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June 25, 2022

The impossible change

PDL is on a generalised search. It would like a new prime-minister, a new leader, a new presidential candidate and many more new things. But the choice is scarce.

Emil Boc has been a leader of sacrifice from the bevy beginning. His complete submission to the will of his mentor, Traian Basescu, made him the perfect candidate for that particular role. After all, Boc is Basescu’s political product. But since the latter never hesitates to discard those he no longer finds useful, and the unpopularity of the former is already chronic, the current PM’s part is about to end. But it is not totally excluded that he may be cast in yet another role of sacrifice. Although it seems quite obvious that a change at the top of the government could help the image of a party who has no one left to blame failures on.

No important leader wants to become prime-minister given the conditions, and the suggested independent PM is not supported by the members of the ruling party. The main battle therefore goes for the party leadership. Prime-ministers come and go, but a party is a longer-term investment. PDL needs a new identity and, for that, it needs a new leader. The benefits of being in a presidential party have, however, made room for a burdensome political association.

Traian Basescu’s predictable political decline and his low popularity rate are arguments in favour of a – at least partial – detachment of the party of its authoritarian mentor. Traian Basescu coming back to the helm of his party after the completion of his second presidential term is not excluded either. However, circumstances do not look favourable. The president cannot conceive a strategy that could save that place for him. For that to happen, he would need either a success in the next parliamentary election, or a complete failure. Either is unlikely to happen. The party will probably choose to save its own skin without Traian Basescu., in which case the problem of a leader becomes the more so stringent. The attitude towards ‘all the president’s people’ is already one of rejection and marginalisation. The new party president will definitely be one of the older, important figures, Vasile Blaga being a favourite. In order to win, he doesn’t even need to manifest his opposition to Basescu. He just needs to be able to demonstrate the premise of a future autonomy. For the time being, it’s been just a gnash towards the intangible Zeus of other times. As for the presidential candidate, I have a feeling Traian Basescu is the only one concerned about that right now. There have been signals suggesting Teodor Baconshi could be the one, but, in the meantime, the party has sown some reticence in that respect. With the prospect of a devastating loss in the parliamentary election, PDL is not really that worried about the presidential poll for now. The party has chosen to prevent excessive polarisation, so the vice-presidents will be nominally elected, to give the president a chance to support candidates close to him. The advantage would be image-related, because, given its current political isolation, the party needs a partner such as the president, the condition being that the partner should not be a dictator, but rather a collaborator working on a common political strategy. And also one that could bring a constructive contribution to the new alliance.

So far, the president has given his party privileges thanks to the privileges of his own office. He has managed to keep Emil Boc in place even after he and his cabinet fell in the no-confidence vote. But now it is time for more. Alternatives for an alliance are missing. UDMR can only participate in post-election alliances. There are no noteworthy extra-parliamentary parties either. The USL alliance is untouchable at this point.

What standard will the party adopt ahead of the future election campaign? The anti-corruption rhetoric that propelled Traian Basescu into his presidential office now lack credibility. The right-wing rhetoric would have no solid grounds. Teodor Baconschi’s ‘Christian-Democratic’ attempt failed to capture the interest in a party that has brought a fair contribution to the dilution of ideological identity of Romanian politics. For now, PDL is condemned to continue to be what it has always been. The only thing that will probably change is Emil Boc’s role.

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