The stakes are high in Bucharest this week, not least for Liviu Dragnea, leader of Romania’s largest and ruling party the PSD. Already serving a two-year suspended prison sentence for vote rigging, Dragnea faces a corruption trial – perhaps as early as March – which would see him immediately imprisoned should he be found guilty. Hence the desperate rush to push through two emergency ordinances (OUGs) which would annul his first conviction and see the current case against him dropped. He would be as clean and without sin as a newly christened baby (and ready to take his rightful place as prime minister, he would no doubt add – the law currently forbids convicts from being prime minister, which is why Sorin Grindeanu is the de jure, if not de facto prime minister).
Dragnea of course is not the only leading figure in the PSD (or amongst its allies) who would benefit from the two OUGs (yes, there are two: one pardons those already convicted, the other obliterates the current justice system and would void just about every case the DNA has put together). Those other PSD leaders include former prime minister Victor Ponta, the mayor of Bucharest’s Sector 3 Robert Negoita, former foreign minister Adrian Severin and former mayor of Constanta Radu Mazare. Not to mention ALDE leader Calin-Popescu Tariceanu and media moguls Dan Voiculescu and Sebastian Ghita. Given how many senior leaders and financial backers of the government would directly benefit from the OUGs, it is clear why Dragnea has made pushing them through his top priority since the government took office: they have been drafted to ensure that the right people are released as soon as possible. They are an abuse of the power Romania’s voters entrusted the PSD with in December’s elections.
In his column in today’s Adevarul, Liviu Avram describes how all Dragnea needs is ‘one minute’: as long as the OUGs are issued and then subsequently published in the Monitorul Oficial for just one minute then they become all but irreversible. There is very little that the president, parliament or the Constitutional Court can do: anyone freed will almost certainly never go back to prison.
It is therefore likely that the OUGs will indeed be issued – possibly this Wednesday – and to hell with the consequences.
Until now, all of those who have been protesting against the OUGs have gone to great lengths to point out that they are not protesting against the government per se, or the PSD’s right to govern, but merely the OUGs themselves. Like it or not, people recognise and acknowledge that the PSD won a mandate to govern in December’s election.
It did not, however, win a mandate to pass laws that would legalise theft for the first time since Moses came down from Sinai. As such, should the abusive OUGs be issued, then everything changes and the gloves will rightly come off. The very moment the OUGs are issued the government will no longer have any moral authority, regardless of how big its parliamentary majority is, or how many votes it took in the election. It will at that moment become an illegitimate government and a legitimate target for protest. Dragnea is more than aware of this, but almost certainly doesn’t care.