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Traian Băsescu and the boomerang effect

Traian Băsescu is going down in polls, but not because of the crisis. Everybody knows that, of all prospective candidates in the presidential election, the sailor is in the best position to find and apply solutions. Unlike Mircea Geoană or Crin Antonescu, whose rhetoric is still abstract, aloof, “American”, like in engine idling, Traian Băsescu grasps facts just like a tracked tank, he has firm contact with reality in everything he says and does.

After four and a half years in office, Băsescu has achieved commendable political maturity. What pushes him down in polls is his losing the liberal development direction, at some point between the establishment of the alliance with the National Liberal Party (PNL) and the alliance with the Social Democrats (PSD). His departure from liberalism, the misuse of the liberal doctrine in order to institute a new era proved an illegitimate political endeavour, and like any such action, it eventually backlashes at the one who started it. Ever since Theodor Stolojan declined the prime minister position, we have witnessed the failure of the President’s plan to create a large right-wing party, as an alternative to PSD. Traian Băsescu did not manage to embrace the liberal evolution direction; nor did he manage to build a popular alliance with the Democratic Union of Ethnic Hungarians in Romania (UDMR). All he was able to do was a pragmatic, although obsolete alliance with PSD. Because the ruling alliance may be made up of two large and strong parties, but it was born as old as Ion Iliescu himself.
But the root causes of the President’s failure are two major individual achievements. Winning Cotroceni in 2004, and the doubling of the Democrats’ electoral score after the 2007 impeachment attempt are the two key political and electoral achievements in Traian Băsescu’s career. But because they are individual and context-driven, these achievements have been accurately perceived, at least in part. In my opinion, Traian Băsescu misjudged the Liberals’ contribution to his victory in the 2004 presidential election, and later he overlooked the Liberals’ power to withstand his attacks. After their approval rates skyro­cketed further to the impeachment, Traian Băsescu and his party have been more or less steadily decreasing. The fall of Traian Băsescu and of PD-L started about one year before the parliamentary election, and the alliance with PSD only managed to deepen it.
Călin Popescu Tăriceanu, another politician who has reached full political maturity, is without doubt the one who deserves credit for coping with Băsescu, for preventing him from hijacking the liberal historic and evolutionary direction (the so-called post-accession project). True enough, after the parliamentary election PNL went into opposition, but what was the price paid by Traian Băsescu for it? The hijacking of this direction could not be completed, so that in this year’s presidential election, the PNL candidate claims the challenger position, seriously threatening Băsescu. Indeed, as the incumbent president goes down in polls, the Liberal runner Crin Antonescu goes up, already outdoing the rates of his own party.
As the new president of PNL, Crin Antonescu carries on the Liberal resistance strategy imposed by Tăriceanu. This is why a blatant strategic error would be to marginalise the former Liberal president or to allow him to quit the electoral race, in case he chooses to. Călin Popescu Tăriceanu may play a decisive role in defeating Traian Băsescu; without him, Crin Antonescu would lack political substance and will be perceived as a mere rhetorician. (As we have seen, Tăriceanu’s decision to oppose the increase in teachers’ salaries and later to take anti-crisis measures significantly benefit the party at present.) But whereas the former prime minister is a symbol of resistance, the Liberal candidate also brings forth the positive dimension of the Liberal vanguard. Călin Popescu Tăriceanu promoted a version of economic Liberalism with rather weak theoretical bases. The new candidate, Crin Antonescu, has a gift for ideology; he is able to express the Liberal values and a modern, relaxed breed of Liberalism, one which is quite close to libertarianism. Today, Crin Antonescu is the promise of a Liberal evolution direction, the same one that Băsescu failed to hijack or that he lost somewhere along the way.

Publicat în : English  de la numărul 67
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