Censure motion, snap elections and double-ballot system adoption
Censure motion, snap elections and the adoption of the double-ballot system for the election of mayors have been the main topics on the public agenda for the past couple of days, with politicians from all prominent parties announcing their positioning towards these items.
After wavering between the option of a Government Emergency Ordinance and Governmental assumption of responsibility for the adoption of the double-ballot system for electing mayors, Ludovic Orban announced on January 16th that he eventually opted for the latter course of action. According to Orban, the Government gave up on the alternate option of issuing a Government Emergency Ordinance as “it is not normal to change the electoral regime through an emergency ordinance”. Furthermore, Orban finds that the assumption of responsibility is “a more democratic variant”. Orban plans to submit to the Parliament the letter with the project concerning the new electoral system for the mayors on January 20th.
Given the fact that the Romanian Constitution mentions that the Government can be dismissed through a censure motion if such a motion were to be submitted 3 days after it had assumed responsibility, it was foreseeable that discussions surrounding the adoption of the double-ballot system have been accompanied by discussing concerning a censure motion and snap elections.
Marcel Ciolacu, the PSD leader, was one of the first politicians to announce that his party, together with UDMR, will initiate a censure motion. At this moment, however UDMR and PSD do not have enough votes for a censure motion to pass in the Parliament. The positioning of the other parties will thus be very important for the success of the motion. Ciolacu also declared that PSD would submit an open letter to the European Commission and the European Parliament concerning a purported abuse of power by PNL, as it is against the recommendations of the Venice Commission to change the electoral laws so close to elections.
On the other hand, USR leader Dan Barna welcomed the fact that PNL decided to take a stand regarding this issue. Barna also mentioned that one of the reasons his party voted for the PNL Government was their promise to tackle this subject. Taking into consideration this reaction, it could be argued that Orban managed to improve the relations of PNL with USR-PLUS following this decision, a fact which will prove vital for PNL should a censure motion be initiated.
It will be interesting to see how Pro Romania will react to a potential censure motion, given the fact that Victor Ponta had previously mentioned that the position of his party would depend on the subject of the motion. Were Ponta and his party be consistent with their declarations, they would not endorse PSD in this censure motion, as Ponta had previously stated that he agrees that the double-ballot system would be an improvement over the current plurality rule.
Călin-Popescu Tăriceanu considers that snap elections would block the country for several months, and expressed his worry that forcing such elections would have negative effects on the economy. An ALDE press release also decries the fact that PNL opted to sacrifice the double-ballot for the snap elections (for which the resignation of the PNL Government would be the first and vital step). As mentioned beforehand, however, it is quite difficult for the censure motion to pass. PSD is short of allies apart from UDMR. Although it has been widely speculated in the mass media that the real reason for which PNL keeps announcing that it will adopt draft bills through the assumption of responsibility is forcing a censure motion and eventually snap elections, it is unclear at this moment whether the liberals would actually vote for a censure motion should a vote in the Parliament take place. Sacrificing a topic which has been supported and asked for years by the civil society would represent a dangerous move for PNL and would probably lead to losing votes.
In other news, at the joint USR-PLUS meeting taking place on January 13th, it was decided that the Executive Committee of the Alliance will comprise 2 members from USR and 2 members from PLUS. The coordination of the Committee will be provided by Dragoș Tudorache, member of the European Parliament and PLUS Member. Meanwhile, journalist Moise Guran announced that he will join USR, where he could be in charge of the electoral campaigns in 2020. One of the prominent issues that have to be decided in the near future by the Alliance will be the matter of who the candidate for the Bucharest City Hall will be. While Vlad Voiculescu, the potential PLUS candidate, prefers the option of primaries, Nicușor Dan, former member of USR and presently independent candidate endorsed by USR, would like that the nomination follows opinion polls (an option that, at least presently, would be advantageous to him). The procedure will probably have to take into account which of the 2 candidates has more chances to defeat Gabriela Firea, the current Mayor of Bucharest. Given the fact that incumbent candidates usually have an advantage over counter candidates, we can expect the continuing of the internal debates in the Alliance concerning the future candidate for the Bucharest City Hall. It should be mentioned that, following the quasi-defeat registered by the party in the presidential elections, winning such an important office would bear a lot of symbolic significance for the USR-PLUS Alliance.
Fiscal and Economic Updates
Romania had the 3rd largest current account deficit of all the countries in the European Union in the 3rd trimester of 2019. Only the United Kingdom and France registered larger deficits. Meanwhile, the annual rate of inflation surpassed 4% in December 2019, an increase from the 3.8% rate registered in November.
In the Government Sitting taking place on January 16th, the Government decided to delay the implementation of increased allowances for children. The justification put forward by the Chief of the Prime Minister Chancellery, Ionel Danca, was that this draft bill had been endorsed by PSD without prior identification of the budgetary sources that would be used for the increased allowances.