The firsts of 2012

2012 began with a big promise. Mihai Razvan Ungureanu filled the office vacated by resigning PM Emil Boc. He had been the ideal premier of the ‘player-president’: obedient, loyal (even obsequious – some may say), the president’s megaphone. He owed everything to the president – except for the position of Cluj mayor – and the president artificially kept him in the office of premier, which he lost less than a year after he took it.Winning the second presidential term allowed Traian Basescu to support him three more years, but public protests in various Romanian towns, during a very cold winter (such as the previous one) demonstrated an irreversible erosion. The president then attempted a surprise-move: he replaced him with one of the ‘young hopes’ of Romanian politics, then still marginal Mihai Razvan Ungureanu. This was not just a last-ditch option, as it resulted from a long-term plan: a promising candidate for the next presidential elections.

But betrayals derailed the plan. In May, a successful no-confidence vote toppled the cabinet and brought to power the opposite camp, which launched the attack. It made a second attempt to impeach President Basescu. Now, they were much closer to succeeding and only the referendum turnout slightly under 50 pc saved Traian Basescu. The political summer was rather hot, because the president knew how to mobilise several international leaders to his support, demonising the ‘legal coup’ of his opponents.But the semi-success in the referendum was unable to secure him more than a big failure in the parliamentary elections. The failure had been predicted by the local elections, where only Emil Boc achieved a surprising comeback as mayor of Cluj. 2012 thus was the year of political dusk for PDL and of the big jump forward for USL. Since 1990 Romania has not seen a Parliament dominated by the same political colour in the overwhelming proportion of 2/3. But the essential difference was the turnout to polls: less than half, after 12 years. USL proved to be the most successful electoral alliance of these years. It was not shaken by serious internal conflicts and proved an unusual functionality, largely due to imposing the principle of parity.An important role, with this regard, certainly went to the political evolutions in the two parties: two new leaders that convinced their comrades of the chance to move away from the shadow where their parties had spent these last years. PSD had been away from power for too long time, after being for many years the first Romanian party, in power or opposition. Victor Ponta’s youth was decisive, because it made possible the inevitable exchange of generations (the old one had been dominated by latent conflicts) and it enforced the propaganda image of a Social-Democratic ‘new wave.’ For the Liberals, what mattered was Crin Antonescu’s ability to suggest overcoming the complex of a party that no longer has the main position. Now it even seems that he dominates the premier with his more substantial political experience and determines the political agenda, if needed.At the opposite end, PDL missed the chance of forging a ‘grand alliance.’ ARD proved to be a failure and the elections cast a serious doubt over its future. Trying to show that Ungureanu is more than the leader of a party in clear decline, the plan was conceived of an alliance with a ‘new’ party (in fact an old and very marginal one), ideal for the former premier with still high ambitions. Vasile Blaga, who this year saw his dream come true and replaced Emil Boc as leader of the party, formally admitted the defeat, but refused to step down as price of a political mistake for which he, too should bear the blame.As for Traian Basescu, he moved this year from one agony to another, with a little bit of ecstasy in-between. First, he thought he will score a big hit with Mihai Razvan Ungureanu, which first lost the government, then the elections. He suffered the humiliation of the new impeachment and only saved himself at the last moment. He had to nominate his outspoken opponent Victor Ponta as premier for the second time.He will probably assume the role of a decorative president from now on, to avoid the risk of an even more shameful end.And there were two more firsts this year.A new party acceded to the Parliament – PPDD, although its leader was drastically defeated in the constituency where he ran against the premier, and plans to withdraw from politics. But even this statement can be a bluff, typical for his behaviour as politician and journalist. As for UDMR, although it stayed in the Parliament with much more difficulty than previously, it no longer belongs to the ruling coalition, after many years of political opportunism. A president whose position is seriously weakened, an all-out victory of a well-oiled alliance, a quasi-inexistent opposition, the prospect of a true ‘tyranny’ of the majority – this is what 2012 brought us.

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