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August 15, 2022
EDITORIAL

The Children of the Right

A new party is likely to emerge on the political scene in Romania. As we speak, it is a mere civic movement, rather successful on the native blogosphere. ‘The New Republic’ has been founded by a young intellectual who has been flirting with politics for some time. While unknown to many, despite his media presence being on an upswing, a publicist at elitist magazines and guest on television talk shows, Mihai Neamtu has a theological background, a significant detail to the current political project, which is not that far away from the so-called political theology. In order to understand its roots and models, we should look across the Ocean, at the American neo-conservatism namely, Neamtu being one of its most fervent native supporters (see a rather original topical assembly in the ‘Idei in Dialog’ <Dialog of Ideas> a few years ago). Actually, the concept of the ‘New Republic’ movement, reminds of the American ‘Tea Party’, and the name could not avoid comparison with the eponymous conservative magazine ‘The New Republic’.

The contemporary version of the ‘Tea Party’ has started out, as its Romanian equivalent did, with internet announcements that succeeded in mobilizing group reactions against some measures of the Obama administration. Shortly afterwards, the movement got involved in the US elections, reaching the point of being in competition with the Republicans, to whom it is rather close ideologically speaking, sometimes to the indirect benefit of the Democrats. Mihai Neamtu must be hoping of a commensurate Romanian reaction: a political grouping to the right of the Democratic Liberal Party (PDL), to re-launch such conservative topics as public morality, minimal state, patriotism, individual freedom, and couple them with neo-liberal options (support for the free market, minimum taxation) and possibly, intersected with Christian-Democrat accents. His political offer carries on a rather muddled history of the post-communist Romanian right.

Save for minuscule pockets leaning to the far right and neither-fish-nor-fowl parties of the Greater Romania Party (PRM) kind combining leftist interventionism (up to nationalizations) with rightist authoritarianism, the right debuted on two directions: Christian-Democrat and Liberal. The National Peasant Christian and Democratic Party (PNTCD) was so much of a disappointment that didn’t last for more than one decade actually. It had played the role of a Christian-democratic party, and, in the collective imagination, that of a conservative party too. Its Christian-Democrat legacy was a frail one nonetheless, despite cooperation with various specialized foundations, mostly German. What was lacking actually was the tradition of an ideological labor broken by the communist interstice, and the western graft was obviously out of sync.

In its turn, Romania’s Alternative Party, a small grouping, tried to take over the conservative profile by transforming itself into the Union of Rightist Forces, yet, it failed shortly after joined the National Liberal Party (PNL), where, ironically enough, it met, again, with a faction of the former leftist foe. For their part, Liberals lost credibility as ‘genuine’ promoters of neo-liberalism via mergers and alliances with groupings at its antipode. This is how three lanes have remained open to the ego-driven Traian Basescu who redirected his once-leftist party. First, he made it leave the Socialist International and join the European People’s Party one instead. Then, he provided some low-key support, even by presenting the standard profile of a future presidential candidate resembling Baconschi), the foundation of the latter’s Christian-Democrat foundation.

Mihai Neamtu has so far been close to Traian Basescu (for example when Parliament wanted to dismiss the president, Neamtu gave a televised account from the square hosting the popular revolt in president’s favor), seconding Vladimir Tismaneanu, another intellectual associated with the power” at the Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes after Marius Oprea, the president’s foe, was removed. A member of the Christian-Democrat Foundation, Neamtu is likely to have envisioned himself making a political career in a ‘reformed’ PDL, reformed meaning a new leadership team, since the PDL experience in later years stood proof to the difficult ‘cooperation’ between the ‘intellectual’ group (Cristian Preda & Co) and the ‘old style’ politicians . These intellectuals contributed a great deal to President Basescu’s popularity and credibility, yet could not go beyond being only marginal in the party.

Mihai Neamtu has the enthusiasm of the man willing to try parallel paths, which means, between being PDL senator and the originator of an adventurous project with a party of his own he will most likely choose the latter. His young age and his experience make him more redoubtable even than Teodor Baconschi, which appears to be more politically dependent when choosing his route. Despite all the neo-conservative connotations and associations, ‘The New Republic’ was born no later than a few years ago actually, from a discussion in Arad, which also happens to be Neamtu’s place of  birth, the paradigm being launched in a public discussion by Dacian Tolea, a young politician who became an adviser to the minister of Communications and Information Society. At the core of the discussion that was attended by Valeriu Stoica too was the reform state concept launched by Traian Basescu. This is yet another of his strong links with the president. The paradigm reminds of the Greek political ideal, a steadfast reference by the American neo-conservatives (Leo Strauss and Allan Bloom have been some subtle commentators of Plato’s Republic). Going back to Mihai Neamtu’s manifesto launched a few weeks ago on his ‘rightist’ blog ‘Madame Blogary’, what does it propose strictly politically speaking, aside from the ‘discontent’ rhetoric?

The referendum becoming a weighty factor in the decision-making process (as a form of more direct democracy), stimulating meritocracy (with the implicit discouragement of the nanny state), less red tape (with the implicit rethinking of the fiscal and administrative system). Also, promoting a libertarian credo and a rather tardy reference to the benefits of lustration. Whatever the view and veiled support from President Basescu, what is clear is all of the above have somehow been part of his discourse. The novelty consists in a bid to couple a native rhetoric with topics in line with such political tradition as American neo-conservatism, with the imperative of assuming an own religious tradition (‘the noble credo of the predecessors,’ reads the manifesto), Christian that is.

It is yet to be seen to what extent would Mihai Neamtu succeed in giving wings to a party rooted in this civic movement and the PDL’s and President Basescu’s stand to it. However many electoral speculations are made, it is obvious that a great many of the right-leaning voters don’t feel themselves represented by either the PNL, even less so since its alliance with the neither-fish-nor-fowl Socialist-Liberal Union, or the extremely versatile PDL. This lane has room for innovations.

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