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Băsescu-PD-L – divorce in primetime

After pushing them around and from left to right, after bringing them in power and taking them off power, Traian Băsescu officially abandoned his party, in the address given in Parliament, in a move to rescue what is left to rescue and secure himself a second term in office, from any party willing to renounce its own oligarchs and start working with the “good oligarchs” approved by Cotroceni.

A shock to everybody

The first sign that something was rotten was not the sta­te­ment after the Liberal Demo­crats’ pact with Greater Romania Party. The most evident indication was Elena Udrea’s unthinkable fuss. Cooking, clea­ning, knitting on TV – utterly uni­maginable for someone who should have had no problem securing a seat in Parliament.
The separation of the two sides caught everybody on the wrong foot. The Liberals (PNL) and Social De­mocrats (PSD) tried to rehash the old slogans, but they too have realised that it won’t work, and that they must revise their tactics as soon as possible. PDL itself is at a loss, on the verge of disin­tegration, with infighting a common practice. Making Stolojan the party’s frontman for election purposes, the failure to finalise even half of the candidate lists (PD-L seems to face the largest number of withdrawal attem­pts), the clashes between ex-Liberals and ex-Democrats, are all signs of a confusion that can only be deepened by the president’s disaffection. The divorce may well be the doing of some PD members, who could never come to terms with their leaving the govern­ment two years ago.
Also, should the uninominal voting be discarded, the Democrats would be the ideal scapegoat, as the idea would have come from their “new friends,” PRM. Although not particularly keen on it either, PNL and PSD seem to have bet­ter adjusted to the new rules, and there’s peace and quiet in their corner. The media focus on the Democrats anyway these days, and the President’s speech on the public television chan­nel (TVR) only added fuel to the fire. The attack was a bad idea. When you have problems, you do your best to hide them, instead of stepping into the limelight. But both the President and the Democrats went to great lengths to maximise the scandal of the coo­pe­ration with PRM, otherwise a minor, uninteresting matter. And the recent series of motions of censure only sheds more light on how well the two parties work together.
Under these circumstances, the Democrats’ results will be much below initial expectations, and I am beginning to doubt that 25% is feasible, in case of a PNL and PSD attack that no one in PDL is able to handle. Because I think it won’t be long until the two parties realise that the divorce is “for real” and that Traian Băsescu will not interfere in the campaign.

PDL is better off

Although it may seem paradoxical, the separation benefits PDL, not only because there’s a silver lining to any cloud, but because the party will finally have a chance to define its own identity and personality, even at the cost of a lower score in the election. But Traian Băsescu will be in trouble. He is unlikely to succeed to create a civic platform to support him. And after he accepts a government, he will have to play in the hands of that coalition. And should this coalition include PDL, negotiating with a party that he had seduced and abandoned won’t be a joy ride for the President.
Both PSD and PNL are interested in containing the Democrats, and will try to take full advantage of their con­fu­sion. So far, the Democrats proved an unreliable partner in all coalitions. Inde­ed, they tried to smother all their coalition partners. But then again, the mastermind was always Traian Bă­ses­cu, and without him there is a team in PD which would manage to work well with PNL. The rise of the ex-Liberal dis­senters dramatically reduces chances of cooperation with PNL (their com­pe­tition for the right-wing electorate aside). But if talks are conducted by the old Democrats (Blaga, Videanu) and Traian Băsescu’s tyranny is abolished, the way is paved for genuine cooperation between PNL and PD.

A President for Romania

A while ago, I was saying that the forthcoming presidential election will take place in a different paradigm, because parties will have already won seats in a new Parliament and a new electoral campaign would yield very little ROI, which would change the relations between political parties and their presidential candidates.
There is no doubt that Romanians are fed up with party presidents and want a President of the country. Both Traian Băsescu and Ion Iliescu were mostly party presidents, and as such they divided Romania. Emil Constan­ti­nescu was closer to what a true President should be like, but he too paid the price of a society experiencing a violent dichotomy.
I was also saying that the next president would be someone starkly different from Traian Băsescu, in other words a “low profile” individual, pos­sibly even an independent like Mugur Isărescu or Leonard Orban, whose role would be closer to that of a consti­tu­tional monarch (although elected by the people), and far from the “involved president.”
The first who understood that is Traian Băsescu, who started his electoral campaign for a fresh term in office in Italy — yet another proof that he is a skilled politician. Traian Bă­ses­cu has understood that for him, PD (plus or minus L or D), is a failed political project, and he’d better take a distance from it as soon as possible, to rely instead on a “civic” platform and on the idea that “Traian Băsescu is the only one who can keep in check an incompetent and immoral political class,” with support from upright personalities like Monica Macovei, Cătălin Avramescu, Mircea Cărtărescu et comp.
All the president’s recent moves are intended to present a different president, a “champion of peace at the Black Sea,” a “messenger of inter-faith dialogue” (he invited the Pope to Ro­mania), who knows when to commend the Government and when to criticise it lovingly, concerned with the future of Romania for the next 100 years, backed by “genuine and respectable” intellectuals, taking a distance from a shadow-party that doesn’t even follow his instructions. This image is, of course, spiced up with promises of salary and pension increases.
In the ensuing campaign, we will no longer see the President alongside his “old friends.” The President doesn’t go through the motions of the fallout with PD; he simply doesn’t need a party any longer, for his second term in office.
At present, the President and PDL stand in each other’s way. By giving the Democrats their freedom back, the President takes them out of the isolation that he had brought upon them himself, while at the same time shunning responsibility for a predictable failure in the parliamentary election. “I left you by yourselves, and look what you incompetent people have done,” Traian Băsescu can now tell them. But on the other hand, he spares himself the humiliation of begging for the Democrats’ support in the forthcoming election campaign.

An uncertain future for Traian Băsescu

But the success of this strategy depends on too many variables. The civic platform backing the President must be strong and convincing enough if it is to mobilise the electorate and convince them that Traian Băsescu has truly changed. The President himself must consolidate his new image as “independent,” after 4 years of ordering the Democrats around. But these variables aside, the key to success in this strategy is the civic platform’s capacity to create a sense of “urgency.” Yes, we do have an incompetent and corrupt political class. Still, we have economic growth and living standards, for all social categories, are better than four years ago. We are far from the gloomy atmosphere of the PSD rule, we are an EU Member State …
We have the Saviour, but not the Apocalypse. And I doubt that in the year left until the presidential election, the civic platform will be able to make one up.

By Cristian BANU

Publicat în : English  de la numărul 60
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