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Bucharest
June 24, 2021
EDITORIAL

Basescu Reloaded

What’s new on the political scene?

A new foundation, endorsed by the president in office, is trying its luck. The Popular Movement is but Traian Basescu’s latest knack. Proof to it stands even its trademark registered in due time by none other than the president’s daughter herself. The first attempt was the Christian-Democratic Foundation run by Teodor Baconschi, the second – the Civic Center-Right – Initiative (DE) led by Mihai Razvan Ungureanu. Both of those leaders were pushed to the fore and tested by Traian Basescu with a view to the presidential election. None of them however managed to leave a decisive mark, mainly because the strategy was not aimed at taking over the leadership of the Democratic Liberal Party (PDL), but only back them in the name of some potentially broader alliances

The experiments proved rather shallow, as the two had no real political backing from the party, but almost exclusively relied on the president’s support. They were ‘independent figures’, with a certain intellectual profile, adopted by the party in order to boost its credibility and electoral chances. Yet, as usual over the past two decades, such hybrids didn’t produce special results. However, the Popular Movement marks a strategic shift somehow, as there is no personality of the providential leader type, no prospect of being taken in tow by an established party, mostly that, there is the firm promise of Traian Basescu’s direct involvement with it, who will try to launch a party from scratch, with the only difference he is now but a politician both jaded and seriously contested. Yet, this is key to the forthcoming party’s dynamics. Traian Basescu will throw into ply his assets, which are not few by any means, (influence networks, experience, prestige) to renew Romanian politics. Amid the scarcity of truly new offers, his could matter more than the cold predictions. While his popularity is in steep decline, the lack of competition (save from the Social Liberal Union – USL) and a more peaceful cohabitation could bring such decline to a halt and even re-launch him to a certain extent. And that, since, without him, there’s no future in store for the PDL, and he is the first to blame for it, since he sought his own political interests first and foremost, by only promoting leaders who were either subservient or all too dependent.

There is also the risk that no other party created under his authority to only have a life revolving around his own career. Traian Basescu is not credible as a `wise old man` who fathers an innovating party, but only as a charismatic leader (ageing and worn-out as he is), able to step back into the limelight even after two major failures. Wasn’t it that Ion Iliescu too was reborn from his own ashes in 2000? This is why Traian Basescu’s main political offer is himself, surrounded by people who remained loyal to him despite the many repositioning attempts. There is also the prospect of migrations from the PDL, yet, a serious choice should be taken between promoting new figures or re-launching such resilient politicians as Elena Udrea is, for example. The great temptation however is to create a breach within the USL, in order to hope for a salvaging future alliance. One of the president’s greatest problems is gradually isolating his party to the point it has been marginalized by its opponents. Its political future depends on finding an ally. The only chance is to replace Liberals in a future alliance, even if low-key, dominated by Social-Democrats. The stake of cohabitation is not just to avoid an ugly war and a disgraceful denouement, but to get the political game re-launched. Why shouldn’t Victor Ponta change his ally with one willing to accept a principle other than parity? Which, being weaker, could offer him more strength than he has now. For a prime minister, would only be but tempting to be out of Crin Antonescu’s authority in order to gain genuine political authority, at last.

Sooner or later, he needs to prove his maturity.

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