The season of presidential candidates begins. In the past, it was a better-represented species. Some were mustering enthusiastic crowds, for imposing rallies. Others enjoyed the ’15 minutes of fame’ (theorised by Andy Warhol) with a meteoric presence on TV. Some used to criss-cross the country, others contended themselves with exotic perorations. The diversity was proverbial: a prince, a former premier of another state, a former communist minister, a former shepherd, an atheist, a former sailor, a billionaire coming from abroad, they all set their eyes on the first office in the state. In almost a quarter of a century, only three succeeded. Now, a change will come, but there is no certain winner, by any means. As a matter of fact, even the competitors are rather unsure, although the games seemed to have been made long ago. Crin Antonescu had the first chance. He represented a coalition in full ascension, with a more than enviable majority in Parliament, relying on a clear ‘division of the work,’ meaning of functions.
As the social-democrat leader received the reins of the governance, his liberal is due to receive the presidency. Moreover, the opponent Traian Basescu does not have successors worthy of such a fight, while the liberal opponents of his party were marginalised. The only matter that does not go so well is the partnership with the social-democrats, tempted to propose their own candidate. A temptation that was also present in the previous elections, when Mircea Geoana took his party off the ruling coalition, breaking the alliance he had at that time, in order to give himself an additional chance. But he did not win. Probably this is also a reason for his present hesitation. But if he considers making the step, it is also because it gained better knowledge about the weaknesses of his political partner. Crin Antonescu emerged worse than Premier Ponta from the row of suspending Basescu (which their opponents incriminated as a ‘coup’). It is only a matter of dosage, because the premier, too has been constructing his image for years around the obsessive criticism brought to the acting president. Two flat notes before Antonescu. He poses as a dedicated and efficient government leader, while his ally is only an aspirant to an executive office, good at most to say his opinion from the outside. The myth of the government’s efficiency is functioning for years. And it corresponds to a special propaganda strategy. Let’s remember how former premier Theodor Stolojan used to speak, in the early ‘90s, about the price of salami. How Mugur Isarescu, with the halo of a straightforward banker, ran in the elections of year 2000 as the technocrat the country needed. Victor Ponta is far from being a technocrat, but he knows how to comfort many TV watchers with his ‘working visit’ type of activism (although these visits have little in common with the real decisions of economic policy and often only feign the social dialogue). But this would not be enough without a specific characteristic: the boldness. Those who carefully listen to the kind of speeches delivered by the premier can notice the habit of an authority which relies neither on ‘analyses made by specialists,’ nor on ideological conformity, not even on pragmatic diplomacy. They rely on the insolence of being aggressive in relation to reality. We had our fair share of hyper-aggressive politicians these years. Traian Basescu won most from such an attitude. He wanted to undermine parties, dreaming of a grand party of his own. He vilified the members of the Parliament as a block, in order to undermine the legitimacy of the institution. He played the role of a populist justice-maker, some sort of Robin Hood fighting against corruption. And the electorate trusted him the second time too. Basescu’s exacerbated aggressiveness was relatively honest, turning the state into a big gym with spectators, where politicians flexed their muscles. Victor Ponta, on the other hand, cultivates a different type of aggressiveness. He pays no respect to reality. He shapes it like clay into the mould of his own intentions, with no embarrassment when he contradicts clear truths. Some like this impudent style, which can yield results if used in a skilfully conceived campaign. It is something that lacks to Crin Antonescu, whose aggressiveness sometimes hysterically skids, as a sign of a more unsure personality. In delicate situations, he tends to ignore the reality, becomes absent-minded or at least tries to embellish it. This is why Victor Ponta can defeat him, if they will oppose each other. The other competitors do not matter, for now. Mihai Razvan Ungureanu is too rigid and risks remaining the candidate of niche parties. Catalin Predoiu is too bland and his party risks falling even lower in polls. Sorin Oprescu compromised himself as an inefficient mayor. As for an outsider, who is still to appear, what chances could he have?