Reforms in justice, society, and politics

Parliamentary privilege and its consequences for the present functioning of Romanian justice
In post-communism, the normative depression specific to societies in transition has generated many anomic phenomena in the administration of justice. Among these, there stands out the special treatment enjoyed by politicians (mainly by the members of Parliament, who are granted parliamentary privilege) in the instrumentation of prosecution files. The refuse of the legislating bodies to remove the parliamentary immunity of some of their members, correlated with the tergiversation of investigations and with the phenomenon of “television-justice” , lead, within the Romanian society, to a decrease in the confidence shown to the judicial power and to the accentuation of the sense of discrimination between ordinary citizens and the “political elite”; moreover, the public opinion is led to believe that the justice is an instrument for the settling of political accounts. At the European level, these phenomena have been translated into the long maintenance of the Mechanism for Cooperation and Verification (MCV) in the fields of justice and domestic affairs, as well as into the blocking of Romania’s accession to the Schengen area. The study of the relationship between parliamentary privilege and the inconsistencies of Romanian justice is governed by the following objectives:
- the comparative analysis of the types of parliamentary immunity in the European area;
- the qualitative analysis of the use of parliamentary privilege as an instrument in order to block the mechanisms of justice in Romania;
- to survey the public opinion in what regards the quality of legal service in the case of politicians;
- to put forth propositions designed to improve the quality and the celerity of legal service in the case of dignitaries.

Political implications of constitutional reform in post-communist Romania
The political theme of the “modernisation of the state”, upheld in public discourse, from a governmental perspective, in contemporary Romania, involves, in one of its basic dimensions, the issue of constitutional reform. Inevitably, this forecast reform will imply crucial consequences in what regards the functioning of the Romanian political regime, which is currently one that may be classified, both de jure and de facto, as a semi-presidential preponderantly executive system. Thus, the likelihood of a possible strengthening of presidential powers will engender a new relationship between the legislature and the executive, as well as the modification of the political relations established between the main institutional stake-holders from the political scene, with major consequences on the process of democratic consolidation, since Romania still finds itself, from the standpoint of political science, in a stage of “democratic setting-up”. Under these circumstances, the analysis of the political consequences of constitutional reform becomes a framework of debate for the main indicators relative to the future evolution of the Romanian political system.

The reform of electoral laws and its political consequences in post-communist Romania
Mainly in the late 1990s, the need to change the electoral system was a recurrent theme on the agenda of the post-communist Romanian civil society; between the last two electoral cycles, it was also included on the political agenda. The amendment of electoral laws and the enforcement of this new system during the local and general elections which took place in 2008 gave rise to a series of observations which aimed to launch a new debate on the issue of the influence that the electoral architecture has on the evolution of the party system and, through it, on the evolution of the political system as a whole. These observations focus on the main political consequences implied by the reform of electoral laws, from the ones relative to the level of representativeness that politicians may claim based on votes to the ones which refer to the manner in which citizens relate to the political system. As a result, an investigation which would reveal the impact of such consequences proves its importance both from a legal viewpoint and from the standpoint of political theory and science.

The reform of justice as an instrument for the strengthening of the social structures that are able to exert informal social control
One of the paradoxes specific to Romania in the last two decades is that which we may call the “litigants’ paradox”. To be more precise, there is an inversely proportional relationship between the people’s level of trust in the legal system and their use of its courts. The lower the level of trust in justice, the more people go to court to solve their disputes. Two causes seem to be particularly relevant. The first has to do with the imposters’ intent to speculate the system’s supposedly high permeability to subterraneous elements. The second is represented by the faulty functioning of the social structures that exert informal social control. The consequences of the former deteriorate constantly the citizens’ trust in justice. Through the repercussions of the latter, the system’s resources are wasted. The impact of the reform of justice on the societal system develops mostly through the effects produced within the other subsystems. The topic’s streamlining into themes of sociological inquiry should answer a series of crucial questions. What are the changes needed to discourage the current trend of using the legal system as a tool that legitimates abuse? How deep is the concern with the strengthening and the multiplication of the social mechanisms that are capable of exerting informal social control? What is the dynamics of medium and long term court load, and what are the main causes of variation? To what extent the Romanian citizens’ expectations are translated into the fundamental principles that underlie the reform of justice?

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