Ileana Ceausu
Parliamentary Advisor
within the Senate Speaker’s Office 

POLITICAL PARTIES IN ROMANIA

First of all, I would like to mention that I will try to make a presentation of the different legal provisions concerning the operation of political parties and organizations in Romania and also to present you the picture of the present political landscape in my country.

After the Revolution of 1989, the former Communist Party, which ruled the country for more than 40 years, was suppressed and a new political organization, the National Salvation Front (N.S.F.), won the first free elections of May 1990 ( the N.S.F. will split after 2 years into Romanian Party for Social Democracy and Democratic Party – see the following pages).

A new legal framework was established, also according to the Decree-Law No. 8/December 31, 1989 on the Registering and Operation of the Political Parties and of the Social Organizations, now abolished, after the Revolution of December 1989, in Romania there can be freely set up any political party, with the exception of the fascist parties or of those which propagate conceptions that are contrary to the State and legal order in Romania. No other restriction by reason of race, nationality, religion, culture level, sex or political convictions can impede the setting up and operation of the political parties.

The same Decree-Law underlines that the organization and operation of the political parties is realized only on a territorial basis and their aims must be based on the respect of the national sovereignty, independence and integrity, of the democracy, in order to ensure the citizens’ freedoms and rights. The means for achieving the aims of the political parties shall be in accordance with the state and legal order in Romania.

The art. 3 of the above - mentioned Decree-Law says that, in order to be registered, each party and social organization must present its organization and operation statues and its political platform, must declare its head office and the financial means it has at its disposal, and must prove that it has at least 251 members.

The registering of political parties must be effected at the Tribunal of the Municipality of Bucharest, which, within 3 days, shall pronounce on the legality of their setting up. Against the decision of the Tribunal a legal action can be made at the Supreme Court of Justice, within 3 days as from the communication of the decision. The political parties shall acquire legal personality as from the date when the decision admitting the registering remains final.

The military staff and the civilian personnel from the Ministry of National Defense and the Ministry of Interior, the judges, the public prosecutors and the diplomats, as well as the operative personnel from the National Romanian Radio and Television cannot be members of political parties.

The Constitution drafted in 1991 and endorsed by a referendum in December 1991 proclaims the pluralism in Romanian society as a condition and a guarantee of Constitutional democracy.

Political parties may be constituted and pursue their activities in accordance with the law having an important contribution to the definition and expression of the political will of the citizens.

Citizens may freely associate into political parties and other forms of association. Any political parties or organizations which, by their aims or activity, militate against political pluralism, the principles of a State governed by the rule of law, or against the sovereignty, integrity or independence of Romania is considered to be unconstitutional.

The Constitution also adds that the judges, ombudsmen, magistrates, active members of the Armed Forces, policemen and other categories of civil servants, established by organic law, may not join political parties.

At the same time, secret associations are prohibited.

The art. 35 deals with the right to be elected. Eligibility is granted to all citizens having the right to vote; candidates must have attained, by or on the election day, the age of at least 23, to be elected to the Chamber of Deputies or local administration, and at least 35, to be elected to the Senate or to the office of President of Romania.

The Decree-Law of December 1989 was abolished and instead of it was adopted in 1996 the Law of Political Parties.

The Law of Political Parties concerns 7 chapters and 49 articles dealing with the definition of political parties, the organization, the membership, the registration, the coalitions, the finances of political parties.

According to this new law, a political party is an association of Romanian citizens having the right to vote and to freely express their political will.

The political parties promote the values and the national interests as well as the political pluralism in Romania and must have a contribution to the political education of the citizens by encouraging their participation in public and political life and organizing their legislative initiative.

Political parties must respect the national soveregnity, independence and unity of the state, the constitutional democracy.

The judges of the Constitutional Court, ombudsmen, magistrates, members of the Accounting Court, members of Armed Forces and civilians working in military structures, members of the Ministry of Interior, Secret Services, Legislative Council, members of the administrative councils of the Radio National Society, Television National Society and National Press Agency “Rompres” cannot be members of political parties.

A Romanian citizen cannot be member of two or more political parties and no individual can be obliged to become member of a political party.

As for the membership, every individual having the age of 18 is accepted as a full member of a party.

Each political party must have its own statute and political program.

The Statute must concerns the full name of the party, its electoral sign, a declaration regarding its headquarter and banking account, a list of its members, the rights and duties of its members, the members of the General Assembly of the party etc.

The election of the leaders of the political parties is realized by secret vote.

As for the registration of political parties, the Tribunal is the institution which decide the registering of a political party.

