Shifting alliances

The upcoming parliamentary elections already drew the lines of the political battlefield. Two alliances and two parties with chances to a score above the electoral threshold are in the arena. A well-soldered alliance, which won the latest local elections and has obtained the majority in Parliament few months ago, and another one, hastily created, under the pressure of urgency. Add to these a populist party, with a discourse against the system, and an ethnic party that relies – in principles – on the same percentage in each electoral test. The most credible forecast is a victory of USL that will leave the ‘Right Romania’ as the main opposition force, a score between 10 and 15 pc for the People’s Party and an uncertain result for UDMR, which might even miss the electoral threshold. First, we may question the reliability of these alliances. USL comes after several years in which it acted as a redoubtable alliance, capable of slowly attracting legislators of the ruling coalition, to such extent that it passed a no-confidence motion which toppled the previous government and led to a new majority.

Then, it started to progressively take control upon all the institutions whose members are appointed following a political algorithm. In order to eliminate the presidential fortress, it initiated the impeachment procedure, with its entire array of political volunteering. The two co-presidents of USL supported each other in an apparently flawless manner. Victor Ponta went all the way with the referendum, while Crin Antonescu supported the premier with regard to the plagiarism row. But they also perceived the serious setbacks of this partnership. Victor Ponta partly lost his credibility abroad and his electorate at home, following the attempt to rapidly get hold of the entire power. However, it is clear enough that the initiative and energy belonged to his Liberal comrade, although some Social-Democratic leaders got involved 100 pc too. We should not forget the mentor of the Conservative Party, Dan Voiculescu, who fought this as a personal war. Rather than this failure, Victor Ponta would have needed a more promising start of his term of office. Associated with Antonescu, he won the sympathy of a population whose frustration turned into hate for President Basescu. This is no little thing, as the number of votes in favour of the impeachment is representative for the fate of the next elections. But this is a versatile electorate, which can shift its antipathies shortly after elections. The Social-Democratic leader, young and at the beginning of his career, has no reason to play everything on one card and, instead, would prefer to give himself a less volatile and conjectural status. Thus, his association with a politician that subordinated everything to his presidential ambition is not just inconvenient, but also potentially dangerous. Hence, one cannot rule out the possibility that – after the voting – he will take some distance from the position of Crin Antonescu, whose career could even enter a cone of shadow, waiting for a presidential ballot too far in the future. How else could we understand his statements about transforming the presidential office into a largely honorific job? Does Crin Antonescu want to become a powerless president? But Victor Ponta has another problem too: authority in his own party. A change of generations took place in PSD. Many heavyweights of the Nastase era have already left the arena. With all his ‘arrogance,’ former premier Nastase had a team and knew how to promote his people (including then very young Victor Ponta). The acting premier seems to neglect this idea, and the consequences will be seen during the future political crises, when he risks having nobody to really support him. The same situation is in PNL, although because of different reasons. Turning the party into the vehicle of his own strategy aimed at conquering the presidential office. Because of this, cultivating a new generation of leaders with personality is no priority.One might say that in the other alliance, the ‘Right Romania,’ new faces are better valued, out of electoral reasons, at least. Truth is that it was founded under the sign of improvisation. A party that was powerful in the past, but now is in free fall, associated itself with a number of civic foundations, some of them transformed into small parties, in a move meant to improve its image. The main problem was the launching of the future presidential candidate MRU, who scraped together his own party, gathering disgruntled – and rather marginal – politicians belonging to all political doctrines. Furthermore, he already patronised a – now modest – ally, the New Republic, sparking a first conflict – with serious mutual accusations – that overshadows the stability of the freshly created alliance. Truth is that MRU himself is an improvised leader that has a messianic and hilarious discourse, without a team, inevitably prey to electoral pragmatism/opportunism, and which relies – same as USL – on cultivating the phobia for the opponent. On the other hand, New Republic leader Mihai Neamtu continues to bet on his political loyalty to Traian Basescu (maybe his theological background makes him inclined to some form of idolatry, although one should not rule out the opportunism of launching his career under the guidance of a reputed politician), thus losing part of the electorate that would like to see radical innovations. This electorate will shift towards Dan Diaconescu, consistent with his political autonomy, at least at a rhetoric level. Thus, it is possible that, if it loses the elections, the ‘Right Romania’ will disintegrate and its components will reorient and recombine on their own. And if USL has a majority in Parliament that will allow it to change the current semi-presidential regime, promoting MRU will lose much of its importance, without any need for other political banners, less conjectural.

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