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Bucharest
January 23, 2022
EDITORIAL

A united, but unconvincing alliance

Victor Ponta does not want a return to a stronger identity of the left, be it in the Western style of a well-circumscribed Social-Democracy. Part of the young intellectual left-wing electorate cannot find itself in the present PSD. PDL was more ‘generous,’ as it left its doors open to young right-wing intellectuals.

USL nominated its ministers. The new premier even took the liberty of choosing them based on the compatibility with his style. The presidential runner formally took over his role. Although it looks like a radical political change, it is only a possible scenario for 2013. For the time being, another alliance holds the power, which even won an additional legislator in the recent by-elections, which demonstrated a surprising political vitality after a period of unpopular austerity. Naturally, such an electoral test belongs to special local contexts. Yet its significance should not be minimised. In the two electoral constituencies, once dominated by the Liberals, the Democrat-Liberals obtained good scores, despite winning in just one of them. At least in these cases, the alliance with the Social-Democrats did not strengthen the Liberals. The doubts regarding the credibility of USL are not just weapons in the rhetoric arsenal of their opponents.

Victor Ponta and Crin Antonescu have a relatively stable authority in their respective parties. They have been elected as a promised change. Antonescu was the alternative to the era when the party was controlled by Calin Popescu Tariceanu, who was eroded by years of conflict with President Basescu, while Ponta was the alternative to the many failures of the Geoana era. They both displayed a firm attitude in removing some rival leaders, but their authority is not beyond dispute. This is particularly true in the case of Ponta – a young leader ruling over a complex and not completely centralised party, with alternative power poles at both local and national scale.

In this situation, an alliance built upon the authority of the two leaders has a certain power. However, although it may be considered as united enough, USL has its basic weaknesses. It is a tactical alliance which does not have a more sophisticated identity. The DA alliance that won the 2004 elections was more than that. It was an alternative to the Social-Democratic rule of Adrian Nastase that came with several simple solutions in the name of a centre-right current. First, there was the flat tax rate – an innovation followed by years of economic growth. We should not forget the evolution of the democrats, which took a turn to the right and joined the current of people’s parties, also embracing the adequate rhetoric. Thus, the right-wing electorate became majority, after many years of leftist domination.

USL appeared against the mainstream, as it proposes an alliance of left and right and rejects the aggressive kind of campaign that made Traian Basescu president in the past. This time, things are clear. Crin Antonescu wishes to become president from all his heart, and subordinated the whole policy of his party to this purpose. In his turn, Victor Ponta preferred to set aside the arrogance about the left returning to power on its own, and accepted even the unfair principle of parity, coordinating his actions with those of his Liberal counterpart. If he wins, he will become Romania’s youngest premier ever.

But what is USL’s political legitimacy? What kind of economic policy will it have? What will be that minimum of ideology that turns any governance into more than just transition? Victor Ponta could have meditated at the political fate of Mircea Geoana. The former Social-Democratic leader attempted to slalom through currents, ideological options, partners. He played the card of a weak identity, with the known results: he left no trace in the party and has remained just “a sad memory.” Victor Ponta does not want a return to a stronger identity of the left, be it in the Western style of a well-circumscribed Social-Democracy. Part of the young intellectual left-wing electorate cannot find itself in the present PSD. PDL was more ‘generous,’ as it left its doors open to young right-wing intellectuals.

In its turn, the traditional Liberal electorate has reasons to be disappointed and misrepresented. What can they obtain from the alliance with the Social-Democrats, apart from a return to power of their representatives? The proper electoral offer is not at all clear. Parties that appoint would-be ministers before seducing with innovative political offers lose part of the electorate outright – even those fed up with a ‘player-president’ and a premier of austerity measures. The strong ideas capable of convincing the many undecided voters are still missing.

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