Splitters!

It would appear that the official line being prepared by those media channels loyal to Romania’s government ahead of tonight’s protests against proposed pardons for thousands of criminals is this: The protesters are foreign-backed enemies of Romania intent on dividing the country just when it needs to be united. These are troubled times and Romania needs to present a united front to the wider world. They are splitters and traitors.

Now, let’s agree – for the sake of argument – that part of that is true: Romania should be united.

Who – we would ask – is pulling it apart? Thousands of ordinary people attending a peaceful demonstration against a corrupt government, or a corrupt government which wants to place itself and its backers above the law?

Peace would be restored in Romania the very moment Justice Minister Florin Iordache announces that the government has decided not to pass legislation – by whatever means – thst pardons hundreds of corrupt politicians and forces ongoing cases against many others to be dropped. It is that simple.

As should be clear by now however, neither Iordache nor his boss, PSD leader Liviu Dragnea has any intention of backing down.

On Monday a public consultation will be held to discuss the proposed legislation. Except that only 50 members of the public will attend, most of whom support the idea of pardoning as many criminals as possible. Some public consultation.

Indeed, the only topic which appears to be up for discussion is how to pass the new laws: by emergency ordinance (as originally planned) or via a parliamentary vote. Either way, Iordache has already signalled that legislation will be passed on Wednesday.

In a last-minute effort to try and drum up some public support for the pardons, Iordache has spent the past couple of days visiting Romania’s overcrowded prisons. We have no doubt that conditions in most are shockingly bad. And yet there are plenty of hospitals, orphanages and even schools which are also in a shocking state. And they too are overcrowded. Why should the rights of prisoners outrank the rights of those other groups?

The government continues to insist that Romania faces a huge fine from the European Court of Human Rights should it fail to do something about overcrowding in its prisons. President Klaus Iohannis visited the court during his trip to Strasbourg this week and was told that this is not the case.

In fact, the European Union’s institutions have made their views on the subject of pardons more than clear over the past couple of days: they must not happen. They join the US, Canada, Britain, Angela Merkel, the Romanian Magistrates Association, the DNA, SRI and DIICOT in warning Romania that pardoning corrupt politicians would be a grave error. In fact, the only people who continue to think it is a good idea are those who will benefit, and their apologists.

Who are the splitters now?

See you tonight.

PS If you can read Romanian, this brutal attack on Dragnea by Gabriel Liiceanu on Contributors today is quite something.

PPS Klaus Iohannis made a speech yesterday at an event in Sibiu (one of many being held this year to celebrate 500 years since the Reformation) in which he made perhaps the finest defence of liberty, human rights, tolerance and diversity we have ever heard from an elected Romanian politician. The text of the speech is here (again, in Romanian).

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