Crin Antonescu became the chief of Liberals after the party ended exhausted a ruling interval permanently undermined by the ‘player-president,’ who was at an exuberant peak of political vitality. Premier Calin Popescu Tariceanu, also the leader of the party, had withstood surprisingly well, and his governance – although politically fragile – had been nonetheless successful (be it at least for an enviable economic growth).The ‘bad boy’ of the Liberals, Ludovic Orban, was unable to take upon Tariceanu’s inheritance, outclassed by the rather marginal – at that time – leader ‘with a flower’s name’ (probably he has not forgiven yet President Basescu for this benign insult). Until then, Crin Antonescu had only been a minister of Youth and Sports and an absent member of the Parliament (a flaw intensely speculated by his opponents’ irony). But Orban was giving too much worry, because of his versatile-aggressive style, so Antonescu appeared to the undecided Liberals as a wiser alternative.
The latter’s ambitions are however surprisingly high, perhaps also compensatory for a politician that did not shine in the past. He outright set an otherwise simple agenda: becoming president. He knew he needs patience, which it exerted in a first phase, ‘generously’ giving away his one in five votes to the leftist candidate (the forever unlucky Mircea Geoana), in 2009. What is now ignored, since the ‘sound’ USL, is that the present authority of Crin Antonescu among Liberals is the fruit of an almost tyrannical leadership. He is not the first (the mentor of them all could be Traian Basescu, who rebuilt a party after almost all its important leaders abandoned it during an uncomfortable opposition), but the problem is the political price).If we go beyond appearances, his position is rather fragile, because the entire governance is somehow shaky from the wrong steps it made so far, dominated by the hurry to give the Liberal leader… his presidency. The future difficulties of the governance (also marked by the opposition – more decisive than it might seem – of an EPP that holds the reins of the EU) can shift antipathy from the austerity regime of these years to the populism of the new power, which failed to keep its promises.By marginalising now the leaders which oppose him inside the party, Antonescu remains alone to bear the blame for future failures. And failure can be drastic in absence of a strategic change of direction. It is obvious that other Liberal voices are wiser, such as former PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu. Basescu must be allowed to complete his term, while the Liberals profitably focus on more substantial political themes. Such as a reform of the political regime.But how can a parliamentary republic be the choice of a party led by someone who has the ambition of becoming president? Could the row over impeaching Basescu be just a prelude to a rather honorary presidency? Or, in other words, is monarchism a stronger option for the future than we might think? Will the left become monarchist, for the first time in national history?In fact, although it does not lack supporters, only few politicians would embark in a monarchist adventure. PNL lost the identity it had gained, several years ago, by taking over the status of leader of the right, also following one of the most successful governments (at least by comparison). It has been allied, for years, with a leftist party, willingly giving up the ideological landmarks of the past (still representative for liberalism everywhere). Only the vehemence of unlimited political fight was able to cover the identity crisis of a party where liberalism (the true one, not the faked one that has Becali as representative ‘capitalist’) is no longer the first choice.There is a moral issue at stake, because liberalism plays its credibility precisely by proposing an own ethos. It is interesting that Gigi Becali, who started his political career as nationalist and ‘Christian.’ (not precisely ‘Democrat’) only took over the most detestable (by the left, at least) part of liberalism: the ability to get rich on your own, regardless of how much injustice this implies. Did the Romanian social-democracy become the representative of gauche caviar that ignores such injustice? All in all, Becali will implicitly run in elections under the colours of PSD as well. All these political oddities should make people think. In such a world, Crin Antonescu does like he pleases, relying on his ally Ponta rather than on the party’s ‘aristocrats.’