The Chamber of Deputies voted this week to decriminalise homosexuality. However they retained the part of the criminal code which gives a jail sentence for what the code describes as "abnormal sexual practices, including oral and anal sex, if performed in public." The bill was presented to Parliament in response to pressure from the European Union (EU) who saw Romanian Law as being discriminatory and as being against the principles of human rights as enshrined in the laws of EU member states.
The main opposition to the bill came from members of Greater Romania Party (PRM) and the Party for National Unity in Romania (PUNR). Dumitru Balaiet of PRM said, "If this article (of the criminal code) is annulled, the homosexuals will wander on the streets too, not only in the woods." (Monitorul Online - 30 June 2000)
The passage of the bill through the Chamber of Deputies brought criticism from both poles. Adrian Coman of Accept, the Romanian association which deals with gay rights said, "Punishing by law a group of people is discriminatory. MPs did nothing but played with words." (Reuters - 28 June 2000) His Beatitude Teoctist, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, wrote to the Chamber of Deputies setting out his objections to the legislation suggesting that the legalisation of homosexuality was against nature. He said, "Even in very difficult moments, our ancestors had been able to definitely make a difference between sin and virtue, because of what is normal and abnormal." (Nine o'clock - 29 June 2000)
Apologies, accusations and legal proceedings
The Mayor of Bucharest, Traian Băsescu of the Democratic Party (PD), apologised to Adrian Năstase, first vice-president of the Party for Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR). Over the weekend Băsescu had made comments which questioned the sexual preferences of Năstase. Although Băsescu apologised and publicly acknowledged his regret for making such a statement. PDSR legal advisers lodged a complaint with Bucharest Sector 2 lawcourts on behalf of Năstase.
The case will be heard on 21 September as Năstase seeks redress for insults and calumny. In a further twist Nine o'clock reported on 29 June that Sorin Oprescu of PDSR - Băsescu's opponent in the recent Bucharest elections - suggested that a mayor can be legally suspended from office because of mental disability. Nine o'clock continues, "it is clear that words will never bring peace under the Bucharest chestnut trees."
Other key politicians seem likely to face prosecution in the near future. A Senate committee report presented to the upper house on Wednesday claimed that Minister of Agriculture Ioan Mureşan had abused his power by making illegal decisions and by mismanagement of both the Ministry and the agricultural sector. The committee demanded that Mureşan be prosecuted. The Chamber of Deputies is to consider whether his parliamentary privilege should be removed thus allowing the prosecution to proceed.
Chief Prosecutor Mircea Criste has also sought permission from the two chambers of Parliament to begin proceedings against the Minister of the Interior, Constantin Dudu Ionescu. The Minister, along with the underprefect of Gorj, is alleged to have overlooked illegal acts supposedly committed by an elected representative in Gorj. The Senate has delegated a decision to their Judicial Committee.
The National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Alliance for Romania Party (ApR) have been involved in negotiations to establish an alliance for the presidential and parliamentary elections which are to take place in November. Their discussions have focussed on a campaign with Teodor Melescanu of ApR standing for the presidency and former prime minister Teodor Stolojan being put forward as a potential premier.
Melescanu said, "Teodor Stolojan sent me and Liberals Mircea Ionescu-Quintus and Valeriu Stoica a letter in which he actually expressed his wish to get involved in politics alongside with the ApR, PNL and the Social-Liberal Initiative (ISL)." (EvZ - 29 June 2000) Stolojan is seen, like Prime Minister Mugur Isărescu, as having a non-party orientation.
The idea of an electoral team seems to have come about following suggestions that President Emil Constantinescu will contest the elections with Isărescu named as potential prime minister. Constantinescu represents the National Christian Democratic Peasants Party (PNŢCD). However, in negotiations on 29 June Ioan Mureşan of PNŢCD and Varujan Vosganian of the Union of Rightist Forces (UFD) agreed to set in motion the creation of an electoral alliance. Vosganian indicated that the alliance would "promote rightist ideology." (RFE - 30 June 2000)
The idea of alliances in Romanian politics is nothing new but following this year's local elections some bizarre groupings have been created - but given the infighting between members of the parliamentary alliances nothing is surprising. The PNL has linked with the PRM and PDSR in Timiş county, the PNŢCD supports the PDSR in Ilfov county while in Braşov the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) and the PRM combined to help remove the PNL from leadership of the council.
The government made changes to the electoral law on Tuesday. A party now has to achieve at least five per cent of the vote to be able to be considered for parliamentary seats under proportional representation. Alliances are also considered with a two-party grouping being required to have eight per cent of the vote. A further change requires that candidates for the presidential election will need to obtain 300,000 signatures of support to secure nomination - the current level is 1,000,000 signatures.
Health care problems
After last week's problems surrounding the supply of medicines to hospitals by the Association of Drug Suppliers in Romania (ADMR) the problems for Romania's Health Service have continued. Doctors in Bucharest and across the country have taken to the streets in protest at not having received wages for two months. Although the government passed an emergency decree which allows the doctors to be paid from the National Health Insurance Fund, this has not yet been made official. The Ministry of Health in Bucharest has been picketed as have government offices in other parts of the country. Doctor say that this will happen every day until their wages are paid.
Stability for membership
Prime Minister Isărescu met with the EU Commissioner for Enlargement, Günter Verheugen at the fifth
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In response Isărescu said, "Despite the difficult period Romania has been going through, it has remained a strongly motivated EU candidate." He went on to emphasise the importance of Romania's international credibility as an aspirant member of the EU, "Rebuilding credibility is a difficult process even when the country is moving in the right direction and performances have improved."(Nine o'clock - 30 June 2000)
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