Romanian president to hold referendum on unicameral parliament

Thursday, October 6, 2005

The president of Romania, Traian Băsescu, announced today that he would call a referendum next year asking Romanians whether they approve the switch to a unicameral legislature.

Romania currently has a bicameral parliamentary structure, similar to the United Kingdom and United States, with a Chamber of Deputies as the lower house and a Senate as the upper house. In the past month, however, President Băsescu has stated that he would like to see the replacement of the current system with a unicameral parliament, consisting of only one chamber, as well as a reduction in the overall number of parliamentarians. His reason is the functions of the Chamber of Deputies and Senate are nearly identical in Romania, both being elected by the people every five years under the system of proportional representation. These reasons are similar to the ones used when converting the legislature of the U.S. State of Nebraska to a unicameral house.

The unicameral plan, however, has come under fire from several political parties, including some from the ruling Justice and Truth Alliance. The Prime Minister of Romania, Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu, from the National Liberal Party, does not support the unicameral plan, and neither do the two major opposition parties, the Social Democrats and Great Romania.

Despite the political opposition, President Băsescu has constantly said that it would be up to the people to decide whether such a reform should take place, and hence announced today that the referendum on this issue would be held next year. The referendum would be held at the same time as the vote to elect Romania's 35 representatives to the European Parliament, as Romania will join the European Union in 2007.