site.btaInside the Balkans: 2 Mln Signatures for Removal of Romanian President: Can This Succeed?
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis is in the middle of his second and final term as head of State, and unlike his predecessor, Traian Basescu, has so far not been the subject of a removal procedure. However, threats of such an initiative from the opposition - more or less realistic - periodically emerge in the public sphere.
This week, the nationalist, populist and anti-system Alliance for the Union of Romanians (AUR) announced that it had collected the signatures of more than 2 million Romanians who support the party's request to oust President Klaus Iohannis.
THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE
"At the end of this (parliamentary) session, it is time to take stock. Fortunately, Romanian society and Romanians have woken up (...) and now you have over 2 million signatures in front of you. Romanians no longer want Klaus Iohannis as president. This campaign to oust President Klaus Iohannis has received widespread support in the streets of this country. Unfortunately, we have a vile majority here in Parliament that refuses to initiate and bring to a successful end the desire of Romanians to end Klaus Iohannis' term," said AUR leader George Simion, announcing the submittal of the petition in Parliament.
He added that the two million signatures were collected from all regions in the country and from Romanians abroad. Simion said he had again called on the opposition Save Romania Union (USR) to submit a joint no-confidence vote and launch a procedure to remove the President, but was refused. He said the new formation of breakaway former Liberal leader Ludovic Orban did not support the initiative either. According to Simion, AUR is the only opposition party in the country and that is why it turned directly to the people to demand the expulsion of Klaus Iohannis from the presidential Cotroceni Palace.
AUR - FROM FIGHT AGAINST MASKS TO FIGHT AGAINST THE PRESIDENT
AUR is a relatively young political party, founded in September 2019, that entered Parliament after the December 2020 elections, winning a surprising 9% of the vote and ranking fourth after the Social Democratic Party (PSD), the National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Save Romania Union (USR).
According to opinion polls in recent months, support for AUR has even managed to outpace that of USR, which is torn apart by internal wars and rift.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, party leaders staged various protests against face masks and vaccination.
The nationalist alliance, also known for its support for the idea of uniting Romania with the Republic of Moldova and restoring the territories of the former Greater Romania, announced the initiative to remove the head of State in early November 2021.
THE CHARGES AGAINST IOHANNIS
The arguments put forward by AUR in launching the campaign to oust President Klaus Iohannis were based on the fact that two nominations for prime minister (Dacian Ciolos of USR and Nicolae Ciuca of PNL, who himself withdrew his candidacy to head a minority government) were rejected by Parliament, which led to early elections.
According to former AUR co-chair Claudiu Tarziu, Iohannes "repeatedly violated the constitution" and tried to rule Romania directly or through proxies, and also deserted from "the main role of the president - that of an arbitrator."
Although Romania subsequently formed a government with solid parliamentary support, and the two opposition parties: the pro-European reformists of USR and the Eurosceptic populists of AUR, had almost no common ground, Simion's formation did not give up its plans to impeach the head of State.
As it is almost impossible to find support in Parliament, AUR focused on collecting signatures from citizens.
WHAT DOES THE CONSTITUTION PROVIDE?
The President of the country may be removed from office in the event of a serious violation of constitutional provisions. This can be done at a joint sitting of the two chambers of Parliament with the votes of the majority of deputies and senators, and after consultation with the Constitutional Court.
The proposal to remove the President can be initiated by at least one-third of MPs. If the proposal is approved, an impeachment referendum is to be held within 30 days. Until then, the Speaker of the Senate is temporarily holding the Presidency, as Romania does not have a vice president.
Political sources commented that the signatures collected by AUR did not represent even half of the votes needed to recognize the referendum, as at least 30% of eligible voters are currently required to confirm its validity. This means that the referendum will be valid if about 6 million voters take part in it.
The head of State has a relatively strong role in Romania, which is defined as a semi-presidential republic, but lacks the post of vice president. In case of necessity, including a presidential impeachment, the post is taken over by the Speaker of the Upper House of Parliament. With a strong parliamentary majority in conflict with the President, this option is becoming increasingly tempting.
However, President Iohannis currently enjoys good relations with the parliamentary majority. So the initiative of the nationalist AUR, deprived of the support of the other parliamentary forces, does not seem like a realistic threat to his post.