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March 30, 2023

Reshuffle… for the sake of image

The long-expected cabinet reshuffle has finally happened. As political personalities, the five in-coming ministers are rather pale figures. They do not come from the ranks of high-profile leaders, personalities with a reputation made outside of the political scope or outstanding professionals in some field. Two of them have held ministerial offices before, however without putting themselves on the map. At least three of the ministers dropped in the reshuffle were better than replacements in terms of political influence and professional profile. Then why were they the chosen ones? One first possible answer is the scarcity of staff meeting the combined requirements of political regimentation and professionalism.

Truth is that such individuals are generally a rare presence in Romania. To be a good minister of finance, for example, it takes not only a solid ability to master the field as such, but also a political philosophy of strategic options.

Under the circumstances, any consistent policy becomes improbable, while the minister is just a technician who has to bend and take the shape of imperative actions of circumstance, established by other people who may not be as aware of the impact and consequences of such actions. But the ruling party even lacks political leaders. Emergent leaders are still marginal, while the influential ones have worn out credibility. However, PM Emil Boc made this choice also not to have any additional headaches. His strictly governmental authority will grow, but the gain will be a minimal one.

Feeling that he was losing his position in the party as every day went by, Emil Boc retired to the stronghold of the Executive, which he thought to be his competitive edge over his challengers in the party. But the party cannot resurge while overlooking the government’s performance. Boc’s colleagues cannot demolish the government from within the party without compromising themselves. This is why the PM’s actual problems are the majority in parliament and the popularity. The political majority is very frail and a coalition of the opposition can easily rock it. The latter is plunging dramatically and the trend could only be reversed by a government performance that would be closer to the expectations of the public. After opting for pale figures in such crucial positions the chance for that to happen are as good as none because the scandal is never as bad as anonymity or infelicities.

From this stand point, all that the government reshuffle achieved was the removal of uncomfortable or unpopular leaders. It may be a satisfaction of small moment for the general public who may blame all the failures and frustrations coming with austerity in the recent months on those who left the government.

Otherwise, the reshuffle has brought nothing new. The voters cannot give credit to a change that never happened. The new-comers do not represent a competing school inside the same party, in which case they would at least have the role of giving hope for a new political path, hence a different political offer. In tougher phrasing, one could call this cabinet reshuffle a patch-up job. However, the main question now is about President Traian Basescu’s real intentions, as he continues to be a key-actor in the political play. Does the present want to promote alternative leaders and oust the already eroded Boc? Does he wish to give a new phase to a party that may be left on the outside at the next election? Or perhaps he just wants to buy some time and make sure a possible alliance set up by the opposition will fall through, which would help the Liberal-Democrats stop their decline?

He has most likely chosen the first option, but he is also keeping the last one as a back-up solution. So far, Elena Udrea has been the president’s most faithful herald, much more than the obedient Prime-Minister Boc has. So, if she now calls the tune of change, there is a good chance that the president’s wish may be the same. Nonetheless, it is a matter of means more than it is a matter of intention. Where can they get new leaders? By promoting someone close to the president, who has only worked as an adviser or member of European Parliament would pose the risk of losing concrete influence over the party. For those who have just been marginalised still hold control over networks of power and authority that cannot be inherited by others. Any authority that is artificially granted from the highest level in the hierarchy does not last.

A PDL led by Elena Udrea and even her candidacy being supported for the office of prime-minister are already possible, even in a country where women are relatively poorly represented in the leadership. But she doesn’t have a back-up and offensive team. And, even if she did put together an army, she couldn’t impose her way by using unknown people. She will probably improvise and negotiate. At the end of the day, she is now the most promising leader, as well as the only leader with a genuine growth capital. The poor governmental representation will, from now on, be an even more vulnerable spot where her ambition can play a winning game.

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