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PSD: from consensus on theft, to spasms

The Social Democratic Party (PSD) has lately been subject to a terrible commotion, mainly sparked by “the old man,” but also by the fury with which the incumbent Power assailed Adrian Năstase and Nicolae Văcăroiu’s chairs.

The twilight of dinosaurs?

The famous reconciliation between Iliescu and Petre Roman came as a surprise to everyone. The former idol of the working girls is following Ion Iliescu around like a faithful puppy. Surprisingly enough, considering the manner in which Ion Iliescu disposed of his protégé, using another ghost recently pushed back into the spotlight, none other than “morning star of the pit coal,” miner’s leader Miron Cozma. But less surprising considering the track record of the former Premier, who once gave interviews to leading television channels and had lately come to queue for a place in Dan Diaconescu’s pocket-sized TV station, jointly with healers, loan sharks and the like. After leaving the Democratic Party, as he would not be second to Băsescu, Petre Roman gets stranded by Ion Iliescu, a character who in his turn is on the eve of exiting the arena.

Ion Iliescu was dealt a heavy blow in the PSD Convention. Rather frightened after the scandal sparked by Miron Cozma’s release, Ion Iliescu had just regained his energy and vigour, and it all looked as if he would make a triumphant comeback at the helm of the party he had created. Instead, the party played a prank on him and offered him only a seat by the window, hoping however to be able to cash his “pension,” i.e. his votes.

By lacking the courage to part with its founder, PSD missed the opportunity for reform. Fortunately for him, Ion Iliescu no longer grasps what is going on, and he will very likely leave the party, along with other failures he holds dear, such as pensioner Rodica Stănoiu, pensioner Nicu Văcăroiu, Iorgovan and, maybe, who knows, Adrian Năstase himself, the humble and devoted servant who signed his own political death certificate through the famous “I cannot run against Ion Iliescu.”

What chance do these political ghosts still stand? Hardly any. Ion Iliescu’s voters, i.e. the losers of the transition, a small part of the ones who, in 1990, were shouting in the streets of Bucharest “we are working, not thinking” and “we won’t sell our country,” have now reached retirement age, and apart from grumbling in parks or in public transport means, have hardly any social activity. And the peasants keeping Ion Iliescu and Andreea Marin’s photos on their TV sets are ever fewer. Most of them have children or grandchildren working in Spain or Italy and, for their sake, they have given up their idol. Furthermore, both Traian Băsescu, and Vadim Tudor are competing with Ion Iliescu today. The socialism of the ’70s, when food was cheap, when one could buy Kent and Pepsi just about anywhere and when Julio Iglesias was coming to the “Golden Stag” Festival no longer attracts anyone, except for a handful of proletarians with a nostalgia for union-paid holidays…

Who can reform PSD?

An answer was given to this question during the electoral campaign: “the (anti-corruption) prosecutors.” For the time being, apart from rather fuzzy threats, PSD barons’ economic interests have not been tackled by the new Power. Naturally, one or two scapegoats will be burnt at stake, to shut Europe-‘s mount, the “big sharks,” with Adrian Năstase and Dan Ioan Popescu as leading candidates for the honour.

Although a member of the party’s executive leadership team, Adrian Năstase has gradually lost the influence he still had. Power in the party is currently split between Ioan Rus and Miron Mitrea.

There is no doubt that they are both disgruntled with Mircea Geoană’s performance, who went from one blunder into the next, thus confirming the “halfwit” label Iliescu stuck on him.

PSD has also received an unhoped-for helping hand from the incumbent Power. On the one hand, its mistakes took out of the public agenda PSD characters once target to heavy corruption accusations. Has anyone heard anything about Marian Oprişan lately? About Mischie? About Liviu Dragnea? Or about any other local barons who used to be covered by the media on a regular basis? Unfortunately for PSD however, their keeping a low profile and seeing to their own business is only a temporarily advantage. Hiding a problem does not mean solving it. Because PSD is bearing the scarlet letter of corruption and this prevents it from attracting the votes of the urban, educated and informed voters.

This shift of attention did not contribute to a true reform of the party, but preserved a status-quo which benefits no one. And Mircea Geoană doesn’t seem to be the man for the job. He lacks the will, and the power in the party. Which explains the recent outbursts coming from Ioan Rus, one of the actual leaders of the party, who has expressed some dissatisfaction with Mircea Geoană. PSD is a party too large and too complex for Mircea Geoană to handle. He is definitely not in a position to change the unhealthy asset he was appointed to manage. But the fact that groups in PSD went out from under Ion Iliescu’s umbrella and struggle each other in the open is a step forward – from consensus on theft to spasms.

Ion Iliescu did not hand down to his heirs a healthy body, which got sick after the Convention, but an organism shuddered by serious internecine ache. As long as PSD was in power, the ointment of public resources eased it out. Once in the Opposition however, the ache has grown acute and, unless the party is reformed, it will last on and reduce the party’s combat capacity.

Life in the Opposition

PSD has nonetheless preserved the mass media attention, and we can safely say that it benefited from more coverage than the incumbent Power in more than one occasion. Unfortunately however, its performance has not always risen to the expectations one had from the largest Opposition party in Romania.

The fact that two of its senior leaders, one of whom is executive president Adrian Năstase himself, took squealing as far as to Brussels is hardly likely to win over people’s sympathy. Also, the circus show in Parliament – with a substantial contribution from officials of the incumbent power, naturally – led to a deterioration of the general perception on the political class as a whole, which is affecting PSD as well.

Unfortunately, what PSD lacks is precisely the coherence and ability to get a message across. We must admit that, as far as communication goes, PSD had reached a level hard to outperform by any other political party. A very professional and efficient communication team had been based at the “Party,” including first-rate experts. Unfortunately, the chaos in the party makes public stands less well thought and rather muddled.

What is even worse for PSD is that the party seems to have no coherent strategy. While comforting the “humble and humiliated” and condemning the “kinship capitalism” suited Ion Iliescu just fine, a similar discourse sounds rather out of place when coming from diplomat Geoană, or from any other party official. One cannot step down from a 200,000 Euro car and comfort the peasant who lost his poultry to bird flu. Not to mention that bringing the made-up “flood victims” to Parliament proved a rather unintelligent move.

Unquestionably, Romania needs a veritable left-wing party, free from any populism liable to hinder the true message. If it means to attract an urban, intelligent and informed electorate, PSD must become an urban, intelligent and informed party itself.

By Cristian Brătescu

Publicat în : English  de la numărul 31
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