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April 17, 2021

‘Signal’ specialists

We are on the brink of the election campaign; the official campaign because, as one can see on the TV stations, the actual campaign started a long time ago. The stakes are significant, huge, for all sides involved. That is why the means used to reach the voters are increasingly subversive, harsher and less veiled. And the parties do not shy away from increasingly lowering the standards in order to attain their goals.

We are recently witnessing a shameless, morally and legally unbridled mudslinging. The TV screens are filled with insults, insipid jokes, ambiguous characterizations and serious accusations and the TV stations themselves have no scruples when it comes to promoting such ‘outbursts’ in their race for ratings.

What is certain is that the governing coalition and the parties from the political spectrum are surviving by basically conveying ‘signals.’

Whether they denote authority, firmness, intention and commitment, everything boils down to these ‘signals,’ with the exception of those signals that concern completed actions, with the latter being very few in number.

From highways to schools and kindergartens, from hospitals to modernizing various sectors – everything registers delays. All the signals are delivered in the future tense: will be done, will be considered, will be contracted, will be solved etc.

How these signals look can be seen on a day to day basis. The recent summer schools organized by the Democrat-Liberals and the Social-Democrats were a good opportunity for the leaders of the two parties to convey ‘signals.’ Constant attacks, unveiled ironies and insults – this is the behaviour of political leaders from which the young party members from both camps are supposed to learn something. We do not know what they will have remembered from the speeches given by the leaders of PDL and PSD. That politics is done through poor-taste jokes? That the party interest is defended with methods characteristic of the middle ages? That the national interest simply has to be mimed or clamored? It’s possible because we could not spot any other consistent ‘lessons’ for the young generation. Harsh answers are a sign of dignity in the party leaders’ view. Accusations are a sign of harshness. Starting Parliamentary investigations is also a signal for the voters, informing the latter on how committed their representatives are in taking their mission to the very end and on how those that break the law will be punished. The fact that nothing happens in court later on no longer matters.

The opposition is not sitting idle either. Liberal leader Crin Antonescu is also issuing signals, by either asking the prosecutor’s office to react to the Szeklers’ meeting that took place last week or by blaming the recent developments on Traian Basescu.

A sign of ‘dignity’ was seen the other days too when one of the important Liberals informed the public opinion of the fact that his party will not accept to govern alongside PDL despite the fact that it was recently courted for that purpose. On the other hand, UDMR – who is also in the opposition – states through Marko Bela that it would want to rejoin the Government after the Presidential elections, a sign that it is open to various backstage arrangements. Meanwhile, the poisoned darts flying back and forth between PSD and PDL have also continued to convey signals, poisoning the political life and causing many to wonder how it is possible for the coalition to still work.

However the tension has consequences on a different level too. The voters are not always reacting according to the parties’ desires, even if those parties are in the Government. Hence, informed by an opinion poll, PSD leader Mircea Geoana has asked his party members to stop attacking their governing allies because the public is tired of arguments and politicking on TV. The aforementioned opinion poll reveals, among other things, that 75 per cent of the Romanians consider that Romania is heading in the wrong direction.

PDL’s announcement on Monday, according to which Traian Basescu will run for a second term in office as an independent candidate backed by the Democrat-Liberals, can be placed in that same category. The recent changes brought to the law on electing the Romanian President concern this very aspect, namely the fact that an independent candidate can be backed by a political party. The signal that can be read between the lines however refers to something else. Through the independent candidature formula Traian Basescu wants to delimit himself from the current Government (a catastrophic Government according to some), from Prime Minister Emil Boc and from the coalition with PSD and its leader Mircea Geoana. He also wants to show that a kind of ‘large coalition,’ a civic one, stands behind him, and not just a party, whichever it may be. It remains to be seen how successful his maneuver will be from this point of view, especially since the announcement made by one of the Democrat-Liberals was later denied by Radu Berceanu, the latter strongly claiming that Traian Basescu will run as a PDL candidate. This signal denotes confusion and uncertainty, being amplified by the President’s (intentional) hesitations in announcing his candidature for the second term in office.

But the most important ‘signal’ at this time is probably the one having to do with the Government’s assumption of responsibility for the package of laws on education, on the blanket wage law and on restructuring the governmental agencies. It is obvious for everybody that PDL and PSD could have adopted those laws very easily by normally getting them through Parliament, considering the two parties’ majority of seats there. However the prolonged discussions and the series of amendments would have reduced the psychological impact that the move would have had on the ‘masses,’ an impact meant to make them appreciate the Government’s will to conduct what it calls a real reform.

Prime Minister Boc and PDL are thus imposing their point of view on PSD, the latter being forced to largely accept the provisions included in the laws in their current form. On the other hand, they convey the signal that the Boc Government is determined to implement quick reforms. That should be the impression although in reality the debates on these laws have tarried from the start of the year without palpable results and although the Ministers’ accomplishments in their sectors are in most cases close to nil if compared to the electoral promises of 2008.

Hence there is a multitude of signals for the electorate in 2009. We will soon see the electorate’s reaction. On November 22 the Romanians will give the most important signal.

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