Home » English » A Change of Regime

A Change of Regime

Much to everybody’s surprise, the MRU government got dismissed. Obviously, conspiracy theories were no late in emerging. According to them, this is a “strategic withdrawal to previously planned positions,” a “trap” set by master strategist Traian Băsescu, in which the stupid opposition fell like fools, and PD will be reborn after the parliamentary election with its true value acknowledged.

I’m afraid the Democrats are fooling themselves. Reality is a lot more colourless. Neither the opposition nor the Democratic Party itself had imagined the extent of the Democrats’ downfall. The no-confi­den­ce motion was tabled without a clear plan, very likely as a form to bring the Government before Parliament. In a first stage, they didn’t believe it would pass. But as time went by and the signs of chaos among the Democrats grew more, USL realised the motion might well pass, so they changed their discourse accordingly.
For PD-L, the fall of the cabinet is a disaster. They do not have enough time for a radical change of perceptions ahead of the general election. Local elections are pending, and the Demo­cratic Party is in for terrible results (in Iaşi County, for instance, out of 22 ma­yors only 9 are still running for PD-L). A score of 10-15% in the local elections, which is perfectly possible now, is a gloomy omen for the autumn election.
The Liberal-Democrats are yet to come to their senses. They are yet to realise that their main problem has nothing to do with introducing the “sacrifice curves,” but with the very way in which they governed; that “betrayals” are an effect and not a cause of the internal chaos owing to the absence of a leader. The fall of the Democratic Party began in the Congress, when Emil Boc was reconfirmed as president, although he is a poor communicator, with a disastrous public image and truly unable to lead. His resignation as head of government came too late. But an alternative to Emil Boc was not presented in the Congress. It was only a battle between those who adored Traian Băsescu and those who only loved him a lot, but had other opinions as well, although they themselves didn’t agree with those ideas.
And then Traian Băsescu made a mistake. The move as such was good, but it came too late. Unfortunately Mihai Răzvan Ungureanu proved his own limitations, so all they could do was to “buy” time. Way too little time. Mi­hai Răzvan Ungureanu’s fall comes right in time for the opposition, just before the local elections, which USL goes into with better morale.
There is a strong rejection of how Tra­ian Băsescu is doing politics. Emil Boc’s replacement would have worked, if the new prime minister had been a radical change and if he had been a leader who knows what he must do and how. Not the case here. Traian Băsescu himself made sure to set the length of the leash from the very beginning. A number of unprovoked errors followed, and the MRU project shrank before it had a chance to grow. Apparently Traian Băsescu still plans to rely on this project, although not even the Democrats had welcomed it.
This proves the major crisis in PD-L, which was unable to promote a leader, either as prime minister or as pre­si­dent of the party.
Things are worse for PD-L now than they were in January. If they had accep­ted early elections or a caretaker go­vern­ment at that point, they might have controlled the damage. The chaos would have been smaller and perhaps there would have been fewer defectors. Traian Băsescu tried a trick, and failed. This is how the MRU cabinet fall should be read.
This has dispelled the myth of the president’s invincibility and of Traian Bă­sescu as the saviour. No one is wai­ting for a solution from the president any longer. It is the second Băsescu government dismissed by Parliament, which proves that democracy cannot be fooled forever, as much of a player as the president may be. Three years have passed since Traian Băsescu ignored a parliamentary majority and imposed two minority governments backed by the political migrants who have “defected” once again today. Beyond the price paid by Romania, which is hard to quantify, the other price is quite clear: the president has become an irrelevant politician, and PD-L – on the verge of dismantling and disappearing as a party.
The Democrats have to come to terms with the idea of being in the opposition for at least four years from now on. The ensuing elections will find them hopeless and confused.
True enough, PD-L did experience a de-structuring period before, under the Adrian Năstase government. But at that time they had a project and a leader: the D.A. Alliance and Traian Băsescu. Now they have no project and no leader.
The National Union for the Progress of Romania has never had a political future to begin with. It was only valid for as long as the Democrats were in power. Although they have now renounced Satan and try to get closer to USL, its prospects are bleak. Traian Băsescu’s loyalty to former partners is well known. UNPR will probably be the first to fall apart.
The Democratic Union of Ethnic Hun­garians in Romania (UDMR) made a huge mistake, not so much by betraying the Johannis project, but by promoting a reverse apartheid, i.e. struggling for the isolation and encla­visation of the Hungarian minority so as to be able to control it. I said it back in 2007: an ethnic party is a mistake and the Hungarian problem (and that of the other minorities) must be taken over by the Romanian parties. The recent issue of the Târgu Mureş Univer­sity is the best example of political stupidity, a manoeuvre that damages the Hungarians as well as everyone else.
At present, UDMR is facing internal competition, an unfriendly electoral legislation and a coalition no longer wil­ling to cooperate with it (namely USL). Even if it makes it into Parliament, Romanian parties will no longer need UDMR, regardless of the new confi­guration of power.
The Social Liberal Union (USL) has already recorded a first vital victory against the Băsescu regime. It is the first transfer of power before an election. It is a major precedent, altho­ugh one impossible to repeat in the short run. Taking over power gives USL a number of critical advantages:

  • Good morale for the local and later the parliamentary elections;
  • The advantage of organising the elections, to avoid speed-voting recor­ds in Romanian embassies abroad;
  • The possibility to prepare the 2013 budget in line with their own governing programme;
  • A soft transition of power;
  • Ponta remaining the prime minister will reduce excesses and ensure responsible governing (to the extent to which “responsible” is an option for the Romanian political class).

The chance for USL is that PD-L set such low standards that the new government virtually stands no chance to under-perform.
Will USL break up?
Any political system tends to reach a state of equilibrium. Since the dissolution of the D.A. Alliance, we have been witnessing attempts to regain the balance in a three-party system in which, at some point or another, each party was threatened by extinction. Even if we have an alliance vs. a party, this is not a binary system, because USL is not a whole, but a circumstantial alliance. Unlike the D.A. Alliance, USL has acknowledged its historical and ideological differences right from the onset, so clearly there is no hidden agenda. Just like with the D.A. Alliance, we have a coalition of parties with different ideologies (for what ideology is worth in the Romanian politics). Just like the D.A. Alliance, USL was set up in order to defeat a common enemy, and time will only tell if it will outlive this common enemy. Therefore, USL will survive at least as long as Traian Băsescu does.
In the current context, a score of 60% for USL in the parliamentary elections is not out of the question. PD-L cannot get more than 15%, it will probably stand at around 10%, Dan Diaconescu cannot do better than 20%. UDMR stands slim chances to make it into Parliament. So we will have an opposition of around 35%, with PD-L alone counting as a political actor.

by Cristian BANU

© 2010 REVISTA CADRAN POLITIC · RSS · Designed by Theme Junkie · Powered by WordPress