise factor. Some candidates have managed to win a seat in Parliament collecting only few dozen votes in their constituency, others from the fourth position in their constituencies. Dissatisfaction was broad but the essential factors that have led to these unfair results have not been brought into the public debate. The population holds a general belief that the electoral process was the result of an arrangement between the major parties to consolidate their power through massive fraud and to eliminate any fair competition.

    The public opinion has little information about the minimum requirements for an electoral law to be a democratic one therefore, despite the general dissatisfaction over the new voting system, the public protests were ignored and feebly covered by media.

    Since the law was passed in such a haste the essential provisions of the electoral process have not been debated and there was no time to make any adjustments. The authorities failed to properly inform the citizens and it was a difficult task for many voters to find out in which uninominal constituency they were supposed vote and who the candidates were there.

    7. The Law no. 35/2008 was so superficially conceived that it contradicts itself and it is restricting the access to media for some parties and independent candidates.

    According to the Article 29 paragraph 3 of the electoral law, the deadline for the candidature submissions is 40 days before the election. Yet, according to Article 15 of the same law, the Central Electoral Bureau collects data and communicates it to the public broadcasters in order to allocate the air time. Thus, this is scheduled to happen after the deadline for registration expires.

    Still, this is in obvious contradiction with Article 38, paragraph 2 of the exactly the same law, stating that: “Political parties, political alliances, electoral alliances, organizations of citizens belonging to national minorities that participate in elections, as well as independent candidates are required to request within 48 hours from the date when the voting day is set the air times form board of public broadcasters. After this period no application is taken into account.”

    Things get even more confusing when you read the Article 7 paragraph 1 of Law no. 35/2008 stipulating that the voting date is to be set with at least 90 days before the elections day.

    Thus, on one hand, according to Article 7 paragraph 1 and Article 38 paragraph 2, the air times must be requested from public broadcasters with up to 88 days before the election, any subsequent request being considered invalid; on the other hand, the Article 29. Paragraph 3, says that the Central Electoral Bureau is the authority requesting air time after registering the candidatures, with less than 40 days before the elections.

    This is an obvious contradiction generating chaos, abuse and discrimination when allocating the air time! It is especially disfavoring the independent candidates who must collect a certain number of signatures from supporters prior to register their candidature.

    In our opinion, it would be more effective if the public broadcasters receive data from the Central Electoral Bureau and allocate the free air time granted by law according to the information provided by the Bureau.

    As a result of this chain of errors, some parties and the vast majority of the independent candidates running in 2008 election campaign did not fully benefit of the rights granted by law in terms of free air time on public radio and television. The fairness of the election campaign was once again damaged by the uneven coverage of the candidates in media.

    8. Excessive, arbitrary and abusive provisions of the law have made it extremely difficult for the independents to submit their candidacy in the Parliamentary Election of 2008 because Romania has the most restrictive preliminary conditions in the European Union for registering a candidature. For instance, the number of signatures required for making a candidate eligible is 4 times above the maximum limit accepted by the Council of Europe and the deposit submitted by the independent candidates is not refundable unless they obtain 20% of the votes in their electoral constituency.

    The number of signatures necessary for submitting a candidature as an independent is 4 times higher in Romania than the maximum number allowed by the Council of Europe in Resolution 1320/2003 which adopts the “Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters” elaborated by the European Commission for Democracy Through Law – “The Venice Commission” – (thus affecting the right to be elected stipulated in Art. 37 of the Romanian Constitution).

    Art. 30 paragraph (1) of Law no. 35/2008 stipulates: “Independent candidates must be supported by a minimum of 4% of the total number of voters registered in the permanent electoral lists of the uninominal constituency where they submit their candidature but no fewer than 2.000 voters for the Chamber of Deputies and 4.000 voters for the Senate.”

    The “Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters” which, after the year 2003 should be the foundation and reference for any new electoral law in Europe, in Art. 1.3. titled “Submission of candidatures” point “ii” provides that: “The law should not require collection of the signatures of more than 1% of voters in the constituency concerned”.

    Among the 27 EU member states, the number of signatures varies, usually, from a few signatures to several hundred: Malta – 4, The United Kingdom of Great Britain – 10, Greece – 12, Ireland – 30, Slovenia – 50, Finland – 100, Denmark – 150, Germany – 200, Luxembourg – 250, Austria and Belgium between 200 and 500 – for the lower Chamber of Parliament.

