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PD, party of moral intransigence?

The Justice and Truth Alliance won the elections in 2004 because a large part of the electorate had actually had enough of the PSD immorality. The Alliance thus relied on a “moral intransigence” message, with Traian Băsescu as its spearhead. But since PNL is rather a capricious party in this respect, the colours of moral intransigence were taken over by the Democratic Party.

The Liberals’ ambiguity

Although in the same team, the Liberals have always proved a fluctuating behaviour. In this respect, it is quite evident that they would have never managed to rally that part of the electorate which responded to Traian Băsescu’s rhetoric. We should not overlook that days ahead of the elections, some of the Liberals were speaking about a potential PSD-PNL government, an idea which seems to have remained with them since, as there are Liberal leaders who fiddle with it if only to reduce the President and PD’s blackmail capacity. But tempting as such prospects would be to the Liberals, in political terms it would be a disaster, a veritable political suicide. Jointly with PD, PNL has fuelled a certain horizon of expectation (particularly after the launch of the Stolojan/Băsescu tandem) which no longer allows for such shifts today.

The same stays true for the prospective alliance with the PUR(CP) “immoral solution” which Călin Popescu Tăriceanu himself was on the verge of forging. The signals received in this respect are a very relevant indication for what would happen in the case of a relationship with PSD. For this reason, several Liberals have vehemently stood up against an alliance with PSD.

In fact, the entire history of the National Liberal Party is a line of swings from “good” to “evil” and back, which hardly make it the ideal candidate for the role of the intransigence flagship. This is why PNL has always had by its side parties that took over this role. It was PNŢCD in the elections in 1996, it’s PD now.

How did PD get to stand in for PNŢCD

PNŢCD was, primarily thanks to Corneliu Coposu’s overwhelming personality, the representative of moral intransigence. A rather exotic idea in a Romania of the “soft-spot chain” in which everybody “knows somebody.” The level of exasperation people had reached after six years of Socialist-Communist governance, defined by aggravated immorality, brought the coalition led by PNŢCD in power in 1996.

Except that moral intransigence is a two-edged blade. Once a horizon of expectation created, it must also be met, otherwise frustration sets in, leading to the opposite extreme. PNŢCD fell victim to its own unwillingness to accept a compromise, rendering impossible the cohabitation with coalition partners (including PNL and PD) which had different interests. In fact, Traian Băsescu is said to have been the “slayer of PNŢCD,” a rather propagandistic statement. PNŢCD was first and foremost the victim of its own incapacity to manage a coalition, and of an acute lack of competent people.

Through the elections in 2000, PSD returns in Power and, through the manner in which it governed the country in the respective four years it once again created the need for a “moral solution.” The horizon of expectation for the moral solution was thus once again activated.

The Justice and Truth Alliance – through its very name – took over this horizon and attempted to meet expectations.

With the CDR experience still fresh in their memory, ADA should have taken a number of minimal precautionary measures. Unfortunately, the two parties only did, in power, what they knew (didn’t know?) best.

Not expecting to actually win the elections, the two parties came up with a surrogate economic programme, insufficiently thought up, whose effects are becoming increasingly evident.

Also, the often ill-mannered debates and the chronic incapacity of effective cooperation, enhanced by a media community suddenly free from constraints, created the image of a disastrous governance, although in fact it’s not as bad as it may seem.

PD – the flagship of morality

The fact that PNL is falling in opinion polls whereas PD is on the rise is owing to the fact that, both in the media and in the public’s eyes Băsescu remains the “knight without fear and without reproach” fighting against the “rotten system.” For the time being, this perception was strengthened by the Liberals’ hesitations and oscillations, who have so far endorsed the failures of the “moral programme.” We are yet to see whether they will manage to preserve this image in the long run.

The media have already began to dark-paint the President’s image – see the President’s house case, with an ambiguous ending, see the Bittner-Cocos group of interests and others. Also, the fact that – apart from belittling the Government – he has so far showed no sign of fighting against the “rotten system” or groups of interests will not go unsanctioned in the long run. For the time being, heads of secret services are still those appointed by PSD, some of Ion Iliescu’s advisers are still in Cotroceni, which the media mentions every now and then, without a coherent campaign in this respect. But it could blow up at any moment.

For now, the President is strong. The question is, how long will he stay so? The PNTCD example should give cold shivers to PD. After all, the higher the expectations, the more painful the fall.

The latest blow, at an image level, was Minister Miclea’s resignation, confirming the dual behaviour of PD, which acts in Power as if it were in the Opposition. The Education and Research Minister’s resignation is implausible, as long as the budget had been previously discussed with PD leaders. It is not the first “Cotroceni-induced” resignation, aimed at undermining PNL and strengthening PD and Traian Băsescu’s role of “moral reference.” Before that there were Ionuţ Popescu and Mona Muscă.

A helping hand from PSD

The Alliance’s overall image – and implicitly PD’s – would have depreciated a lot quicker, had PSD acted as a true Opposition party. For the time being, it seems stuck on internal scandals and unable to react other than chaotically and inefficiently.

The absence of an alternative solution preserves the current state of affairs, for the moment. But the 1996-2000 mandate proved that Romanians can be cured of moral intransigence, particularly if they notice it is utterly inefficient.

Ironical twist of fate

Paradoxically enough, the victim today is not so much PNL, as most of the media try to convince us, but PD. As long as PNL intends to play no other role than that of “representative of the middle class,” with no moral aspiration whatsoever, PD has undertaken an awkward task, for which it is not quite prepared, nor does it have all the necessary data to handle it. It has taken over all the moral intransigence aspirations of the electorate, and, unless it gives them “blood,” according to the expectations the President himself has created, with his “at stake, in Victoriei Square!” it will end up by having to pay the bill for failing to meet these expectations, like PNŢCD.

Nobody has moral expectations from PNL. All this party has to do is to effectively run the country. It has undertaken the economic programme, and will be held liable for all the problems related to it. In this respect, PNL is helped by favourable economic circumstances, proved by the fact that, in spite of the natural calamities, the economy still managed a five per cent growth.

The problem is that moral expectations are a lot higher and a lot more difficult to meet.

Many have accused Traian Băsescu of having buried PNŢCD. Now, he has cast himself in the “moral authority” part once played by Corneliu Coposu and, implicitly, he has forced PD to play the PNŢCD part. It’s only up to him to make sure his party will not share the fate of the latter.


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