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May 20, 2022

The Loneliness of the Premier

Everybody could wonder about Premier Ponta’s insistence to bring the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) in the government when he has an overwhelming parliamentary majority. Should he really think of the danger of nationalistic passions? The comparison with Hungary lacks a leg to stand on, since over there, the conflict lacks ethnic connotations. And mostly, it is ridiculous to assume that Victor Ponta sees himself as a  Viktor Orban in the making. Could he be sensitive to likely accusations of authoritarian drift in the future from the EU leaders? Yet, he is the undisputed head of government and has the power to avoid them. And anyway, it is not the little UDMR that could temper his ‘furies’  if this happened. The ethnic issue only appears to provide the cover for the true intentions. Mentalities have evolved nonetheless, at least as far as politicians’ rhetoric is concerned.

If before entering a more low-key alliance with UDMR in 2000, Adrian Nastase compared it with the Yaser Arafat’s PLO, now, Social Democratic Party (PSD) General Secretary Liviu Dragnea uses the `voice of the Magyar people` argument against the alliance sought by the premier. In his view, the Magyars would be UDMR’s main opponents, which is just as laughable, obviously, and that, since, aside from the high absenteeism rate, the Magyars voted for the UDMR nonetheless, which has assumed for over a decade exactly the position of collaborating with the Romanian parties in the decision-making process, and not that of a more or less radicalized opposition.  Victor Ponta may be thinking that such alliance could prove useful over time, for the credibility of a power under threat from severe economic problems, a more representative alliance to accept a spectrum beyond a strictly politically configured pre-electoral alliance. Despite the intrinsic irony, an USL-UDMR alliance would be more suitable for a  future  `national interest` rhetoric. Strictly politically speaking, co-opting the UDMR is not necessary prophylaxis wise, as the Magyars will never forge a pre-electoral alliance rooted in propagandistic opportunities. At most, it could join the opposition, yet, the current situation narrows its room for action to a great extent. The main supposition circulated this past couple of days was Victor Ponta’s caution in view of a   in prospective fault in the Social Liberal Union (USL). While likely, they are not unavoidable by any means, and even less urgent. While it is true that the PSD collaborated on parity principles to governing for an year alongside the Democratic Liberal Party (PDL), which it discredited due to Mircea Geoana’s presidential ambitions, it is nonetheless just as true that theirs was but a conjectural alliance. Presidential ambitions, Crin Antonescu ‘s this time, are the grounds for a lasting alliance. Ponta can nonetheless fee more relaxed now, when Traian Basescu is now but the shadow of the `player-president`, so that political priorities have changed. What could they be? The PSD is not ready to govern all by itself. Furthermore, its president lacks a strong and loyal team ready to offer him unconditional support. A great deal of the USL’s actions have been inspired by Crin Antonescu more than anybody else, who played low-key, yet firm `first fiddle`. Still, what kind of help could the UDMR lend to a lonesome PSD? Traian Basescu broke up the DA Alliance, but the Liberals managed to govern with UDMR’s support only because they also got the tacit parliamentary votes of the PSD. The PDL has eventually lost governance while only relying on the UDMR. Victor Ponta may have had different thoughts nonetheless. He may be preparing the much delayed regionalization reform, which could pave the way for favorable prospects with respect to absorption of the European funds. This delay has so far been due to the Szeklers’ delicate position, to whom Romanian politicians would not legitimize an administrative status. The UDMR joining government exactly now, when he would not have stood any such chance, supposes the most mutual goodwill possible. The Magyars’ opposition to such reform could flare up conflicts and lead to unpredictable situations, mostly amid some likely economic slippage. Why then, does the National Liberal Party (PNL) oppose it? Crin Antonescu may not have forgotten his `offer` to the UDMR to jump off the government boat  containing the PDL, an ultimate offer the former would not take. It was  regarded as an almost personal slap. He may also be afraid of his association, as a presidential candidate, with the Magyars, as he risks losing to an abler competitor, an  electorate a bit more nationalistic. In his turn, Liviu Dragnea represents those Social-Democrats unaccustomed to cooperating with a small, yet fussy party. The PSD has actually never cooperated with the UDMR at ministerial level. The only political association dates back to the Adrian Nastase government, yet it did not go beyond second echelon positions or a steadfast legislative alliance. The partly `visionary`, partly `lonely`, Victor Ponta needs this special ally (mostly over the thorny, yet full of implications, issue of regionalization), but also a thorn in the side of a power that appears not having some truly loyal allies. Unlike his mentor, Nastase, the current premier has not succeeded in forming a redoubtable team to support him amid a governing that looks quite difficult. Difficult mostly because the Opposition will be anaemic, and the tensions will move into the court of Power.

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