    The superior limit of the number of signatures is established by countries like: Czech Republic, Lithuania and Poland with 1000 signatures, Spain – 1% of the voters from a constituency. Bulgaria requires a comparable number, from 1100 up to 2000, according to the size of the constituency.

    Another stipulation directed against the independent candidates is set by Article 29, paragraph 5 of Law No. 35/2008 which provides that the deposit of 2500 RON (about 700 Euro) shall be refunded only to the independent candidates obtaining at least 20% of the votes. Nowhere in the EU this threshold is higher than 5% of votes, the Venice Commission Guide quoted above in this respect, provides an express requirement for a reasonable threshold. Romanian law is excessive and discriminatory for the independent candidates and establishes a preference for candidates proposed by the parties.

    It also worth mentioning that for the European Parliament Election held in Romania in June 2009, the parties had to collect 200,000 signatures in order to present a list of 43 candidates, while independent candidates had to collect a total of 100,000 signatures in just 30 days which is also a very restrictive measure.

    9. If a Romanian citizen having his/her legal residence in Romania is abroad on Election Day, his/her legal right to vote is annulled. The right to vote is also denied to any citizen who is out of his/her residence city, town or village on Elections Day, even if the citizen is on Romanian territory.

    The law no. 35/2008 in Art 8 provides that: – “(1) Each voter shall exercise their voting right at a polling station where they are registered in the  electoral roll within the city/town of residence, except for the candidates who can vote at one polling station within their uninominal constituency. (2) Romanian citizens with voting rights, residing abroad shall exercise their voting right at one polling station in the country in which they are resident (…)”

    The consequence of the Art. 8 is that the voters are virtually “bounded to their address” in the sense that only citizens who are at home on the elections day can make use of their voting rights. If individuals are forced to choose between their right to vote and their freedom of movement, they are facing a severe restriction which, ultimately will lead to millions of Romanian citizens being excluded from the electoral process in an undemocratic and arbitrary way.

    A democratic electoral law should be designed in order to meet the desire of citizens to vote, instead of preventing them to do so in an arbitrary manner.

    The Romanian Constitution guarantees in Article 25 (1) “the freedom of movement“. The state, as the supreme guarantor of the fundamental rights, should not force its citizens into choosing some rights over others but to make all necessary efforts to ensure they exercise all these rights. This is well understood and put into practice by all the European democracies. Even the Romanian Constitution states a principle of law that is completely ignored by the law of proportional voting system that has been implemented in uninominal constituencies:

    ARTICLE 53

    “(1) The exercise of certain rights or freedoms may only be restricted by law, and only if necessary, as the case may be, for: the defense of national security, of public order, health, or morals, of the citizens’ rights and freedoms; conducting a criminal investigation; preventing the consequences of a natural calamity, disaster, or an extremely severe catastrophe.

    (2) Such restriction shall only be ordered if necessary in a democratic society. The measure shall be proportional to the situation having caused it, applied without discrimination, and without infringing on the existence of such right or freedom.”

    It is obvious that the restrictions imposed by the Law no. 35/2008 does not fit within the list of those accepted by the Constitution. Due to business trips, health condition, studies, tourism or other objective reasons, many citizens were not they were not in the areas of their legal residence on the elections day and for that matter they were arbitrarily excluded from the category of those who can exercise their right to vote.

    In most democratic countries the voting right may be exercised anywhere within their territory. Where the electoral system is conceived in such a way that citizens vote in constituencies or electoral uninominal constituencies, alternative routes are provided (vote by mail, vote early, vote electronically, mobile polling stations, etc.) allowing and supporting each citizen who wishes to exercise his right to vote, even if, for various reasons, he is unable to be present at the polling section where he was registered.

    10. The political parties law, no. 14 from January 9th 2003, stipulates the most disadvantageous requirements in the European Union for registering a new political party. A political party may become legal in Romania only if it is founded by 25,000 members residing in 22 Romanian counties out of 42.

    This law obstructs the right of association (Article 40 of the Romanian Constitution[5]) and the right to be elected (Article 37 of the Constitution). In Romania it is almost impossible for a group of people to register a political party unless they have significant financial resources. But politics should not be conditioned by financial status and any discrimination on grounds of wealth is prohibited by Article 4 paragraph 2 of the Constitution.

