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August 15, 2022

Useless scandals

Romanian politics are in ebullition. Almost each day we learn about a new row – either in Parliament, at the Presidency or within a party. Someone unused to the ways of making politics on the banks of the Dambovita River might think that we are before a crucial moment, which may change the country’s immediate evolution, which explains the unrest. But he would be wrong! Actually, nothing hints to any kind of crisis, maybe it’s just the economic crisis. But we are used to it, especially as the government’s initiatives are so meager that many analysts believe they don’t exist at all.

And yet, we are witnessing a noisy battle on several fronts. The opposition vilifies President Traian Basescu, blaming all government (or other kind of) errors on him, and sees the head of state behind all the important decisions taken at the Victoria Palace, which are, obviously, wrong – all of them.

On the other side of the barricade, the president misses no opportunity to lash out at the opposition parties, which he accuses of immoral, even illegal actions. He makes connections based on assumptions, without public evidence, he links the parties’ intentions to the other category of “evil” people: the moguls. Listening to Traian Basescu, one may think that the country is actually led by those he calls “moguls,” who make wrong decisions, detrimental to the state. But the president’s moguls are… moguls because they own press trusts, especially televisions that are vocally criticising the activity of both president and government. In fact, this scandal has been lasting for years. The Social-Democratic candidate Mircea Geoana lost the presidential race of 2009 precisely because he met the owner of a media trust, Sorin Ovidiu Vantu, the night before the showdown with Traian Basescu. It was precisely his opponent who gave the news. But, are these the only moguls? Where are the “smart guys of the energy sector,” often mentioned by the president? They are left undisturbed. Recently, the former minister of Economy, Adriean Videanu said that the problem of “smart guys” has been solved and they no longer benefit from preferential prices. However, just days ago, authorities extended by six months the preferential prices paid for electricity by a number of large power consuming companies…

Furthermore, why not consider Mr. Videanu himself a mogul? With businesses worth millions of Euros, with controversial decisions and suspect contracts awarded while he was the mayor of Bucharest, with houses and villas (which only seem to be big, as he said) Videanu might perfectly suit the definition of a mogul. The same goes with the minister of Regional Development, Elena Udrea, who just made it into the top of Romanian millionaires in Euros, together with her husband Dorin Cocos. What are they missing – they and others like them – to be called moguls? They support the power and don’t have television channels to criticise the power.

While the president is fighting a war of attrition against televisions and their owners, the opposition is wasting its ammo in pointless battles. Such an example is the dispute in the Chamber of Deputies, against speaker Roberta Anastase, accused of rigging the vote for the Pensions’ Law, a few weeks ago. As a consequence, the Social-Democrats, Liberals and Conservatives refuse to attend the Chamber meetings chaired by Anastase. What is at stake? Apart from winning a battle, if Anastase appoints a deputy-speaker to chair the meetings, there will be no major purpose. No party will receive extra places in Parliament, or any other advantage. And still, all three opposition parties keep leaving the debates in plenum. Another pointless controversy surrounds the Pensions’ Law. The president’s decision to return the Law to the Parliament opens the door to new clashes. Nobody really believes the problem here is the retirement age of women, at 63 instead of 65. Yet, this was the argument evoked by the president. Frictions and disputes have already started, and some parties want more. They even want to cancel the recalculation of the pensions paid to magistrates, airmen, army personnel. But even this is just another pretext, to be honest. The real fight here is for the electorate represented by their families, relatives a.s.o. Each vote may count in the next elections. Who cares about the economic crisis?

A new clash will ensue. PSD, with support from PNL and PC, is finalising the no-confidence motion against the Boc Cabinet. In the opposite camp, the government announces it wants to take responsibility for the Education Law. A new violent fight is about to begin. This, too, will have no clear purpose. The chances to topple the government are slim. The cabinet’s free-falling popularity won’t necessarily influence the interests of legislators, hence the way they will vote. On the contrary, they are interested to stay in place two more years, and keep their ties with the executive power, so the opposition only has thin chances of success. Even if the Boc Cabinet falls, the opposition has no guarantee that the president will appoint as premier someone accepted by the opposition parties. We’ll be in a situation similar to the fall of 2009, with fresh scandals and threats about early elections – something everybody speaks about, but nobody actually wants to happen.

At present, Romania has no major goal. While we were preparing to join NATO and the EU, we still found matters of consensus, capable of moving the country forward. Now, joining the Schengen Zone seems unable to stimulate the spirit of solidarity. With the existing crisis, political battles are even fiercer. There’s still no point in them, maybe just negative consequences. The IMF has just informed us that we are the poorest country of the European Union. Nobody seems to care, especially with so many scandals around…

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