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Bucharest
October 24, 2021
EDITORIAL

Back to Cluj

Almost nobody credited him anymore. A Premier hated by impoverished public sector employees and bankrupted entrepreneurs, one of “captain” Basescu’s first officers hated for his servility, the leader of a bankrupt party, harassed by colleagues that coveted his party office.While most of them came out more than bruised from these elections, Emil Boc is a winner. He has returned to the office he left in order to become Prime Minister, despite this burdening political biography. He won by a nose but even so his capacity to recover is enviable. He won because he benefited from two privileged situations. While mayor, he was, at least at first, the president of a ruling party. And while he was Prime Minister he showed preferential backing for his successor in Cluj, which meant a more significant budget invested in public utility projects (whether for good or for worse is a different issue).

Maybe a local patriotism that cherished Boc even just for being a local citizen at Romania’s helm mattered for some too. His profile was not a classical one either. Among so many corrupt sharks Boc rather seemed a devoted (up to servility though) servant of his party and mentor Traian Basescu. The very fact that his successor was arrested gave the positive impression that he is capable of distancing himself even from his close collaborators in case of corruption. Although both top USL contenders in Cluj were Liberals, let’s not forget that the city had a nationalist administration for 12 years and it is precisely Emil Boc who still inherits a part of that nationalist electorate, and the Social-Democrats never scored decisively, on the contrary. Liberal Horia Uioreanu won the county council’s presidency (at an even closer score) thanks to the votes from rural areas which are traditionally more left-wing oriented (more precisely put, dependent on PSD’s networks of influence). Emil Boc also benefited from the new single-round elections rule, a second round risking being, in all probability, fatal for him. His victory is generally contextual (the absence of a charismatic candidate, the popular memory of his support for the city, the local voters’ special profile), although his capacity of landing on his feet should not be neglected. But apart from his future destiny in Cluj, more significant is his place within a new PDL. It’s clear he now has a more privileged position. But it’s not out of the question for all of his colleagues that risk being marginalized to form a coalition and to get rid of both him and the President. However this is only an option with relatively low chances since it entails a coordination and determination that are usually absent among the defeated. But Emil Boc will certainly not become the party’s reformer, even freed from its once almighty mentor. He hasn’t prepared for this and he lacks the qualities of a visionary or a strategist. Moreover, the outlook of a term in office in the context of a hostile county council president and government is not too encouraging. One should not ignore the detail that even if he knows how to do it Boc will not be able to efficiently combine managing Cluj with the party’s presidency. If he managed to do it for so many years it was because we were in the midst of the “Basescu era,” Basescu holding the party’s reins and having great authority. Boc on his own is a political experiment that does not look promising. But he could at least be a good mayor, although his opponents will be able to render his initiatives difficult, sometimes seriously so. But to see his victory in Cluj as a decisive moment towards straightening out PDL is a naiveté.

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