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May 22, 2022

Three steps for change

Politicians are all trying to grind their own axes. They want to make the most of people’s protest which, in itself, is not to blame, actually is even recommendable. It is the essence of representative democracy that the power should be held by a few on behalf of the many. The whole issue here is the type and degree of representation, as well as their dynamic. A protester generally does not dream about being a politician. He just wants his demand or aspiration to be taken into consideration. Unfortunately, in general a politician only considers a protester as an instrument. A protester is often just a pretext for his career. Paraphrasing Umberto Eco, we could ask ourselves ‘What do those people who don’t believe in the values of protesters believe in?’ Those who just want to legitimise themselves by the ‘movement of the masses’. As usually in such situations, the Opposition politicians demand the government’s resignation and even early election, hoping to become the alternative riding the wave of dissatisfaction. The Power, in its turn, is thinking about how it could exit its prolonged decline in an honourable way, perhaps operating one last switch of track or at least of outfit. Political outsiders are rubbing their hands thinking about ways to sell more expensively their virtue of coming from outside the system with their ‘clean hands’ and with the enthusiasm of the neophyte in politics. Other allies of the Power try playing a double game, covered by the curtain of smoke produced by the street unrest which does not seem to be directed primarily at them, in order to sneak in via more favourable paths than those they are already walking. One first notable fact is that the protests have had a certain dimension of detracting the entire political community, which should moderate the main parties’ wish to become the ‘political arm’ of the protests. But it is not so much an anarchist inclination (actually unavoidable in a street demonstration) as it is the wish for a more radical change. Unfortunately, however, a new political generation has not truly made its way into party life. Leaders have changed, but manners are more or less the same. The young Victor Ponta looks a lot like the ‘old’ leaders, apart from his air of less uptight youth. To a notable extent, the electorate is orphan, many not recognising themselves in the current offer. They are not thinking about new solutions (some promising trend), they are thinking about new people. From this point of view, the main ruling party has not been able to refresh itself. The only exception was the group of President Basescu’s supporters who has promoted people of lesser in-party influence apart from their formal positions. Three examples are Teodor Baconschi, Cristian Preda and Sebastian Lazaroiu. Challengeable or not, their image was, however, distinct to the one of the typical Democrat-Liberals. They have had initiatives, have shown a critical spirit and force to engage in polemics as the case may be.

Going back to the civic vs. political matter, the future political careers should dwell more on an intuition of voters’ expectations. More exactly, on the expectations of certain segments of the electorate. Unfortunately, all Romanian parties have become a ‘catch all’ type, hoping to get support from as many parts as possible. The result was that almost all categories consider themselves poorly represented from a political point of view. But the regular man is characterised not just by a minimal political culture (many politicians are almost at the same level), but also by a  chaos of wishes. The purpose of civic activism is to crystallise part of those wishes. Once crystallised, they can become landmarks for political action. And a party should have the audacity of discrimination, of supporting some despite others. If you don’t want cyanide pollution, for example, you will oppose a mining operation using cyanides whatever the benefits may be. If you want a more equalitarian access to healthcare, you will support a bigger role of the state in the system. And so on. In elections, parties will need to learn again how to produce clear programmes rather than hiding everything behind a hollow rhetoric.

Anyone who reads political press has seen that, for a few years, a majority of discussions go around contexts of alliances and too little political ideas. Now, for example, everyone wonders if UDMR will defect or not, although such decision will not change the type of politics of a future government. People are discussing simultaneous elections or early election, but they don’t go beyond technicalities. The ‘shapes without substance’ have invaded the Romanian political life. They were once speaking of Christian-democracy, the social-democratic ‘third way’, even social-liberalism. Those were all big disappointments, but at least ideas were discussed. For anything to change, a few simple steps will need to be taken. First of all, civic activism will have to be re-launched. Active minorities become the promoters of values enjoying a certain public support. Then, political partisanship will need the condition of clear programmes by political actors. Civic associations should act as mediators along this chain. They should support those who promote their ideas down the corridors of Power. And last, the breaking of electoral agreements should be promptly reprimanded by civic protests. Otherwise, politicians will survive even an atomic war slothfully, like bugs.

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