    In addition, the existence of regional political parties is arbitrary and abusively restricted. Regional political parties are found in many European countries and they substantially contribute to democratic political life.

    In most EU countries, just few people are enough to set up a party (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden – up to 10 members, Bulgaria – 50 members). The rare exceptions where you need a greater number of founding members refer to several hundred members or: 1000 members in Poland and Estonia, 5000 members in Finland and Hungary and 7500 members in Portugal.

    The purpose behind the decision of the Romanian parliamentary parties to vote such a restrictive law is crystal clear: they intend to block the emergence of any potential competitors. Basically, the right to establish political parties is recognized only for people with huge financial resources. In order to establish a new party with 25,000 members and open functional branches in half plus one of the counties, one needs hundreds of thousands maybe millions Euro, depending on the number of functional branches.

    It would be democratic and definitely constructive for Romanian society if the law allows citizens to establish political parties without preconditions too difficult to meet. If these parties are reliable or not, only the voters should have the right to decide.

    On 24th of October 2002, before the promulgation of the law of political parties, representatives of important non-governmental organizations (Gabriel Andreescu – Director of APADOR-CH programs, Smaranda Enache – President of Pro Europa League, Cristian Pîrvulescu – President of Pro Democracy Association, Mihai Popescu – President of Grado, Renate Weber – President of Open Society Foundation) have pointed out the serious consequences that such restrictive provisions may have on political pluralism and democratic development of Romania. The concerns of these non-governmental organizations are confirmed by the political stoppage of our country today, by too many citizens expressing frustration, exasperation, feelings of contempt and even hatred towards politicians or, more often, the total indifference and removal from political life.

    The message of these NGO’s quotes a 2002 report issued by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe warning about a restrictive law on political parties in Kazakhstan: “In a democratic society, the law, the legislative construction, must promote a pluralistic political framework (multiparty) and should energetically strengthen political participation of citizens. The electorate should be responsible for its decision, expressed through voting, regarding the political parties participating in political life and which will represent them in the institutions. The state should play a minimal role in these decisions. OSCE also believes that such stringent requirements will freeze the development of political pluralism just because the emergence of new political parties is made more difficult.”

    To enroll Romania among the countries with a democratic political system open to anyone who can contribute to the political development of this country, the number of founding members of a party should be reduced to a few people (at most a few hundred persons or equal to the EU average) and the requirement to have founding members in several counties must be erased. The state has other tools at its disposal to limit or offset the costs generated by public elections, for example, for printing ballots. The laws concerning the electoral system must give priority to the rights of every citizen to free association, to elect and to be elected.

    11. The Romanian Constitution (Art. 82, paragraph 2 and Art. 104) violates the freedom of thought, conscience and religion by granting the right to be elected or to be appointed as President, Prime Minister, Minister or member of the Government only to the individuals embracing a monotheistic religion. The article 9 from the European Convention of Human Rights, ratified by Romania, is therefore violated.

    The Romanian Constitution adopted in 1991 and revised in 2003 (the Article 82 paragraph. 2 and Article 104) stipulates that only persons who share a monotheist faith may hold high dignity in the State such as President of Romania, Prime Minister, Minister or member of the Romanian Government. The oath for office contains a mandatory religious formula:

    ARTICLE 82:” (2) The candidate whose election has been validated shall take before the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, in a joint sitting, the following oath: “I solemnly swear that I will dedicate all my strength and the best of my ability for the spiritual and material welfare of the Romanian people, to abide by the Constitution and laws of the country, to defend democracy, the fundamental rights and freedoms of my fellow-citizens, Romania’s sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity. So help me God!”

    There are no derogations from the submission of such an oath therefore an atheist, an agnostic, a free thinker, a deist or a Buddhist is excluded from a public dignity such as those mentioned.

    This is a serious political discrimination on grounds of religion. The articles of the Constitution referred above are in contradiction with other articles of the same Constitution. The Romanian Constitution guarantees equality of citizens before the law and public authorities, without any privilege or discrimination.” (Art. 16 paragraph 1) and states in Art 4 paragraph 2. that: (2) Romania is the common and indivisible homeland of all its citizens, without any discrimination on account of race, nationality, ethnic origin, language, religion, sex, opinion, political adherence, property or social origin.” Furthermore, by Article 29. Paragraph 2 stipulates that: (2) Freedom of conscience is guaranteed; it must be manifested in a spirit of tolerance and mutual respect.”

