Powered by Max Banner Ads
What has changed in the last decade’s politics? Traian Basescu was coming to power in 2004 riding the wave of a resentful populism. Very skilfully, the Democrat leader at the time had taken over the inheritance of C.V. Tudor who had surprised (and also worried) everybody when he made it into the runoff presidential election the previous term. Basescu put all his money on a better targeted message than the flamboyant ‘Greater Romania’ leader, the populist who was mixing nationalism and socialist utopias, authoritarian and subversion helter-skelter in the same melting pot. ‘Get the corrupt!’ – his electoral slogan was a perfect match for the leader who was enhancing his image as a Robin Hood fighting with the establishment. Hyper-virile, also taking advantage of the senility of his predecessor to ridicule his ‘passiveness’, a lonely wolf, but most of all an unstoppable justice-maker, Traian Basescu seemed like the man fit to defend the ‘people’ from all those profiteering corrupt creatures crawling down the corridors of political power.
He became so caught up in that image that he soon turned everything upside down. He gained his huge popularity by fighting with the entire world: the prime minister (his ally under an agreement that had brought them both to power), Parliament (that tried to impeach him), his own party (unable to grow into the big planned presidential party, it was yet controlled through a rare subservience to ‘Zeus’). His rhetoric was demonising almost everybody, with the exception of a prime minister who seemed a mere spokesman for the Presidency. His star had to begin to set for some of his successes in ‘the fight with corruption’ (big corruption) to start to become visible during a governance just as marked by political clientelism as the previous ones. People were arrested (even if for just a few hours): Gigi Becali, Dan Diaconescu, Puiu Popoviciu and Dinu Patriciu (all with political ties) and Adrian Nastase is the first former post-communist prime minister serving a custodial sentence. But how many other ministers or political leaders did not get away with it thanks to the various ‘protections’ they had? Even if Traian Basescu cannot declare, like his predecessor, Emil Constantinescu, that he has been ‘defeated by the system’, results are below expectations. But the rhetoric has survived in an unhoped for manner, thanks to political opponents’ attacks which helped the president partly re-boost his role as a ‘fearless fighter’ against corruption. However, his credibility is now compromised beyond repair. The populist school, however, is not without followers. Crin Antonescu – a marginal political leader for a long time – has managed to take over the reins of the Liberal Party and – proving his strategic talent – bring him back into power in a successful political alliance. Of course that the Liberal leader harvested the fruits of the previous Liberal administration when parliamentary ties had been formed preceding the current political agreement called USL. Seeking the presidential office, Crin Antonescu is now working on his own populism. Surprisingly enough, he chose to update in an entirely different context the old Liberal imperative motto ‘By ourselves!’, this time with idiosyncratic anti-West and political autarchic accents. While he knows very well that, without the EU, in the current economic context, Romania would probably be an impossible to rule country, Antonescu wants to harvest the sympathy of all those people who cannot see the forest for the trees. His populism has been also dotted with anti-Hungarian emphases, especially now that one needs no longer be diplomatic when they don’t politically depend on UDMR. The ‘total enemy’ Traian Basescu gave him the chance of not having to diversify his rhetoric much beyond the message of an absolute deionisation of the president. While Basescu was promising to get us rid of the corrupt, Antonescu promises to get us rid of Traian Basescu. However, the most surprising current rhetoric is the one of Prime Minister Victor Ponta’s. Hyperactive in ‘colourful’ statements, the premier has already developed his own style. He is prankish and often impertinent towards his opponents (Basescu & co.), has no complexes (he almost never defends himself by dismantling allegations, he just makes fun of situations others would find rather uncomfortable) and knows how to turn around the discussion without sparing his words. He often makes insinuations (hard to check and especially prematurely unfair, being based on tendentious interpretation), but, most of all, he is immune to the traditional division between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. He is seductive exactly because he appears to be immune to the usual moralist boycott, ruling beyond the instructions of a ‘restrictive’ democracy. That’s his personal type of populism that answers the growing popular suspicion about the ineffectiveness of the current democratic order. If in Traian Basescu the public appreciated his impetuousness and ‘aggressiveness’, in Victor Ponta people appreciate his easiness (moral, too) with which he seems to be avoiding most political obstacles. The good old Balkan ‘take it easy’ spirit thus becomes an asset for the ‘post-modern’ politician who, at the same time, poses in the industrious administrator, almost Stakhanovist in his struggle with difficulties. Grave, yet rakish – here is the new leader’s profile. So far, the Romanian public has been used to politicians always ready to break their promises with a smile on their faces. Politicians who would easily contradict what they had said the day before. But now we are entering a new age. Victor Ponta doesn’t even want to stay faithful to proposals, for such thing would already be read as a weakness. Nonetheless, the more worrying thing is that the old lesson taught by the ‘plamphleteer’ C.V. Tudor is still attractive: in politics, it’s always worthwhile putting on the market any suspicion on the enemy. At full sails.