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Romania: A Comparison between the 1952 and 2003 Constitutions

The Constitution is a body of fundamental principles or established precedents according


to which a state or other organization is acknowledged to be governed.
After the Second World War, Romania was under Soviet occupation from 1944 to August
1958. According to the 1952 Constitution, Romania was proclaimed a "state of working people
from the cities and villages" that "was born as a result of the historic victory of the Soviet Union
against German fascism and the liberation of Romania by the glorious Red Army, a liberation
that empowered the working people, above all the working class led by the Communist Party, to
demolish the fascist dictatorship, to destroy the power of the exploiting classes and to build a
state of popular democracy, which fully coincides with the interests and hopes of Romania's
popular masses".
The 1952 Constitution, also called the constitution of building socialism, was a step
into the consolidation of the Communist power that was enshrined into law by the previous
Constitution of 1948. A draft was written by a commission elected by the Great National
Assembly on March 27, 1952 and published on July 18.
On the other hand, the 2003 Constitution is a major revision of the 1991 Constitution,
that established the current structure of the government of Romania, the rights and obligations of
the country's citizens. The 1991 Constitution made possible the return to democracy after the fall
of the Communist regime and was approved by referendum on 8 December 1991, with 77.3%
voting in favour. The revision of the 1991 Constitution happened in 2003, with the addition of
the Integration into the European Union and NATO Accession articles that granted Romania
the legal instruments to accede to the European Union and NATO.
While the 1952 Constitution cemented the Communist ideology deeply in the Romanian
society and ended the short democratic exercise of the interwar Romania (also called Greater
Romania), the 2003 Constitution (as a revision of the 1991 Constitution) marked the transition
towards a democratic society, who wants to approach the rest of Europe in democratic
cooperation.
The contrast between the two Constitutions is illustrated the best in the Articles that refers
to the rights and duties of the Romanian citizens. Romanian People's Republic - how the state
was known as under 1952 Constitution - views its citizens as working people from the cities and
villages and their power is exercised by the Great National Assembly and the popular
assemblies. The right to own property, today classified as a human right for natural persons, was
recognized only to those who work". The 1952 Constitution foresaw the introduction of the
universal labor duty, based on the principle He who does not work, neither shall he eat cited by
Lenin during the Russian Revolution. The Romanian Peoples Republic also followed the From
each according to his ability, to each according to his needs slogan popularized by Karl Marx.
After declaring its strong allegations to the MarxismLeninism political philosophy, the
1952 Constitution enumerates the rights and duties that Romanian citizens of Peoples Republic
are entitled to:
a) the right to work
b) the right to rest (ensured by setting the working day at maximum 8 hours; reduction
of the working hours under 8 hours for certain professions that requires difficult

c)
d)
e)
f)
g)
h)
i)
j)
k)
l)
m)
n)
o)
p)
q)
r)
s)

working conditions; the establishment of paid annual leaves; making resting homes,
nursing homes and cultural institutions available to the working people)
the right to old age retirement pension
the right to education
equal rights, without distinctions of any kind such as nationality or race
the right of minorities to use their own language, to study in their own language; in all
Raions where minorities are living, every institution will use the language of the
respective minority and they will name clerks from the ranks of local people
gender equality; the State protects marriage and family and defends the interests of
mother and child; maternal leave
freedom of conscience
the separation of Church and School; no religious cult can open a public educational
institution
freedom of speech
freedom of the press
freedom of assembly
right to strike
right to associate; any association with a fascist or anti-democratic thought are
banned; the most dedicated workers can join the Romanian Workers' Party
inviolability of the person; nobody can be arrested without a legal decision
inviolability of domicile
right of asylum for foreign communist sympathizers
the duty to respect the Constitution and the state laws; to guard, to strengthen and
develop socialist common property; to actively contribute to strenghten of the popular
democratic regime
military service is mandatory; the defence of the Peoples Republic is viewed as a
holy duty of every citizen

