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Revolution without reform in the PSD convention

The outcome of elections in the PSD Congress is the direct effect of the “Orange (r)evolution” in the presidential elections. Adrian Năstase’s electoral failure to Traian Băsescu achieved what appeared to be impossible to achieve: namely, taking Ion Iliescu out of contemporary history by his own party.

The April 21 PSD Congress was a strange blend of Communist Party Plenary Session and a Pavel Stratan live show. Heinous yes-men, nauseating smirks painted on their faces, were most of the time out in the lobbies, having a cigarette and a cup of coffee, only waiting for the voting moment to come, so as to deal their blow to Iliescu. The young generation, headed by Victor Ponta, were wooing the informal TV set improvised by Robert Turcescu. As never before, applauds were rich in significance. For someone interested in finding out the voting outcome before actual ballot casting, the best method would have been to measure the congress in applauds. They were cold after Iliescu’s speech, warm after Năstase’s speech, heated after Geoană’s speech. One discrepancy though: Ponta outdid Mitrea in terms of applause, but lost the Secretary General position in the voting.

The return to itself

It would be unfair to say that this Congress saw the reform of PSD, although reforming decisions have been made. It would be more accurate to say that, after a two-year schism, PSD managed to return to itself. The formula – turning to itself – points out both what changed for the better and what remained unsolved. Broadly speaking, PSD became, while in the Opposition, what it could have become while in Power, had Ion Iliescu not interfered with party affairs. Had Ion Iliescu remained “the past of PSD” as early as two years ago, as Adrian Năstase wanted, had the vice-president team been changed as early as two years ago, then probably Cozmin Guşă would have still been in PSD today, and Miron Mitrea would not have won the Secretary General office. The current leadership formula – Mircea Geoană president, Adrian Năstase executive president – overlaps to the last detail the political views of the so-called “reforming wing” of PSD two years ago. On a popularity peak, the ruling party wanted early elections. Năstase saw himself head of the Executive and executive president of the party, and the best candidate for presidency was Foreign Minister Mircea Geoană. It was the moment Iliescu labelled Năstase as “arrogant” (he was later on to call Geoană “dim-witted”), and promised he would only get out of the political game “to kick the bucket.” When things got tough in the governance act, PSD started to breathe ever heavier, with the internal pressure shooting up and the cleavage between Iliescu and Năstase increasingly dangerous. On the eve of elections, PSD was already an afflicted party. Instead of running for presidency, Geoană ran for the City Hall. Instead of doing what he did best – executive leadership – Năstase got into the presidential race. They both lost to Traian Băsescu… Already after the local elections the split had become evident and, after a moment of political crisis, in which Năstase was tempted to withdraw, the Steering Committee formula was proposed in order to save the party image, although it was against party statute. Năstase realised that the Iliescu project, on which he and the party had bet, was a losing option, and tried to at least save the image. When he realised, before the general elections, that there was nothing left to do, he was the one to call Iliescu to the party, to force Iliescu to get involved in the elections, in other words to take responsibility for the failure that was to come.

The second culprit

Adrian Năstase is responsible for the party’s following Iliescu on his path, after 2002. This is the reason why, right after the elections, when Iliescu committed political suicide by pardoning Cozma, Năstase did not hit back, did not bring Iliescu to his knees, did not humiliate him. In the dispute with Iliescu over the PSD future, Năstase undoubtedly saw things clearer; he nonetheless accepted Iliescu’s project, and it was only natural for him to share the responsibility. This is why Năstase couldn’t take advantage of the negative trend in the party, aiming to oust Iliescu, though he didn’t oppose it either.

Postponing party reform

A true reform in PSD would have involved sweeping Iliescu together with Năstase out of the party, and electing one president, other than local election loser Mircea Geoană. Sorin Oprescu’s candidature for executive presidency, against Adrian Năstase, was a symbol of the reforming movement inside the party. Unfortunately Oprescu proved not to be the best of leaders (Oprescu too has lost local elections to Băsescu). And the fact that he was not the right person to lead proves that the time was not ripe for reform. Also, Miron Mitrea’s victory against Victor Ponta confirms that PSD has not undergone true reform. In symbolic terms, the Congress marked a paradigm shift in the party. It’s as if the Communists of the ’50-60s were replaced by the Communist burgeoisie of the ’70-80s. Both Geoană, and Năstase live in Primăverii… The Congress did not address the next stage, namely electing persons unstained by Communist flaws in the leading structures. Victor Ponta’s failure can be blamed to himself, up to a point, but to a certain extent it is also the effect of the party’s unwillingness to reform.

Reform-prone Corina Creţu

Ion Iliescu was ousted from PSD through voting, but thanks to fortunate back-stage manoeuvres. The party has eventually come to realise that Ion Iliescu is the “history of PSD”. But the party would not lose contact with him. Analysts have already identified similarities between Ceauşescu’s fall and Iliescu’s, and there is also one difference, emphasised by Corina Creţu’s election. Quite close to the former president, Corina Creţu, in her new capacity as vice-president, signifies the reforming intention of the party. The move will be properly appreciated by Iliescu and it will probably persuade him not to leave the PSD boat.

The Băsescu issue

The incumbent party leading team was elected for a two-year term in office. The major problem facing the two leaders (Adrian Năstase and Mircea Geoană) is that they have both been defeated by Traian Băsescu. PSD members elected a leading team not endorsed by people’s votes. In the next elections, one of them, most likely Geoană, will have to confront Băsescu again, in the presidential elections. This is why the elections drawing near bring PSD no reason for joy, for the time being. The main opposition party continues to rely on the Alliance’s losing image capital in governance. Unless the incumbent Power loses this wager, PSD stands no chance to win. Only a negative vote could manage to prolong executive president Adrian Năstase’s already long political career, and to prove that Geoană’s failure in the Bucharest elections was a mere accident.

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