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May 18, 2022

Victory of absenteeism

At the core of Romanian political life stands the absenteeism, which explains more than just a certain electoral trend. Over two decades of democratic elections, the turnout has decreased to a half. Even if now the rate seems to have stabilised at around 40 per cent (similar to the previous legislative poll), the prospects are little encouraging for a genuine future growth. Absenteeism is here to stay and this is the kind of hard fact that should cause concerns on a longer tem. USL has received the votes of a quarter of the electorate this time. What legitimacy can such power have as long as it is literally in minority? The same applied to the alliance set up by PDL and PSD four years ago and even more to the following one, without PSD who went in the opposition. The main conclusion is that most Romanians do not feel represented by none of the current political forces – traditional, such as PSD or PNL, or newer ones like the Civic Force or PP-DD.

In absolute figures, USL has actually obtained less than PSD obtained don its own in 2000. This distinction has some serious consequences, for their political decisions, except the vote, matter in the building of political social behaviour. They are not inert, they simply refuse to make an electoral choice. This is why the winning coalition can only claim an extremely relative proportional representation. Many of the 60 per cent of Romanians who did not go to the polls do not like either the winners or the losers. The quarter that voted USL was partially seduced by the rhetoric demonising of President Basescu, which is not at all a rare phenomenon since the president himself came to power after the same kind of skilled campaign demonising his opponent Adrian Nastase. Another share of this quarter (and probably a significant part of the absent voters) penalised PDL for its failed governance. Its small, yet reasonable score is partly due to the fear of a USL restoration after the samples of forceful political strategy in the summer. PP-DD continues its political career, but without being able to really pull it off. Most probably it has already reached the apex of its influence, also proof of the failure of the Oltchim bluff and, in more general terms, of the OTV-patented rhetoric. UDMR has stepped over the electoral threshold, yet with more difficulty than in the past, which says that it should identify ways of regeneration before a competitor takes away its parliamentary representation. In this new configuration, USL can rule on its own and the talks with UDMR announced by Victor Ponta could suggest an intention to operate more sensitive constitutional adjustments. However, beyond all calculations, the meaningful thing will be parliamentary and even extra-parliamentary developments. More than before, the political stage has room for new parties generated by scissions or more unusual initiatives. The future opposition to the USL government is not going to come from PDL with priority – PDL is probably doomed to a more serious marginalisation – and not from PP-DD – it has no genuine growth outlook (at most it will relive the political career of its populist predecessor – PRM – a party ignored by all governments since 20 years, which eventually disinflated.)A new party will most likely emerge more to PSD’s left and PNL will either tune its doctrine, returning to a more evident liberalism, or will be unseated by some surprise competitor. If, even in this period with a government massively dominated by USL, alternatives less dependent on the old political establishment do not develop, the crisis will only deepen no matter how much the constitutional direction of the game may change.

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