EDITORIAL

When a knockdown is inconclusive

The opposition is testing its chances at the end of Parliament’s sitting, on the threshold of local elections, by filing a new no-confidence motion. The gesture is not lacking ambiguity. Why now? Whatever its intentions of essence, provided there are any, the first temptation is to achieve a show of force once again.The ratio of ruling power to opposition forces in Parliament is sliding slowly but continuously towards an overturning. Unlike other legislatures, far more stable and asymmetrically polarized, the current one has cultivated a taste for bayonet charges in Parliamentary confrontations. Let’s not forget that the first toppling of a government through a no-confidence vote in the history of the Romanian post-communist democratic restoration took place in the first year of this legislature, in 2009. With no effect, given the context of Presidential elections. The creation of the opposition’s new alliance, USL, was accompanied by choosing Parliament as the space of political fighting in a less usual sense. Seen rather as “a place where nothing happens,” Parliament has implicitly become a media space. The Parliamentary strike, recruiting former adversaries, limited victories, draft laws being blocked etc. Covered by the media, they all become a kind of journal of a “political-military” campaign, a campaign in which the opposition is gradually winning new positions at the expense of the ruling power. This impression has an impact on the public, since it proves concrete results meant to strengthen the credibility of an alternative to the current situation. To initiate a no-confidence motion and at least to be close to winning it, as there are high chances to do that now, has a symbolic value first of all, like a punch tallied by boxing referees, in this case by the electorate. Secondly, it’s a good opportunity for the aforementioned recruiting which is meant to humiliate the ruling power and to illustrate its lack of direction. A ship abandoned by its sailors can only be perceived as a ship adrift. The defections are meant to spark chain reactions, to grow into more or less significant hemorrhages, the more so as some of the recruited MPs have certain influence at local level and can play a role in the upcoming elections. On the other hand, does USL really want to come to power right when the show is over? It’s clear that the electorate derives special satisfaction from penalizing politicians, often a more significant satisfaction than that of crediting them. The so-called negative vote is weighing more than the need to hope. The two are combined in the end result, in various proportions. That is why most people feel the half-conscious need to contribute through their vote to a political change. To replace those in power through elections consequently remains one of the citizen’s few “civic” satisfactions, one that would diminish if someone would have to vote for an USL that is already in power. However, it is not clear at all what could happen if the no-confidence motion goes through. A political crisis with an unpredictable ending could follow, since each of the main actors involved (the President, party leaders) will want to draw water to one’s mill. The possibility of a strategy of forcing early Presidential elections is not ruled out either. Apart from the circumstantial ambitions of the possible candidates, the issue is of essence, because a serious analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of the two systems is worth being made. Both the electoral practice per se, with its implications on the political dynamic during a Parliamentary sitting (alliance, the role of leaders) and the relations that grow between the President and the other political institutions have to be evaluated. Let us remember that the PSD-PDL alliance that resulted from the 2008 Parliamentary elections was broken just a year later against the backdrop of Presidential elections. And the three years that followed were marked by what came after that 2009 breakup. A year could bring along erosion worth taking into account, so that a USL victory in Parliamentary elections and a failure of its candidate in Presidential elections should not be ruled out. Other aspects should be taken into account too. The victory of the opposition’s no-confidence motion could influence the result of local elections, because the outlook of a quick change of government could lead to re-orientations at local level. All these are suppositions, and the outlooks are still more than uncertain. Moreover, just like in boxing, a knockdown may not be decisive.

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