20 C
Bucharest
June 13, 2021
EDITORIAL

In the ring

Mihai Razvan Ungureanu did not have the fate of a providential leader who, in less than two years, overturns all forecasts, charms the voters and wins the elections against all odds. For one moment, things seemed to go this way, as he was considered the hidden ace of the president, the reformer of PDL or, at least, the new star that emerged from the bog of Romanian politics. His term as prime minister ended without glory, after losing a no-confidence vote in Parliament. He was pushed in the ring, but was not granted the time to fight. Let’s admit, however, that his chances of success, in the given conditions, were slim.Even with the support of Zeus (alias Traian Basescu, who lost some of the aura he had years ago), MRU was severed from a party that was either too busy with the debatable – to say the least – exercise of power, or was secretly preparing itself for the post-Boc (even post-Basescu) era.

He lacked the means of real political influence. The only favourable scenario – although sci-fi – implied a large-scale publicity campaign promoting his image as providential leader. However, even with such effort in place, how could he have convinced? Victor Ponta is more realistic: he proposed, as first measure, an increase of salaries in the public sector, betting on the immediate and undisputable success of such a move. Cash is a good advocate, and the speculations over the medium-term advantages of financial austerity cannot convince those who were severely hit by the –sometimes dramatic – decline of their purchasing power. MRU did not have miracle solutions at hand, and PDL could not avoid an electoral failure by using the fiction of a model-governance.But why did USL rush to take the power? From fear of MRU’s increasing popularity, as some analysts suggest? Like any Opposition alliance, USL could benefit from the erosion of the ruling alliance. In our case, there were certain factors that accelerated this erosion: the long and drastic austerity that put many (state employees, cash-strapped retirees, former beneficiaries of welfare schemes, private employers forced to go bankrupt) through much pain; the not-so-far conclusion of the president’s second (and last) term in office, with all its consequences (reinventing the party, getting past the populism of the last decade, the emergence of other leaders); the collapse of the ‘presidential’ party with its pseudo-rightwing ideology; the advent of a new generation of politicians, although its place is only at the backstage now.In such a context, one would expect USL to reap, without much effort, the results of its opponents’ lack of popularity. Why did it rush to enter such a risky game? First, because it wanted to avoid any possible surprise. For several years, Traian Basescu – even with declining popularity – was able to keep in place a lackluster governance. He was able to keep Emil Boc as premier even after he lost a no-confidence vote. He was able to form and maintain a thin majority in Parliament. He used his authority (and constitutional prerogatives) to repeatedly bar the Opposition’s access to power. He won a new mandate as president, against a rival that was better placed, in theory (especially in the second ballot, when he was supported by ‘the third man’). He resisted the Parliament’s attempt to suspend him. In other words, the acting president has resources that must not be overlooked. He is still a strong opponent that should not be neglected. One must score victories against him, and the change of the ruling alliance is an important success in this war. This is the firts serious blow dealt to the image of Basescu the almighty, following a concrete defeat beyond the simple and fluctuating game of statements. More than a success against PDL, the change of government hits the president which, in the past, would have firmly opposed such political cohabitation. As his opponents kept repeating, President Basescu is the real foe, rather than one party or another. And there is another aspect that must be emphasised.For USL, winning the elections is not enough. What matters is the score of this victory. Otherwise, their governance will be fragile and the alliance will be more vulnerable. This is why it wants to control the resources of governance in the time left until elections. This also allows it to keep the president on the defense, showing him that he no longer dictates in Romanian politics. All in all, the few months until elections are too short for significant negative or positive effects, so the risk is not too big. What matters is the political boxing show, and USL stepped into the governmental ring, after fighting in the Parliament and street rings. The president must be somehow humiliated, and the simple tactics of negative publicity are not enough.But what will happen with PDL and MRU meanwhile? If the latter insists to stay in politics, he might initiate a new political organisation, whose chances will be rather after the elections, from the ranks of the future Opposition in and outside the Parliament. PDL might enter the era of Vasile Blaga, who has most chances to become its new leader. Especially as Emil Boc either wins the elections for Cluj mayor, or suffers a humiliating defeat that destroys his chances as party leader. Set aside any possible complicate political strategy, the dreams of politicians lacking vision are built on the moving sands of improvised solutions. This is specifically the case with the president and his already losing party. USL is still waging trench warfare now, but it risks being confronted by its own lack of political perspective. Its “doctrine” is aimed against Basescu, but what else can it offer to the lucid voter?

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