A party of the future

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Dacian Ciolos (photo) is forming a political party. After all, it was a long-expected move, some actually wondering why it was so late in coming. The context is the one in which there is already talk of snap elections. Of course, that is only a theoretical option, because in practice it is difficult to reach that point during relative political stability. A stability based on the interest of the allies which are in power. PSD, ALDE, UDMR, the MPs of national minorities and, possibly, even PMP can easily adopt almost any law and, at the same time, block any of the Opposition’s initiatives. And President Iohannis has limited room for manoeuvre – and the judicial laws just about to be adopted will shrink it even more. With just 18 percent of the electorate’s votes, PSD is holding Romania politically captive with the help of some allies. The most perverse of them is UDMR, which countenances anything for petty local satisfactions – a confessional high-school in Targu-Mures for instance. Naturally, a good part of the Hungarian electorate does not endorse PSD’s policy, but its political representatives disregard such an opposition. They are certain of constant votes: out of fear of not having parliamentary representation, Hungarians have been overwhelmingly voting for UDMR for a quarter century. When the alternatives to it appeared, they were toward the right, backed by the governments of Viktor Orban, and their success was modest. Desirable would be a centre-left Hungarian party that would draw sufficient votes so that UDMR would no longer reach the electoral threshold and would, potentially, leave the game. But for the time being there are no signs that something will change in Hungarian politics in Romania. And PSD continues to take advantage of the situation. And the Opposition, sufficiently weak, dreams only of pulling UDMR by its side, at one point.

The Opposition is fragmented. And PNL actually ironizes USR MPs, as if victory is sufficiently close that only the sharing of future power would be left to do. In its turn, USR is still mined by internal conflicts. Let us not forget that Dacian Ciolos himself provoked tensions both within USR and PNL. His new party is meant both to lessen and to stoke them. While the risk that the ex-Premier would take over other people’s turn-key party has evaporated, the problem of future alliances is not secondary. Because this is precisely the stake: a new front against the alliance led by PSD. The party that will appear will channel plenty of electoral options, and the fact that its leader lacks the traits of a messianic leader – as Traian Basescu appeared to be to some, at one point – is an advantage in the new context. The opposition to the governance dominated by PSD decries precisely political experiments, mostly aspiring to “normality,” to balanced solutions, in line with European good practices. And his closeness to influential European circles is a trump card, because the pro-EU electorate is still strong in Romania. Moreover, the new party has the advantage of representing an alternative to both the PNL, far too compromised by repeated past collusions with PSD and by the far too many cases of corruption in its ranks, and the USR, too chaotic and immature for the time being, and in certain regards with the risk of potential backsliding to the left or to the right. Dacian Ciolos will most surely promote a policy of the centre, of liberal inspiration, in consonance with the most successful European policies.

However, the issue of alliances remains. For the time being, the outlook of a united Opposition is real, everyone understanding that fragmented they stand no chance. But who will lead it? A lot depends on Ludovic Orban’s strategy. If his ambitions are exaggerated, the future alliance can be compromised. If he accepts Ciolos as a serious future candidacy for the Premier’s office, its chances grow. The new USR leader will probably think the same way, especially since the camp favourable to the ex-Premier is strong in the party.

In what concerns snap elections, everything depends on the popular reaction to the almost inevitable adoption of the reform of the judicial laws. If the great protests seen last winter repeat, the President could force snap elections. For the time being, everything depends on PSD’s excesses. Which will not be late in coming, given the desperation of some of its leaders.