After several failures by the two campaign staffs to reach an agreement in organizing a TV broadcasted debate between the two candidates for the highest position in the state, on Tuesday evening, in an unexpected turn of events, the possibility of a face to face debate appeared once Klaus Iohannis made an announcement on Facebook, an hour before Rares Bogdan’s show on Realitatea TV that featured Victor Ponta as a guest. Iohannis announced that he would be on the TV show as well, to meet his opponent. An evening before, Iohannis had been Rares Bogdan’s guest in studio, presenting his electoral offer, while Ponta was on the sets of another teevision station (Romania TV) discussing his electoral agenda. If, on Monday morning, the two candidates attacked one another relentlessly during individual appearances in front of cameras, on Tuesday evening, they finally had the opportunity to meet and continued their verbal duel filled with mutual ironies, criticism and gusts of elation.
It was not the kind of debate everybody waited for. If the debate would have been consistently negotiated and prepared before by the two staffs, regarding format, topics, program and hosts, perhaps voters could have seen a more solid and profound dialogue on the main themes featured on the agendas of the two politicians, but also regarding Romanian actuality in all its aspects.
If the debate would have been prepared and negotiated previously by the campaign teams, the discrepancy between the performances by the two protagonists would have been less obvious. The PSD leader came prepared with files, revealing documents, economical statistics, a copy of the ACL campaign paper that included a defaming article on the Ponta family, with a copy of Romania’s Constitution and even with a copy of the New Testament, while the ACL leader had no documents to help him and was discomfited on less than one occasion by Ponta, puzzled, making inexact or incorrect statements, answering evasively, answering with questions to his opponent’s questions.
It is important though that the long awaited face to face debate finally took place, even if it happened this way, far from professional as far as organization was concerned, although the host did everything he could to save appearances, creating several opportunities for Iohannis to retreat and recover after his moments of insecurity, in opposition with moments when he seemed self-confident and made his point clearly.
Due to the interest of the viewers for this debate, the show was rebroadcasted by most TV stations, with the completely unexplainable exception of the Romanian television.
The analysts’ and the viewers’ opinions regarding the performances and the attitudes of the two adversaries did not take long to appear. A CSCI telephone poll made live during the broadcast revealed that Ponta had dominated his opponent in a crushing proportion of 70 per cent, proving his points and winning his arguments, which shows that the authors of his image strategy did their homeworks excellently. Most commenters, some of them notorious for their dislike of Ponta, and politicians, some of them PNL members, appreciated that Iohannis was below the situation and disappointed his supporters, who had expected more of him. Many voices declared after the debate that it would have been better for Iohannis and his image if the encounter never occurred, as his performance revealed the reason why he accepted a direct confrontation with such difficulty.
It is hard to believe that Iohannis lost a considerable number of voters due to his performance on TV, as any of them would change their minds ad vote for Ponta, who is obviously more convincing, although there are many voices criticising his arrogant and disrespectful attitude on the TV set while acclaiming Klaus Iohannis’ balanced and calm temper. Nonetheless, it is hard to believe that his answers managed to win over an important segment of the audience undecided on whom to vote for.
On the other hand, Victor Ponta, with the self-confidence he showed during the debate and his detailed answers, full of political responsibility (such as the one referring to the way he sees relations with China, while Iohannis had declared that a Bucharest – Beijing axis was not necessary) might have convinced some of the undecided to give him their vote.
Fact is that, may he be liked by people or not, Victor Ponta had won an important round of the game, by marking precious points in the long discussed television debate. Yet, the match is far from being played and over. There are three more days of campaign, many things can happen and the 8 to 10 per cent difference in the polls between him and Iohannis is not a border that would be impossible to pass. Besides the loyal supporters each of the candidates count on, a major stake could be represented by the undecided, who could so easily move the pin on the balance.
Read about the hot topics debated during the first Ponta -Iohannis duel here: http://www.nineoclock.ro/main-hot-issues-debated-by-victor-ponta-and-klaus-iohannis-on-tuesdays-evening-electoral-show-hosted-by-realitatea-tv/