Romania’s President calls for referendum on justice laws

Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis announced on Monday that he would call for a referendum on the changes to the justice laws proposed by the Government and the new parliamentary majority. He said that there is a wide interest in Romania for these themes and that the people should be able to have a say on this matter and to decide what kind of a country they want.

“This theme has become a national theme. There is obviously a wide interest for changing the penal code and pardoning. If so, I will submit this matter to public debate and popular vote. I will ask for a referendum, in which Romanians will be able to express themselves and to say if they agree to these measures or not,” Iohannis said, according to News.ro.

The President’s announcement comes after some 20,000 people went to the streets in Bucharest on Sunday evening to protest peacefully against the Government’s intention to pardon thousands of convicts and to change the criminal laws and make them less harsh on corruption. The President himself joined the protesters on Sunday after asking the Government to drop the two emergency ordinances on justice.

Liviu Dragnea, the leader of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), accused Iohannis of staging a coup, after the protests on Sunday evening, which he called “another miners’ riot”. PSD, which won the December 11 elections and former a parliamentary majority with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) led by former Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu, has repeatedly accused the President of trying to infringe the will of the people, expressed in the elections.

Iohannis called Dragnea’s statements “aberrations”. “The citizens to stage a coup? No, it’s the politicians who are attempting a coup, not a coup d’etat, but a coup de grace to the rule of law,” Iohannis said on Monday evening.

He added that Romanians had the right to vote on the important changes to the justice laws, as these haven’t been part of the governing program presented in the campaign for the parliamentary elections. “If the governing parties have turned this into a theme, they will have to withstand the popular vote,” the President said.

He also explained that this referendum is not only about justice, but about what kind of a nation Romanians want to be. “Do we want to be a powerful nation, where the law rules, or do we want to be a so-and-so nation, where the rule of law can be softened and debated upon? Do we want to be a nation that resembles the generation that did the Union of the Principalities or one that doesn’t dare to raise its voice?”

“I want a powerful nation, a nation of proud and free people, run by upright and competent politicians. Anything else is too little, and to reach this objective, no price is too high for me,” the President concluded, suggesting that he is willing to take on any challenge the Government and Parliament may have for him, including the suspension, which has often come up in the speeches of PSD and ALDE leaders when Iohannis stood against them.

The President’s recent actions have increased his popularity, judging by the evolution of his Facebook fan base. Klaus Iohannis gained over 15,000 Facebook fans on Monday, January 23, after he joined the protesters on Sunday evening. Moreover, since the December 11 elections, the President has gained close to 50,000 Facebook fans, reaching over 1.74 million.

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