The Romanian parliament endorsed President Klaus Iohannis' plan to hold a referendum on the continuation of the anti-corruption fight on February 13.
Iohannis said in January he will start procedures to organise the referendum. The president announced the plan the day after he attended a massive rally in Bucharest against the government’s plans to use an emergency decree to amend criminal legislation, partly decriminalising abuse of office.
Since then, the controversial decree, adopted by the government on January 31, has been repealed, but the people's trust in the government has been shaken and thousands of Romanians are still protesting and asking for the government's resignation. Justice Minister Florin Iordache, considered responsible for the decree, has already resigned from Sorin Grindeanu's cabinet.
It is now up to the president to come up with a time frame for the referendum. The question to be asked in the referendum will also have to be determined.
Organising the referendum is likely to win Iohannis back some of the popularity he has lost in recent years, considering the tens of thousands of Romanians who have been protesting in the past two weeks to show their support for the anti-corruption fight.
As the fight against corruption intensified in Romania in recent years, the country has risen on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), drawing away from neighbouring Bulgaria and most other countries from Southeast Europe. The latest index, released in January, showed Romania had continued to rise by one place in 2016, when it was ranked 57th out of 176 countries.
Romanian has made progress in judicial reform and the fight against corruption, the European Commission agreed on January 25 in its latest Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) report on Romania. However, the report added that legal amendments that would weaken the scope of corruption as an offence, or which represent a major challenge to the independence or effectiveness of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), would entail a reassessment of the progress made. The comment was a reference to the government’s decree.
According to Romanian legislation, a referendum is valid if at least 30% of the people registered on the electoral lists participate in it and its result is validated only if the valid cast votes represent 25% of those registered in the electoral lists.
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