The party must have 10. 000 founding members having the domicile in at least 15 departments (“judets”) of the country and has to present for its own registration the statute and the program, the list including the signatures of party’s members, a declaration of banking account.

The Tribunal decides on the registration of a political party in a delay of 15 days.

Besides, the Law on the Organization and Operation of the Constitutional Court of May 1992 underlines that the Constitutional Court can decide on objections regarding the constitutionality of a political party. The objection on the constitutionality may be formulated by the President of one of the Chambers of Parliament or by the Government. The President of the Chamber may formulate the objection only on the basis of a decision adopted by the Chamber by the majority of votes of its members. The objection shall be judged by the plenum of the Constitutional Court on the basis of the report presented by the Judge designated to this end and the decision will be pronounced by majority of votes of the Court’s Judges.

A person designated by it can represent the Chamber of Parliament that has handed in the objection and the Ministry of Justice will represent the Government. The political party can also be represented by a lawyer having the right to plead before the Supreme Court of Justice. The decision of the Court will not be subject to any appeal.

The decision granting the objection will be notified to the Tribunal of Bucharest for striking the unconstitutional party off from the register of lawfully constituted political parties.

The Chapter IV of the Law of Political Parties mentions that political parties can realize coalitions and political alliances.

Political parties can have assets, buildings or any other properties necessary to develop their political activities.

The financing sources of the political parties according to the law are:

There are two kinds of donations: from individuals and from different institutions. The donations from individuals must be no more than 100 basic minimum wages and the donations from foundations, private institutions or firms must be no more than 500 basic minimum wages.

Anyway, the donations received by a political party during a year should not be bigger than 0, 005% from the state budget incomes during the respective year.

The political parties receive 0,04% from the national budget.

Are strictly forbidden donations from foreign organizations or states, exception making for donations from international political organizations to which the party belongs by mutual agreement and protocols.

So, as a consequence of the new legal framework, the political landscape in Romania became very large.

In 1990 there were 200 parties registered, but this number declined dramatically to 90 parties functioning in 1992 and to 30 remaining today. As it now stands, only 13 of these parties actually have parliamentary representation. Anyway, in the last years we realized a process of stabilization of the political system in Romania.

Now I will try to present you a short image of the most important parties and political alliances in Romania, especially of those parties that won the elections of 1996.

The Christian Democratic National Farmers’ Party (P.N.T.-cd) has a long history, dating back to the beginning of the century in Transylvania, which then was part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. As it functioned clandestinely and illegally during the communist period, the new PNT-cd was able to re-establish itself within one week after the bloody revolution of 1989 The party advocates moderate liberal ideas regarding the market economy and social questions and somewhat surprisingly gets its support from urban areas. The party is the largest participant in the Democratic Convention of Romania (C.D.R.), but, unfortunately, the party’s rank-and-file consists of elderly people.

The National Liberal Party (P.N.L.) was founded in January 1990 as the successor of the pre-communist era liberal party. It joined the CDR but the larger part of the party decided to leave for the 1992 elections. Failing to pass the electoral threshold on its own, the PNL rejoined the CDR in December 1995.

Romanian Party for Social Democracy (P.D.S.R.) - 91 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 41 in the Senate – was originally the National Salvation Front, than the Democratic National Salvation Front and finally was renamed in July 1993. The PDSR has become one of the leading parties in Romanian politics , being de facto successor to the communist party and heading the government for seven years. Four “old-nomenclatural-parties” remain close to the P.D.S.R.: the Democratic Agrarian Party, the Socialist Labour Party, the Greater Romania Party and the Party of Romanian National Unity. The P.D.S.R. defines itself as social-democratic, but the party retains many features typical of both a pre-1989 communist party and a popular front movement. The party consists of two wings, one nationalistic and conservative represented by the hard-liners of Ion Iliescu and other moderate and sustaining the reform represented by the ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Adrian Nastase. Openly hostile relations between the P.D.S.R. and the opposition parties have been toned down over the last few years. In the 1996 elections, P.D.S.R. won 21% of the votes.

The Democratic Party (P.D.), since 1996 a ruling party, originates from the same NSF in 1992. Party leader Petre Roman, now Speaker of the Romania Senate, was Prime Minister from May 1990 until the miners coup d’etat of September 1991. The Democratic Party advocates more radical economic reform. Much of the party’s rank-and-file consisted of technocrats and professionals in different fields. In 1996, the party signed an electoral alliance with the Democratic Convention in Romania being now a ruling party.

The Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (U.D.M.R.) - 25 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 11 in the Senate - mainly exists to protect the interests of Hungarian – Romanians and the survival of Hungarian culture in Romania. There is a danger of the UDMR splitting into radical and moderate parts. Most of the party members agree on the issue of autonomy for Hungarians living in Romania. On the issue of restructuring the Romanian economy, the party advocates more rapid reform. In November 1996 elections the UDMR won about 6.6 percent of the votes cast, which more or less corresponds to the percentage of Hungarians living in Romania. The party is now part of the coalition government and, for the first time in history, Hungarians hold ministerial posts in Romania.

In the Romanian Parliament are also represented 4 other little parties: Union of Rightist Forces, Alliance for Romania, founded by ex-members of the PDSR, Greater Romania Party, an ultra-nationalistic, anti-Hungarian party and Party of Romanian National Unity, a moderate nationalistic party; another party is the Socialist Party of Labour (P.S.M.), a radical leftist party. Its party program is based on Marxist ideology. P.S.M. was a member of the governing coalition in 1992-1996, but failed to pass the threshold in the 1996 elections. According to polls held recently, P.S.M. has 3% of the voters' support.

Greater Romania Party (P.R.M.) – 19 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, 8 seats in the Senate - is, as I already mentioned, an ultra-nationalistic party, anti-Hungarian party, combining fascist and communist principles. In its programme for the elections in 1996, the P.R.M. projected two years of authoritarian rule in Romania. On certain economic issues the P.R.M. holds similar views as the Socialist Labour Party. The P.R.M.’s party leader ran for presidency in 1996. The party won 4.5% of the votes in the 1996 elections. Fanatic party leader, Senator Corneliu Vadim Tudor, is very popular among the miners from Jiu Valley. During the strikes of January 1999 the miners shouted his name and called him the saviour of Romania.

The most important political alliance in Romania is the Democratic Convention of Romania (C.D.R.) – 122 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 53 in the Senate. From 1991 until Feb. 1992 C.D.R. was a conglomerate of 19 political parties and non-party organizations, including P.N.T.-c.d., P.N.L., the Romanian Ecological Party, the Romanian Ecological Federation and U.D.M.R. The relative calm within its ranks was striking, since differences of political opinions were numerous, but the Convention succeeded to won the parliamentary elections of 1996. The candidate of C.D.R. running for presidency also won the latest elections. P.N.T.-c.d. is now the dominant party within the C.D.R. The Executive Committee is the main decision – making body of the C.D.R., in which every party has a vote and the right of veto.

I would also like to tell you a few words about the parliamentary representation in Romania.

The Romanian Parliament consists of two Chambers: the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. The Senate consists of 143 senators and the Chamber of 343 deputies. Members of both chambers are elected for a four-year term by direct popular vote on party lists or independent candidatures, with a threshold of three percent, in 42 multi-seat constituencies. The norm or representation for the election to the Chamber of Deputies is one Deputy to seventy thousand inhabitants and for the Senate is one Senator to one hundred and sixty thousand inhabitants. The Law on the Election to the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate underlines that “in the same constituency, a party, a political formation, or a coalition shall be allowed to propose, for each Chambers of Parliament, only a single list of candidates. Coalitions of parties and of political formations are allowed to be made only on a national level. Parties and political formations from electoral coalitions are allowed to participate in elections only on the lists of the coalition. A party or a political formation can belong only to a single electoral coalition. The lists of candidates must also specify the political affiliation of the candidates, as the case may be.”

The parties and political formations participating in the electoral campaing may, by special law, receive a subvention from the State budget. The parties and political formations, which have not obtained at least five percent of the votes validly expressed throughout the country, shall return the subvention within two months after the polling day.

The President is also elected by universal vote for a four-year term and can be re-elected only once.

Recently there is a new proposal under consideration concerning the raise of the threshold for parliamentary representation from 3 percent to 5 percent, making more difficult for smaller parties to gain seats and benefitting those parties who do form blocs. The proposal has generally been well received in the Romanian Parliament particularly among members of the Democratic Party.

The problem regarding the redrawing of constituency boundaries is linked with the debate surrounding the introduction of candidates, namely, whether individual or Party lists should be used. One proposal was to replace the current Party-only list system with a combination of individual and Party lists by which candidates for Parliament would be elected. To make this proposal successful in practice, however, would necessitate the redrawing and subsequent reduction in size of constituencies. Another suggestion slated for discussion in the current parliamentary session involves the refinement of election law for the Senate, as there presently exist different election laws for both chambers of Parliament, as well as for the Presidency.

As a conclusion, can be added that these and other proposals, such as the creation of a permanent Romanian Central Electoral Bureau, could strengthen Romania’s political system.