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Asymmetric Democracy and Governing

27 febbraio 2019 -
Asymmetric Democracy and Governing

Contributo selezionato da Filodiritto tra quelli pubblicati nei Proceedings “5th ACADEMOS Conference 2018”

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Contribution selected by Filodiritto among those published in the Proceedings “5th ACADEMOS Conference 2018”

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Bulai Alfred [1]

National School of Political Studies and Administration (ROMANIA)

 

Abstract

Democracy is defined in countless ways. It is, however, certain that it has primarily a political definition, democracy being understood as a type of organization of a political system according to which the political legitimacy of government and, implicitly, the rule of government is achieved by political actors who have come to power on the basis of an expression of the will of the population through elections in which several political forces competed. But the democratic political system can work only through the social institutions and the actions of the actors in these institutions, which implies that any political system functions only in a social frame characterized by a certain political culture. The political values that characterize this cultural framework are central to it. In this article I will show that the political system in Romania is of asymmetric type. In other words, there is a major difference between the political and legislative dimension of the way in which democracy is defined and politically established in Romania and the social dimension of the political mechanism based on an institutional framework which is deficient in terms of democratic values. I will show that there is a major asymmetry between the legally defined political institutions and the social institutions through which they can function. This deficit is the major reason for much of the governance problems in Romania.

 

Introduction

The analysis of the quality of democracy in a state usually takes into account the way in which the political institutions of that society are defined and function. As a rule, two basic dimensions are taken into account. Firstly, the law-making framework allowing the legal operation of the political institutions specific to a democratic system, and secondly the quality of the operation of these institutions. We can, for instance, have a legal framework that allows for multi-party system and democratic elections, but still, due to the functioning of the political mechanism, new political forces find it almost impossible to accede to power or the elections are likely to be subject to serious fraud or the results may be subject to non-democratic influence. Generally, the issue of reforming political and administrative organizations – permanently present on our political agenda – was based, on the one hand, on the diagnosis of their functioning and, on the other, on attempts to change the legal framework underlying them.

The most important measures were related to the electoral system, where extensive debates on the list and uninominal systems has determined a change of the voting system twice. First, we experienced the uninominal system that was used for two mandates (2008-2016), after which it was abandoned, Romania returning to the list system. Yet, another concern was the permanent attempt to reform the parties, usually trying to enforce certain selection criteria for their representatives, aiming at the non-involvement of leaders in justice-related issues, especially corruption-related ones. Most parties have set internal rules related to this moral dimension of those proposed in the election. These rules were assumed even in legal terms, such as Law 90/2001, which does not allow a convicted person to be part of the Government, a law that caused many political issues in the year 2017.

Of course, we can identify many more such measures that have characterized the permanent attempt to reform both the political institutions and the administrative ones in Romania. We should mention that the model of interventions was usually based on the status of importer of political models that Romania has had for at least two decades. Our access to NATO, and even more importantly, the accession to the European Union, have imposed a whole series of institutional redefining issues or, sometimes, even completely new organizations have been set up. Obviously, all these interventions are based on legislative changes. We can list, for example, the law on access to public information (544/2001), the law of decisional transparency in public administration (52/2003), but also the radical change of the laws on public procurement, the division of executive, controlling and regulating institutions, the empowerment of some government decision-making institutions, where a good example is education, but also many others. Completely new institutions, such as the National Integrity Agency, but also the National Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office, later the National Anticorruption Directorate, have been also established.

It is unquestionable that EU membership has forced us to accept and carry out a series of reforms, radical as one could say, of some of the political institutions - and not only - in Romania. The fact that we have a European Union monitoring system such as the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (MCV) with regard to the functioning of the democratic system has determined a number of measures to be permanently taken, even after we have joined the EU.

With all these measures, the quality of the democratic system in our country has been questioned in public debates as well as in international concerns regarding Romania, most often in the form of the rule of law state issue. Up to a point, this type of debate has a purely electoral role, meaning that it is a subject of great resonance and implicitly of great utility in the political battle. We have to mention in this context that as long as the population image is rather negative in terms of the governmental, and implicitly political act fairness, the opposition forces have

often chosen to transmit almost exclusively critical messages on this topic - where their resonance is guaranteed - rather than launching attacks or political messages on other topics that are perceived as having less effect. In this context, in the year 2017 the dispute over the rule of law state reached its peak, the public agenda and the media gravitating around the issue of justice reform, which was and is seen by some as a counter-reform - even an attack on the rule of law state - and by others as a way of optimizing the legal and, implicitly, the political system.

The population, as we have mentioned, has a consonant perception of public debate, having a relatively small percentage of trust in the actors involved in the justice system, but more importantly, a very small one related to political actors. In other words, in general terms, the population’s image about Romania’s organization is rather negative and extremely bad when we refer strictly to the political field.



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