Romania may fine or jail witches if their predictions do not come true
Romania's government is considering a new law that will impose fines or even jail for witches if their predictions do not come true.
The bad news comes only a month after witches became liable for tax for the first time in their hundreds of years of existence.
Superstition is a serious matter in the land of Dracula, and officials have turned to witches to help the recession-hit country collect more money and crack down on tax evasion.
Witches argue they should not be blamed for the failure of their tools.
"They can't condemn witches, they should condemn the cards," Queen Witch Bratara Buzea said.
Critics say the proposal is a ruse to deflect public attention from the country's many problems. In 2009, Romania needed a 20 billion euro International Monetary Fund-led bailout loan to pay salaries and pensions when its economy contracted more than 7%.
Last year, the economy shrank again. However, this year a slight recovery of 1.5 % growth is forecast.
European Union and Romanian officials say local authorities are hampered by political bickering and bureaucracy. The centrist government is unpopular, the opposition is weak, the press thrives on conspiracy and personal attacks, and EU officials say the justice system needs to be reformed. Romanians are jaded and mistrustful.
In January, the government changed labour laws to officially recognise the practice of witchcraft as a taxable profession, prompting angry witches to dump poisonous mandrake into the Danube in an attempt to put a spell on them.
The latest bill was passed in the Senate last week, but must still be approved by a financial and labour committee and by the Chamber of Deputies, the other house of Romania's parliament.
Bratara called the proposed bill overblown. "I will fight until my last breath for this not to be passed," she said.
Sometimes, she argued, people don't provide their real identities, dates of birth or other personal details, which could skew a seer's predictions. "What about when the client gives false details about themselves? We can't be blamed for that."
The new bill would also require witches to have a permit, to provide their customers with receipts and bar them from practising near schools and churches.