Regulating the abuse of office, a proposal voted by the senators of the ruling coalition sparks off a wave of criticism.
The leaders of the Social Democratic Party - PSD and the National Liberal Party - PNL, the main parties in the governing coalition in Romania, announced on Wednesday evening that they decided to support the proposal of the Justice Ministry regarding the establishment of a threshold of 9,000 lei, the equivalent of 1,800 euros, from which abuse of office and negligence in office can be criminalized. The Social Democrat Marcel Ciolacu and the Liberal Prime Minister Nicolae Ciucă made the announcements on Facebook almost simultaneously.
These announcements came after the wave of criticism that appeared in the press following an amendment to the Criminal Code voted by senators, according to which abuse and negligence in office became crimes only in the case of a damage of at least 250,000 lei, i.e. 50,000 euros. Sources inside the ruling coalition stated that the very members of the governing coalition (PSD-PNL-UDMR) had decided on this threshold in the Sunday evening meeting. The amendment voted on Wednesday caused consternation, due to its similarity to the famous emergency ordinance 13 of 2017, which had as threshold for incrimination the amount of only 200,000 lei. Probably the amount was index-linked, some said amusedly.
Emergency Ordinance 13 was practically the inaugural act of a program by which the then power, authoritatively controlled by the leader of the PSD at the time, Liviu Dragnea, allegedly tried to subordinate the judicial system. The adoption of the ordinance brought tens of thousands of people to the streets, forcing the government to withdraw it. Now, things can be fixed in the Chamber of Deputies, which is a decision-making body in the case of the law amending the Criminal Code, which is a milestone in the National Recovery and Resilience Plan. The government representatives say that the existence of a value threshold was necessary for the criminal legislation to be put in agreement with some decisions of the Constitutional Court.
After the vote in the Senate, the PSD leader, Marcel Ciolacu, said that his party would vote in the Chamber of Deputies a version that respected the decisions of the Court as well as the recommendations of the Venice Commission and the opinions of legal experts. The Liberal deputy Raluca Turcan considered the threshold of 250,000 lei for abuse of office a mistake, which must be corrected in the Chamber of Deputies. She admits the need for a minimum limit on the value of the damage and that the solution is to set a modest ceiling. The people who protested on Wednesday evening in Bucharest denounced the senators' vote, which, they say, encourages corruption and illegalities in Romania.
The vote of the PNL alongside the PSD on this controversial amendment to the Criminal Code took both the press and the analysts by surprise. In 2017, from the opposition, the Liberals permanently tried to counter, together with those from the Save Romania Union - USR, the attempts of Liviu Dragnea's Social Democrats to sabotage the instruments necessary for the functioning of the judicial system. Neither the PSD nor the PNL assume the decision to raise the criminalization threshold for abuse of office so high. The question is: would they have wanted it that way? (LS)