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The patient which won’t die

The Social Democratic Party (PSD) continues to stay at the “alarm level” in polls, on the one hand thanks to Ion Iliescu’s populist-revolutionary discourse (one denouncing even more fierce than Vadim Tudor the corruption in Romania), on the other hand “thanks” to the corruption spreading in PSD in 2000-2004, whose exposure had its indirect casualties among senior members / leaders of the ruling parties.

PSD, a party with a fuzzy identity

At the moment, one cannot identify even at a declarative level any policies intended to support and promote an identity of PSD. The penchant for the left, for centre-left, is weakly and uniquely represented by Ion Iliescu, temporarily frozen in the “honorary president” position.

The public discourse of the other official or prospective PSD leaders discloses an excessive concern with preserving and developing the businesses and oligarchic positions they acquired during previous terms. Which might be seen as right-wing conduct, if it weren’t about preserving corruption-generating structures.

PSD continues to behave, at a political and public level, as a “State-party,” claiming to be able to solve any problem any time, even in the opposition, making ingenious use of its parliamentary seat count and of the older subordination it imposed on PRM (the perpetual challenger), but also on parties in the ruling coalition – the Conservatives and UDMR.

Unfortunately, the new PSD leaders’ populism finds a strong competitor in the rhetoric used by President Traian Băsescu and by his representatives, Emil Boc in particular.

As for the discourse of PSD leaders, be they “barons” or “nostalgic,” this continues to be arrogant and threatening, strongly suggesting that the party has not yet used up its retort capacity.

At present PSD offers the image of a party shattered by corruption deeds which triggered the launch of criminal inquiries into Dan Ioan Popescu and Adrian Năstase, and the prospective indictment of other leaders – Viorel Hrebenciuc, Miron Mitrea – for illegal activities.

The clash between “honest and poor” Ion Iliescu and the PSD heavyweights who created the “kinship capitalism” continues to undermine the party, a development facilitated by the prosecution of many of its leaders. Time is running against PSD’s current leaders, with no immaculate grouplet in sight, able to join forces with Ion Iliescu.

The attempt to drag Mircea Geoana into a corruption scandal led to PSD leaders’ “closing ranks” and announcing that the party will end the “temporary withdrawal” practice and other disciplinary measures until Justice produces evidence “beyond the shadow of a doubt.” This type of conduct clearly indicates that the “State-party” lacks the resources to accomplish genuine restructuring, or even to create a “dissident” movement of a professed Social Democratic nature. Within this context, Ion Iliescu’s reform initiatives don’t go beyond a theoretical level.

Doctrine clarification

Predictably, the party will attempt an ideological clarification that would redefine it as a centre-left party able to represent the interests of the under-privileged. In this process, it can rely on two “image pillars”: Mircea Geoană (elected president of PSD on a platform aimed at the de-structuring of the “State-party,” who had shifted towards centre-right) and Ion Iliescu (perceived as the devoted defender of the interests of the rural electorate and of the proletariat).

This ideological clarification that will re-claim the Social Democratic doctrine is vital to the party’s moving out of its defensive position and easing out the top-level corruption issues it is currently facing. In this respect, PSD is expected to move to attack the ruling coalition’s policies, that will be rated as “anti-social and counter-productive,” as representing “group interests” of Power components and as having a negative impact on “people’s security.”

Burying the hatchet

The fact that the anti-corruption campaign was primarily targeted at PSD leaders led to the building of some “solidarity” within the party, in which willingly or not Ion Iliescu was also a part. PSD is likely to react “as a bloc” to all anti-corruption initiatives put forth by the Power, while at the same time it will likely launch corruption accusations against personalities and/or leaders of the Alliance or the presidential circles. In this respect, chances are the mass media will accept and take over the respective endeavour, which will lead to a collective denunciation of the political class. We are still to see, in terms of tactics and strategy, which party will be more adept at protecting a “less corrupt” image. This is definitely about the management of a forthcoming “image crisis.”

Beyond this counterattack, the situation in PSD remains as tense and unclear as ever, with grouplets currently attempting to readjust their tactics in order to preserve or take over control over the party.

A. The Mircea Geoană group decided for the time being to put an end to the conflict on corruption issues (and implicitly to give up the “temporary withdrawal” tactics) with the Năstase-Dan Ioan Popescu-Mirea-Hrebenciuc group, and to reach a truce with the Iliescu group. The reason is the initiation of the doctrine clarification campaign, which relies heavily today on the Iliescu-Geoană tandem. Since it coordinates the ideological clarification process, and as the target of anti-corruption attacks will be pushed towards Power representatives, the Mircea Geoana group is likely to preserve its position in the party, even if this would eventually require a bargain with the “corrupt” but moneyed and influential Adrian Nastase group.

B. The Ion Iliescu group’s comeback is in full swing, primarily as a consequence of corruption scandals which had significantly affected the members of the defunct Geoană-Năstase tandem. On the other hand, the Ion Iliescu wing will try, and it is likely to succeed, too, to take over initiative both in the ideological clarification process, and in the more complex and delicate “broadening” of the anti-corruption campaign to include Power circles. The actual goal of this group’s strategy is to bring Ion Iliescu back at the PSD helm. If they fail, the backup plan will be the splintering of PSD and the establishment of a Social Democratic pole to be joined by Petre Roman’s pocket-sized party, with other social-economic structures to be subsequently attracted into this bloc.

C. The “corrupt” group (Năstase, DIP, Mitrea, Hrebenciuc) is and will continue to see its counterattack initiatives blocked, and is expected to keep a low profile, unofficially supporting the Mircea Geoana group, the only pillar that may secure their survival in the Romanian political arena.

D. The Cluj group (represented by Ioan Rus and Vasile Dâncu), apparently less visible in the conflict within PSD, but the one behind the ousting of Ion Iliescu and having Mircea Geoana take over the party presidency. It has the necessary financial power to secure it a relative autonomy in action and targets, under the current circumstances, the leadership of the party. For the time being the group is taking its time, waiting for new developments in the Iliescu-Geoană conflict, depending on which it will confirm its own strategy for seizing control in PSD. As it hasn’t been reached yet by the anti-corruption campaign, the respective group finds itself in a position to “referee” the conflicts in the party, a position which offers it three options: to continue to support Mircea Geoană, if the latter is not stained in the anti-corruption campaign; to join forces with the Ion Iliescu wing, if the latter guarantees them a dominant position in PSD; to take over control in the party if Ion Iliescu splinters PSD.

As a result of the fratricide war between the Liberals and Democrats, internecine battles in PSD were put behind, as the prospect of a comeback in Power was tempting enough to erase any disagreements between PSD factions. This is why, instead of reforming and developing into a clean, modern and civilised party, as it may have been the case if headed by the moderate group of Mircea Geoană, Diaconescu and Ioan Rus, PSD has been constantly under pressure, forced to stick together, lured by the prospect of a power seen as closer than ever. Because, in case of elections, the Social Democrats will get enough votes to remain an important party and to continue to play a key part, although Oprişan and Diaconescu, Mircea Geoană and Vanghelie, Ioan Rus and Micky Şpagă, Agathon and Vasile Dâncu will continue to cohabitate in this party … Given the war between PNL and PD, a new government will be impossible to form without PSD, as none of the parties will get enough seats to rule on its own.

by Theodor VULPE

Publicat în : English  de la numărul 36
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