European Parliament elections and referendum on justice in Romania
Hundreds of millions of European citizens are expected to the polls between May 23 and 26 to elect the future European Parliament members, for a 5-year term. The elections started on Thursday in Great Britain and the Netherlands, and will come to an end on May 26 in most member states, including Romania. 751 MEPs will be elected, of whom 33 Romanian. This has been the last week of campaign for the EP elections in Romania. Running in the race were 13 political parties and 3 independent candidates.
441 polling stations were set up for the Romanians abroad, most of them being in Italy, Spain and the neighboring Republic of Moldova. In Romania, simultaneously with the EP elections, a referendum on justice will be held, which was called by President Klaus Iohannis. Voters will receive 3 ballots, one for the EP elections, and one for each of the 2 questions of the referendum. Romanians over 18 are called to answer by ‘YES’ or ‘NO’ to the following questions: ‘Do you agree with forbidding amnesty and pardon for corruption crimes?’ and ‘Do you agree with forbidding the Government to adopt emergency decrees in relation to crimes, punishments and judicial organization and with extending the right to challenge decrees directly to the Constitutional Court?’
Under the law, the referendum is validated if the turnout is at least 30% of the number of people registered on the permanent electoral lists. The result of the referendum is validated if the valid votes account for at least 25% of the people registered on the permanent electoral lists.
Regulating taxi apps alternatives
The government’s draft emergency decree regulating the ridesharing service in Romania has been put up for public debate until June 3. The decree emerged after alternative service companies asked for the urgent regulation of their services by the government, so as to able to continue to operate. After several rounds of negotiation, the representatives of the ridesharing companies on Thursday reached an agreement with the government officials over the draft emergency decree on taxi apps in Romania.
The new regulation will provide for equal conditions of authorization for both taxi apps alternatives and taxi companies. The owners of taxi apps will be obliged to obtain authorization from the Communications Ministry for their activity, and the partner drivers will have the observe the technical and legal requirements which regular taxi drivers observe during their authorized activity of transporting passengers against payment.
More than 200 thousand Romanians signed a petition for urgently regulating the ridesharing services, the Coalition for Digital Economy Association, an independent organization representing the main ridesharing companies, has announced. According to them, the lack of regulation resulted in revenue loss for thousand of drivers and 2.5 million users either could not find a car or had to pay prices three times bigger. Taxi companies, constantly criticized for the poor quality of services, retorted by accusing ridesharing companies of operating illegally.
Famous criminal files
The former mayor of Constanta (a port on the Black Sea Coast) Radu Mazăre on Monday was brought back to Romania from Madagascar, from where he was extradited. Radu Mazăre fled to Madagascar in December 2017. He has received sentences in several corruption files, but the definitive sentence, which led to the issuance of an international arrest warrant, was given in February by the supreme court, in a file concerning the illegal land redistribution in the city of Constanta. He has to serve a 10-year sentence in this case.
The former mayor left Romania in late 2017 after he had been subject to legal restrictions pending trial. He justified his fleeing the country by invoking the political pressure being put on the prosecutors dealing with his case. In Madagascar he asked for political asylum. Also on Monday the High Court of Cassation and Justice in Bucharest postponed for May 27 pronouncing its verdict in a corruption case involving the Social Democratic leader Liviu Dragnea, who was accused of incitement to abuse of office.
Dragnea was sentenced in a court of first instance by a jury made up of 3 judges to serve 3 years and a half in prison for incitement to abuse of office, although he pleaded not-guilty at the previous hearing. At the same time, the defense lawyers asked, without success though, for a postponement of the verdict to wait for a decision of the Constitutional Court regarding a notification made by Social Democratic MP Florin Iordache in relation to the illegality of juries of 3 judges at the High Court of Cassation and Justice. The Court postponed making a decision for June 5.
Flooding in Romania
This week too Romania has been under code yellow and code orange alerts for unsettled weather, storms, torrential rainfalls and floods. Scores of villages and towns in the north, center and south of the country have been affected including Bucharest. Road and rail traffic has been temporarily disrupted due to fallen trees. The overflowing waters of some rivers flooded hundreds of hectares of farming lands, pastures and households. (translation by L. Simion)