    Such a discriminatory provision is rare in EU countries. Even in Poland, a country where the Catholic Church has a great social and political importance, the formula: “So help me God!” is optional.

    Among the countries with a recent Constitution, only Greece has a religious mandatory oath for the head of the state but not for other officials. The oath of allegiance does not contain any religious references in some of the European monarchies like Belgium, for example.

    Ireland is in a particular situation in this respect, with a Constitution dating from 1938 which requires though the separation of church and state. In Ireland, the oath for the President and the Council of State (which includes Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Justice, High Court President, General Attorney, Senior magistrates and the Presidents of both Chambers of Parliament) contains a religious discrimination against people who do not share a belief in God.

    EU countries with no religious formula in the oath for senior state officials are: Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Latvia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Portugal, Luxembourg, The Netherlands.

    EU countries with an optional religious content in the oath of senior officials are: Austria, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, United Kingdom and Malta.

    Most of the European Union member states understood that such provision of a mandatory oath with a religious formula for a dignitary of the state is discriminatory.

    Romania also needs to regulate such issues in the light of principles and best practices undertaken by EU Member States. Any intervention from the European Parliament and other European institutions will be particularly useful and we believe it will help a lot to hurry the democratic reform of the Romanian electoral system.

    The Romanian Green Party

    August 6th 2009

    This report was translated in English by Vlad Plăiaşu and the proofreading was made by Sanda Nicola.

    Contact:

    Remus Cernea – The Executive President of The Romanian Green Party

    remuscernea.ro@gmail.com +40.727.583.594


    [1] http://www.rushcliffe.gov.uk/doc.asp?catid=8333

    [2] http://www.statistics.gov.uk/pdfdir/ashe1108.pdf

    [3] http://aceproject.org/ero-en/topics/election-integrity/CDL-AD(2003)010-e.pdf/view

    [4] Art 29 (5) In applications, each political party, political alliance, electoral alliances, organization of citizens belonging to national minorities, independent candidate must provide evidence of a deposit to the Permanent Electoral Authority, summing a value of 5 gross monthly minimum wage for each candidate.” The monthly minimum wage in Romania is, 500 RON starting with 1st of January 2008.

    http://www.becparlamentare2008.ro/candid/situatie_candidaturi.pdf

    [5] http://www.cdep.ro/pls/dic/site.page?id=371

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    1. DOMNULE PRESEDINTE, Ma adresez dumneavoastra cu convingerea ca veti citi aceste randuri pe care cu amar vi le reletez .Sunt cetatean al acestei tari in care mam nascut am invatat si am muncit timp de 26 ani din care 18 ani in M.Ap.N. Consider ca sa facut o mare nedreptate cu noi militarii angajati care am fost scosi din sistem datorita legi 384/2006 ce prevede lasarea noastra pe drumuri la varsta de 40 ani,fara a primi nimic nici macar respectul cuvenit pentru militarii ce au servit interesele ROMANIEI si aliatilor ei in lupta impotriva terorismului,noi cei care am contribuit la intrarea in N.A.T.O.si U.E.Consider ca teroristi sunt si acestia ce neau scos fara a ne completa cartile de munca asa cum se cuvenea incat noi suntem considerati necalificati .Ne vedem pusi in situatia de a nu ne mai gasi un loc de munca dar pe altii ex.nepotisme au fost avansati la apelul bocancilor cum sar spune.Rog cititi relatarile militarilor pe http://www.asociatia romil.ro unde veti intelege mai multe.Va asigur domnule REMUS CERNEAviitor PRESEDINTE al ROMANIEI va vom sustine toti cei ce am fost si suntem umiliti de sistem in tara noastra, trebuie sa schimbam clasa politica cu oameni capabili ,oameni care sasi insusasca raspunderea ,oameni care sa poata fi trasi la raspundere pentru erorile savarsite,oameni care sa fie avansati pentru realizarile lor sa fie omul apreciat macar de adevarata lui valoare ;dar pentru aceasta justitia trebuie sa fie libera si nu la cheremul intereselor.Prin scoaterea noastra din sistem consider ca ROMANIA a pierdut si pierde adevaratii profesionisti.Cu stima si respect fost militar angajat CONSTANTIN MITRACHE

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