The political parties created in Romania after 1989 have lost the battle with time and history.
The Romanian social, economic and – last but not least – political actuality poignantly points to a grave, chronic and irreconcilable deficit of all the political doctrines and ideologies born or reborn immediately after 1989, the ones that created the whole range of parties, from the left wing to the right wing of the political spectrum, forming what has so far been the framework of our new democracy.
After more than four decades of communist dictatorship, suddenly open before the Romanians’ eyes were not only the borders of the country but also the freedom to be and do what previous generations did not hope would ever happen again. But especially an apparently incredible and huge range of political options, seen before only in certain history books and heard from the stories of those who had experienced those “other times” before the dark age of dictatorship.
In the first years after the fall of communism, the “political market” was oversaturated, almost overnight, by a veritable plethora of new political parties, never before seen or heard of. Some of them with doctrines, pretensions, and an antiquated historical perfume – the National Liberal Party, National Peasant Party, Conservative Party –, and others (most of them in fact) located somewhere at the confluence between the old historical political tradition, the ghostly inertia of the communist era that had just come to an end, and the new democratic national and European outlook.
In just a few years, a forceful political exercise was imposed on Romanians for the decades that followed. And one of the most difficult stages of this exercise consisted of the formation and legitimisation of individual social options in relation to the ideological and doctrinaire currents of the political parties that had formed.
Thus, the years that have passed since 1989 have been marked by several large stages of political orientation, migration, coagulation, and dispersal of society toward various political currents and implicitly political parties that held – in turn – power and supremacy at the top of the Romanians’ electoral options.
Still, as a defining element of all these great stages of the sifting and erosion of the whole Romanian post-communist political and party system, there was and still is an incontestable lack of any doctrinaire and ideological reality that would have been actually followed and observed by any of the parties that have alternated at the helm of power.
The only algorithm that worked in any of the occasions in which there was national-level competition between the various political parties that alternated in power was and still is the algorithm of intra- and inter-party groups of interests. An element that, invariably, has had the same end goal and result: taking over and maintaining power. This is the only way to explain all the political alliances, mergers and unions that have occurred within the Romanian political party system in the last 28 years, and which can be translated as being – in most part – “against nature” from the standpoint of any doctrinaire and ideological definition and of delimiting them in relation to the “left” or the “right” on the political axis.
However, the opening of state and mental borders toward a new world in which the old global political paradigms have underwent a continuous transformation in recent years has meant that Romanian society, in its own turn, absorbed, digested, and separated at an incredible speed the old from the new, the truth from the untruth, and the arbitrary from the concrete. After 28 years of political illusions and disillusions, Romanians have reached that critical mass that requires an urgent restart and radical renewal of what has so far been called political party and political system in Romania.
Against the backdrop of a strong European current with obvious orientation toward a new type of democratic political paradigm, in which mainstream parties (those political parties based on classic doctrines, such as the Liberal, Christian-Democratic, Social-Democratic or Popular ones) have increasingly lost ground in the face of the wave of new political forces and factions, such as the “anti-establishment” parties (entities that are based on ideological and doctrinaire nuclei of a radical-reformist and ultra-conservative type), Romanian society is somehow indirectly forced to rethink and reorient its domestic political vision and options.
Since 2015, a trend of radicalisation of political visions and almost zero tolerance on the part of civil society toward everything that no longer corresponds – consciously or less consciously, individually and socially – to the people’s present needs has started to take ever clearer shape in Romania.
In recent years, deficient parties and Governments have been censured via extremely low voter turnout. People no longer feel represented by any of the current political parties that have remained active and eligible.
Thus, the instruments and props that a party has used until now to capture the interest of the electorate and gain their endorsement have become insufficient. And the vote for or against the political system has gone beyond the ballot box stage and has moved into the street.
The largest protest since 1989, which took place in 2015, has started a new social awakening. This has brought with it a great revival in national individual consciousness. With the tragic event at Colectiv, Romanians brutally became aware of the complete cul-de-sac and lack of viable political and social solutions in which we find ourselves for years.
The strong awareness of the fact that in Romania all political parties “are the same” in terms of doctrines, ideologies, purpose and intention toward the electorate and the platforms proposed in elections campaigns has resulted in tens of thousands of people taking to the streets and creating an unprecedented phenomenon in the 28 democratic years.
The street has generated a new field and the possibility of the emergence of a new political class that this time around could be reformed and put into action from the base of the social pyramid up to the highest position in the state.
The emergence of the #rezist movement and ‘Romania 100’ Platform, as civil society’s answer to the lack of political alternatives, has brought to the surface and has placed under the limelight those aspects that have shown that the current political parties and the current political class are completely out of sync with the times and with the real needs of the world and the country we are living in. Moreover, they have become extremely toxic or useless!
The mindboggling return to that form of leadership that is so feared and detested – that of the sole party and sole leader – draws a final line of demarcation between the eras.
The lack of political alternatives to the current absolute dominance of PSD, as well as to the minute number of the rest of the political parties that have remained – inert and indifferent – in the Opposition has created a new premise for the reconsideration of the political factor.
Nevertheless, the mental background of our civil society still confronts fears and suspicions that are extremely deep-rooted in the national subconscious. Romanians learned the hard way that political parties are forms without essence and that – logos, doctrines, and propaganda aside – for 28 years they have betrayed and continue to betray their confidence and hopes.
For now, but also for those moments that will follow until the future elections, it is important to understand and see how new political parties or movements could grow and develop in the current environment. One that is not at all favourable to and permissive with the idea of ceding power via a radical and real transformation of the state’s entire political structure.
What will be the steps that will be taken by anyone who plans or has already planned to get involved – directly and actively – in the mechanism of restarting Romania’s domestic politics?
So that it would manage a political transition and a political reformulation that would have in mind the entire state structure and that would – at the same time and to an extent as gentle and efficient as possible – be able to assimilate the old forms of governing and to fully integrate them in the new domestic construction but also in the European one?
The mission of a man such as Dacian Ciolos, for example, becomes even more difficult and fraught with dangers as – just as I was saying before – there is a huge inertial mass of social fears and suspicions which – in a manner as paradoxical as it is real – oppose precisely the desired change.
Moreover, added to this huge social inconvenient is the political one from which we started our discussion. All present parties are contributing, one way or another, to the maintaining of a threshold of tensions, confusion, suspicion, and social fears systematically placed and disseminated, in an extremely well-targeted manner, right at the heart of the street movements and of all spontaneous individual initiatives.
Last but not least, after so many years of attempts and simulations, I believe any discussion about any new future political option must start off from one of the harshest and surely one of the most unpleasant truths for all those currently involved in politics – replacing and overcoming the stage of politicking with actual political activity. Preferably in and for the general interest. It remains to be seen who qualifies.