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March 24, 2023

In search of a common political programme

As the days go by, Liberals and Social-Democrats will understand increasingly well the virtues of an alliance. No matter how great the ruling party’s downfall would be, none of its opponents can hope for a categorical victory. On the contrary, the competition offered by today’s opponents can be its chance to recover lost popularity, as a kind of retreat in the face of hyenas smelling blood.

On the other hand, a strong alliance can deliver a frontal and decisive blow. Moreover, such an alliance would enhance the non-committed voters’ confidence in a more credible alternative. The great problem of Romanian politics in recent years is precisely the versatility of alliances. Anything is possible and almost at any time. Far from representing a sign of maturity, this availability is only the fruit of the parties’ diluted identity. In this sense, the added credibility that a pre-electoral alliance can ensure consists of its predictability and of the political programme it proposes. When everything is possible nothing is really possible. Thus, the Liberals and Social-Democrats are placed in front of a serious option.

An alliance has both advantages and disadvantages. For the left-wing party it is a political and ideological compromise. Freshly arrived at the Social-Democrats’ helm, the young and ambitious Victor Ponta has started to play the party ego card. He refused any collaboration entailing further commitments with the Liberals, being confident in the sudden growth in popularity. After swinging between former allies, now could be the time for a more sober reliance on its own forces and political projects. Had the latter existed everything would have been nice, but their absence has to be masked somehow. Victor Ponta climbed at the top only through a combination of circumstances. It’s already a tradition in a party that no longer has any coherence in the post-Iliescu era, with Iliescu being the only party leader whose authority was undisputed back in the day. Ego alone is not sufficient to win the elections or to energise your own party members.

The situation is different in the Liberals’ case. Without the pretence of being able to win the future elections, Liberals want to secure for themselves a more stable position within the future government. A pre-electoral alliance is the safest method. In order to position themselves as comfortably as possible they have once again forwarded the older proposal of an independent premier. The idea is not just an attempt to avoid subordination towards a far too authoritarian and restrictive Social-Democrat premier, but also a highly attractive offer given the people’s lack of confidence in the political class as a whole. The premier issue is just the tip of the iceberg of such an alliance’s difficulties. Farther below the waterline lies the debate on the governing programme offer. Until now there have been combinations between the centre-left and centre-right, as a synthesis of two ideologically divergent orientations: USD-CDR in 1996 and PD-PNL in 2004 were alliances that jointly came to power. Such alliances were tense, with the president’s party harassing its partners in both cases. Collaboration was based on a pragmatic principle. The 2004 case was actually an inspired PR move that drew votes through the flat tax offer, a distinctive element in relation with the left-wing that PSD represented. Anyway, PD was already posing more as a centre-party, subsequently even opting for popular ideology and leaving the Social Democracy camp.

The situation between PSD and PNL is slightly different, with the two parties somehow representing the extremities of the parliamentary spectrum. Both parties even stressed their identity, trying to dominate either the left-wing or the right-wing respectively. For the former it was easier to do so once the Democrats became a people’s party.

Liberals benefit from the halo surrounding their name, with the voters already associating Liberalism with a clear right-wing option. An alliance needs several carefully-negotiated political programme items that should be relatively attractive. Ideas are absent even before people tailored for power structures are. An alliance cannot be credible without openness towards a common programme and without theoretical creativity. Only then can the two parties convince those that are sceptical that future alliances can last more than the previous ones did.

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