Fundamental rights and freedoms were proclaimed, but in reality civil rights were
severely limited and the entire population was mobilized in support of the state ideology and
policies.
Whereas the 1952 Constitution only proclaims several fundamental rights, the 2003
Constitution guarantees them with the help of European Convention on Human Rights, that was
ratified by Romania in 1994. The 2003 Constitution (as a revision of the 1991 Constitution)
introduces rights that are fundamental for a true democratic society. These are related to: Trade
unions, employers' associations, and vocational associations, right to vote, secrecy of
correspondence, personal and family privacy, the fundamental right of property that does not
have extra requirements (unlike the right guaranteed by 1952 Constitution), right to be elected
(and to be elected in the European Parliament, addition that came with the 2003 revision),
prohibition of forced labor. Regarding of duties, the 2003 Constitutions Chapter III of Title I
speaks of fundamental duties in four articles: faithfulness towards the country, defence of the
country, financial contributions and exercise of the rights and freedoms. Another difference
between the two Constitutions is the Romanian Ombudsman that was established by the 1991
Constitution. While 1952 Constitution speaks of equality without discrimination between the
citizens of the Peoples Republic, the democratic 2003 Constitution makes sure there is a way to
safeguard this equality.

The electoral system is another aspect that creates a rift between the two Constitutions.
While both are speaking of deputies being elected by universal, equal, direct, secret vote, the
deputies are having different roles in a different institution. The 1952 Constitution is referring to
the elections of Great National Assembly and the popular assemblies deputies, whereas the 2003
Constitutions speaks of The Chamber of Deputies and the Senate of the Romanian Parliament.
There is a subtle addition noted in the 2003 Constitution: the addition of the expression free
suffrage, making the difference between virtual elections and real ones. Both Constitutions are
guaranteeing the right to vote for citizens that turned eighteen in the day of election. Regarding
the age requirement for the right to be elected, it is the same for Deputies 23 years old and an
addition is the minimum age required for the senators 33 years old.
The Great National Assembly was ruled by a Presidium and Chapter Three of the 1952
Constitution names the GNA as the supreme institution in state. Unlike the communist
unicameral legislative, the 2003 Constitution speaks of a bicameral parliament, made up of the
Chamber of Deputies and the Senate.
Notably, the Romanian Peoples Republic lacks the traditional head of state and instead
there is the President of the Presidium of the Great National Assembly, who is Constantin Ion
Parhon at the time of 1952 Constitution. The 2003 Constitution speak of the clear and cemented
institution of Presidency, which is arguable if its not influenced by the Constitutions that was inbetween the two the 1965 Constitution that changed the Great National Assembly completely
and introduced the de facto office of Presidency. While the President was elected, later on
according to the 1965 Constitution, by the General National Assembly, in present, according to
the 2003 Constitution, the President is elected by universal, equal, direct, secret and free suffrage
and there is a term of office.
Incidentally, the form of government was deeply influenced by the 1948 and later on by
the 1952 and 1965 Constitutions that cemented the Republicanism and the Communist ideals,
ideas hardly embraced by the Romanian people before the Second World War. While Romanian
Peoples Republic carries its form of government in its very name, the form of state established
by the 2003 Constitution is stated in the second paragraph of Article 1: The form of government
of the Romanian State is a Republic.
To conclude, the two Constitutions share a lot of similarities, and both served as an
instrument to enshrine into law the fundamental ideas of their times ideology. While 1952
Constitution changed completely the democratic Constitutional Monarchy that was introduced by
the 1866 and 1923 Constitutions and finished the plan of its predecessor (the 1948 Constitution),
the 2003 Constitution can be seen as a constitutional mirror of ideologies and fundamental rights,
that comes in opposition to almost every change introduced by the communist Constitution.
What 1952 Constitution managed to destroy, the 2003 Constitution recreated for the revival of
Democracy, paving the way to international collaboration, after 42 years of Totalitarianism.

Bujor Ion-Gheorghe
Grupa 1, Anul 2, Universitatea "Nicolae Titulescu" din Bucuresti