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January 24, 2022

Panta Rhei

Ten years ago, today’s Conservatives were entering the Parliament in the tail of the Social-Democrats, calling themselves Humanists. The Liberals were claiming an irreconcilable position towards the same Social-Democrats, aspiring to the place of the Peasants’ Party at the top of the right. Marko Bela’s Hungarians were recording their first betrayal, supporting in Parliament a new government of a party described before as an enemy of ‘democracy’ and ‘tolerance’. The Democrats then (now the Liberal-Democrats) were still racing down the corridor of the left.

Half a decade ago, the Conservatives were members in a centre-right government and the Democrats had already become a ‘people’s party’. Hungarians were back to their first love and the Social-Democrats were lying motionless, alone, in a frustrating opposition. Currently, the Conservatives are the Liberals’ allies and, together, they are negotiating a big coalition with the Social-Democrats. The Liberal-Democrats seemed to be doomed to total isolation, as the Hungarians could desert them despite the satisfaction of the much-expected law being adopted.

A foreign observer could say ‘panta rhei’ (everything flows) in Romanian politics. The truth is that parties have turned very pragmatic, interested less in values and principles and more in short to medium-term advantages. Let us take them one at a time.

The Liberals have a president who very much wishes to become the president of the country. He is, in fact, the only party president who has made a priority out of it, at least for the time being. For that, he needs a supporting coalition. The only appropriate option catering for his ambitions includes the Social-Democrats. There is also the exercise of a de facto co-operation last a few good years between the two parties. The Social-Democrats led by Mircea Geoana tacitly endorsed Tariceanu’s minority government in Parliament. It was then Crin Antonescu’s turn to support the better placed leader of the left in the presidential election runoff. In order to be able to raise parity claims from PSD who stands in a better position in opinion polls, the Liberal leader has put together an alliance with the Conservatives – a tiny party that has only survived thanks to the aura of electoral weapon of its founder’s media trust.

After a short period of juvenile conceit of its fresh leader, the Social-Democratic Party moved to a more mature approach, also convinced by the ‘old fox’ Ion Iliescu, who knows that Traian Basescu is not that easy to take down even now. Fearing PNL may, in extremis, prefer the partners they had before the resounding divorce – the Liberal-Democrats – , PSD is now willing to make concessions. They know they will receive the position of PM and, most likely, the desired ministries, and the prospect of sharing power is unavoidable. Rather than risking post-election bargaining with unpredictable outcomes, they prefer a safe future in the government, even if they have to share.

Hungarians are still waiting, hoping to defer betrayal to the last moment. They know it very well that they can only have to gain from the game of results and that no one misses their company otherwise.
The Conservatives are rubbing their hands, again, congratulating themselves on the ability of going into Parliament by other ways than direct confrontation with the electoral threshold.

The Liberal-Democrats are worryingly watching the opposition regrouping itself, having counted on the perverse effects of a ‘divide et impera’ policy without an author. In not so many words, they continued to bet on the impossibility that the opponents could ever ‘love each other’.

Probably in less than five years, the map of Romanian politics will look different. In the meantime, we will be witnessing an intense ‘language confusion’ meant to mislead a politically uneducated electorate by means other than self-referential talk-shows and ’barbershop gossiping’. A foreign observer could, at the same time, notice a few voids of substance, too. First of all, apart from the unusual divide between words and facts, the lack of a genuine culture of political programmes, of a doctrine rhetoric able to pin-point parties in terms of identity. Today’s spatter would have been embarrassing to political actors ten years ago. Secondly, a mockery of the right-left positioning, landmarks that have lost almost all electoral credibility. And, not least, ‘the loneliness of a long-distance runner’ on the track of the left-wing. Without the mirror of a more nuanced left, PSD keeps pending between junior Ponta’s provocative Che Guevara T-shirts, the ‘third way’ aspirations plotted by the various ‘spin doctors’ starting with Nastase’s time, Iliescu’s anti-capitalist discourse and the temptations of a ‘historic compromise’ in perspective. At the same time, the inflation of circumstance of the right has diluted its identity, raising the question: is there really a right-wing party in Romania anymore?

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