What is Romania’s anti-corruption referendum?

The European elections took place last week. But as well as this, voters in Romania are due to take part in another vote next month: a referendum on the government’s justice reforms.

Romania is one of the EU’s most corruption-prone states. And the president, Klaus Iohannis, called the referendum that will give voters a say on the current corruption laws, which have caused a lot of frustration and criticism in recent years.

The president has been critical of the justice reforms that are being pushed by the government. And in addition to this, the European Commission has threatened to impose sanctions if steps aren’t taken to combat the issue.

The anti-corruption laws came into effect in 2014. There have, since then, been numerous amendments made, mostly down to fears over rule of law, which has been an issue brought up by the EU for some time.

Many of the proposed changes have been under intense scrutiny, as the Social Democratic Party (PSD), which rules in Romania, has proposed changes like decriminalising cases that amount to less than €200,000, as well as lowering the sentences for some charges.

It’s believed by many that these changes were introduced in order to benefit some of the leaders of the party, some of whom have been convicted of corruption offences in the past.

Iohannis has delayed or halted some of the reforms, which have been described as “an attack on the rule of law”. There have also been several demonstrations since then, as attempts have been made to relax the legislation.

The referendum will consist of two questions:

  1. “Do you approve of a ban on any amnesty or pardon for corruption-related offences?”
  2. “Do you approve of a ban on emergency decrees to change criminal penalties?”

If there is a majority “yes” vote on either of these questions, it won’t necessarily be legally binding. However, parliament is meant to make the proposition law.

This could mean that, especially if there’s a high turnout, there would be definitive proof that corruption is a priority for the Romanian people, and it would strengthen the president’s position on the matter.

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