Why Are Mayors above the Law in Romania?

A recent emergency ordinance passed by the government of Romania - without parliamentary debate - suspends the application of a law for 45 days, thereby allowing mayors to change political parties without ramifications.

The Romanian government has passed an emergency ordinance that suspends for 45 days the application of a law that places limitations on the possibility of mayors to change their political parties. Currently, a mayor cannot change his political party during his mandate without losing his seat. This emergency ordinance would give mayors throughout Romania an exemption from that law for 45 days.

APADOR-CH and 20 other NGOs have contested the emergency ordinance. The NGOs contested both the manner in which this bill was passed and its content.

The NGOs denounced the fact that the government passed yet another emergency ordinance. The Parliament is currently entrusted to pass laws in Romania, but the government can pass certain legislation only in exceptional circumstances. This loophole has been abused over the years and, with little justification, the government is currently passing more legislation than the Parliament, with little transparency and without any proper public consultation.

A recent report released by APADOR-CH showed that in recent years, the government passed an emergency ordinance on average once every three days. The abuse of the emergency ordinance is troubling because it bypasses the Romanian Parliament, it bypasses the law on public consultation and it bypasses the Constitutional Court, as only the ombudsman can contest an emergency ordinance before the Constitutional Court and the ombudsman has been increasingly reluctant to do so.

The NGOs stressed that the law needs to provide stability and predictability and not seek to serve an immediate purpose of the ruling party. Concerns with respect to the timing of the law were also shared by the American Embassy in Bucharest. This bill comes in the context of the upcoming presidential elections at the end of the year. In these elections, the support of local mayors is expected to play an important role, so the suspension of this legislation would allow the main parties to try to generate as much support as possible from local mayors.