Court Reverses Barring of Two Romanian Parties
The Romanian government sent shockwaves throughout Europe on March 7 by banning two anti-corruption opposition parties from running jointly in the European parliamentary election in May, reported Politico. This is the first time since the fall of Constatin Dăscălescu’s Communist regime in 1989 that the government has banned parties from running, Euractiv noted.
Romania has been an integral member of the European Union since its ascension in January of 2007, with 32 nationals serving as members of the European Parliament. The dawn of 2019 marked the Balkan country’s first time occupying the rotating presidency of the European Union, precisely at a moment wherein the national government in Bucharest has come to butting heads with the European Commission in Brussels.
Operating as a coalition, Union Save Romania (USR) and the PLUS party, aimed to “capture the votes of most of the educated youth and entrepreneurs” of urban Romania, writes Dan Alexe of EUelectionsRomania. The parties are expected to net close to 20 percent of the parliamentary electorate, Dan Alexe of EUelectionsRomania reports. According to RomaniaInsider, the Central Election Bureau (BEC) banned the parties because the presidents of the two parties, Dan Barna for USR and Dacian Ciolos for PLUS, had not been officially registered within their parties’ bursars.
The parties in question argued that the verdict “was abusive and taken under pressure from political power in Bucharest,” RomaniaInsider reports. Per ActMedia, Dacian Ciolos, the former Romanian prime minister, called the judgment, “an insult to the voters and a totally undemocratic action.”
This view was shared by Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats of Europe, Guy Verhofstadt, who tweeted “Romanian authorities must not constrain democracy by creating absurd obstacles for the registration of an opposition alliance.” He concluded the message with a warning: “Should this obstruction continue, Romania will further slide away from Europe’s democratic core.”
As of March 11, the High Court of Cassation and Justice reversed the BEC’s decision, with both parties retaining their electoral rights in the upcoming European Parliament election, RomaniaInsider accounts. The political pressures were abated when the “official presidents of both parties” made clear their willingness to comply with the BEC’s requests to normalize filing of party leadership. This new decision by the High Court is final, per RomaniaInsider.
The performance of the coalition parties in the upcoming elections will play a critical role in Romanian politics and influence Bucharest’s reaction to growing opposition support amid recent anti-corruption protests directed at the government.