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Bucharest
September 19, 2019
EDITORIAL

The president’s future in the party

Traian Basescu seems to be sailing against the tide. He wants Emil Boc as president of the party and an independent- technocrat at the helm of the Government. Although many would like a breath of fresh air in PDL, the president declared his loyalty to the most loyal of his people. Better said, he would quite happily take his governmental office away from him, but not the presidency of the party.


Why does Traian Basescu insist on this idea of an independent prime-minister? The first answer could be that he/she could improve the much too eroded image of the governance. Vexed by the unending corruption scandals, the public would be in favour of the idea, counting on the professionalism of a possible technician. It would be a kind of popular endorsement of the ‘capitalist ethics’ of the technocrats, regarded as less interested in fraudulent personal enrichment.


Obviously, concrete experience contradicts this beautiful image, because many of the known technocrats have not been free of corruption suspicions. In addition, none was a pure technocrat, with political support if not blunt affiliation being crucial. Even Mugur Isarescu – the longeval head of the central bank – ended his short office as premier being the presidential candidate of a political alliance.


Anyway, such a change in the Government would first and foremost serve the president. What about PDL? In a certain way, removing Boc from the Government could be seen as a weakness, at least by comparison with the previous Liberal term when the PM completed his mandate in extremely adverse conditions. Permanently supported by an authoritative president, Emil Boc would quit the game half defeated to say the least. For such considerations, keeping him on at the top of the Government could, perhaps, mitigate such an impression.


A technocrat would give time to rejuvenate to a party with an uncertain future, threatened by a disastrous electoral result and a painful marginalisation. President Basescu’s proposals first of all indicate his eagerness to take over the rains. He wants to appoint an independent PM whose authority would be fully dependable on the credit given to him by the president, even in spite of the current ruling party. At the same time, by keeping Boc as head of PDL, he would continue to control a party showing tiny signals of autonomy from a mentor it has never disobeyed with a few insignificant exceptions. Anyway, the president’s decisive and publicly expressed choice of Emil Boc as the leader of PDL also from now on is a test for his political authority.


Arguments in his favour are not solid. Boc was elected mayor of Cluj in very precise conditions – it was a city where PSD had had a tradition of poor results. He was supported by a political alliance and benefited from the image of an active MPs and or a politician without any scandals behind. But nothing of the above is a guarantee for electoral abilities encompassing an entire party.


Vasile Blaga, on the other hand, lost the local election in Bucharest because the other candidate was much better placed in the options of the voters. In addition, Blaga played a much more important role in PDL’s electoral successes in 2004 and 2008 than Emil Boc did. Apart from all this, the president’s claim to be willing to end his term a year earlier is odd. Even if the Constitution is changed in that respect, it is hard to expect that the new provision cutting the presidential term to four years from the current five could enter into affect before the end of Basescu’s current term, for mere legal consideration if nothing else. The electoral lag between the presidential and parliamentary elections has already led to major political strategy reconsiderations. Although the presidency continues to be the most desirable political position, parties now need to focus first of all on the parliamentary election, massively investing in the image of a prospective premier. Under the new conditions, a party head always faces the dilemma of which of the two positions to go for.


Basescu’s proposal is, therefore, most welcome, for it would simplify the already too intricate political life in this country, but it simply would not concern him too much. Unless he has in mind a Putin-like variant: ends his mandate fore term and candidates for PM on behalf of a party led by his faithful Emil Boc. It is not totally excluded, although, technically at least, it seems highly unlikely. In that case his preference for an independent PM would be understandable. Such a person would only make a noteworthy candidate if he/she delivered an outstanding performance as PM and managed to win the trust of the party, two conditions which are almost impossible to meet.


Anyway, the credit the president gives Emil Boc is not going to affect the authority of the former if he keeps his office. But the situation would be completely different if Vasile Blaga replaces Boc as head of PDL. Taking such trenchant stance in Boc’s favour in this internal election, Basescu is seeking to hedge his future in PDL.

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