Times are changing, mentalities are changing as well, and parties on the Romanian political scene are pressured by the times to change, to leave the warm comfort zone and to adapt to the new challenges.
The proof that a change of names and faces in Romanian politics is intensely desired is given by the outstanding reactions to Alina Gorghiu’s surprise election as the President of the old National Liberal Party (PNL). Her appointment as PNL leader was unanimously saluted and applauded both by politicians and analysts, as a sign of change, reform and modernization of the party, as old characters, encrusted in old mentalities and convenience, should take a big step back, making way for the new wave of politicians. They will obviously bring additional value and freshness to the political stage, which featured sometimes a few new names and faces previously as well, who attempted to bring new vibe, new attitude, new energy and new enthusiasm, yet, most frequently, they were cast away and sent to second-rank positions by influent barons, convinced that the warm positions in the lead of parties are theirs forever.
Propelling young, dynamic, ambitioned, open-minded and honest people, with fresh ideas and visions, to the frontispiece of Romanian politics may only bear a positive influence to internal political climate. Defined at the time being by plenty of tensions, vehemence, suspicions and frustrations, lack of elegance and decency, this climate was not proper for values such as respect for voters, dignity, morality and integrity, so rarely encountered, and created a disastrous image of politics in public opinion, resembling a “cemetery of elephants” – corrupted, arrogant, demagogic liars.
This was always sanctioned by voters, either at ballot boxes, in painful ways for parties that thought they would be always on top without keeping their promises to their voters, or in opinion polls, as all of them rate the population’s confidence in politicians at alarmingly low levels, much under the percentage achieved by institutions seen as trustworthy, such as the Army and the Church.
It is obvious that, after 25 years of freedom, democracy and multiple party politics, Romania needs to exit a certain stage of inertia and lack of vision, as far as propelling politicians at the top of parties and in the spotlight of the political stage was concerned.
In the first years of democracy, Romanian voters had a certain naivety and blindly followed politicians who manipulated them by various techniques, so that these voters would act according to the wishes of individuals and parties. But today, after 25 years, voters have evolved and matured a lot, along with their standards, mentality and expectations from the people they invest their trust in. The last few years, the last few elections and, most of all, the last presidential elections proved that Romanian voters have become increasingly selective, with increasingly refined and sensitive filters destined to screen out compromised names, people who have disappointed them, people who humiliate them, and show no respect and decency towards them. Today’s voters act and behave based on the rule of cause and effect: they offer what they receive.
For many years, a major part of voters let themselves be fooled by nice words, brilliantly entwined in impressive promises made by politicians in electoral campaigns and immediately forgotten by those who made them after they got what they wanted and got the precious votes that granted them the victory in the elections. There were times when parties were assured due to the so-called “captive electorate”, the group of voters that granted permanent loyalty and whom they knew they could count on, regardless of what they would do. This electoral category was easily deluded verbally and easily bought with electoral give-away, offered at the right time so that politicians distributing it would be sure that these voters would compliantly go to the ballot and vote in their favour.
Yet, nothing is eternal. Not even the eternal fidelity of a certain group of voters. And if any party ever thinks it is, they probably deserve their faith of remaining bonded to a past long gone and that would definitely never come back. The last presidential elections came with a surprise, as round 2 was overturned and brought the victory to the underrated competitor, proving that nothing is to be taken for granted, as far as calculations regarding the absolute long-term loyalty of the electorate is concerned.
By far, the first party expected to issue an obvious signal of reform and modernization in their top-level management immediately after the elections was PSD. Yet, Social Democrats decided to postpone the moment of truth until their Congress of March. They were left behind by Liberals in this field as well, who showed vision by electing Ms. Gorghiu as their leader. Thus, they ended up with a President endowed with a highly appealing presence and the abilities of a graceful speaker, that will certainly bring them valuable points in opinion polls, and also a highly experienced party leader able to maintain great relations with the press, which is a great benefit to the party. As a political leader able to cover the entire spectrum of the press, not merely agreed and friendly channels, but the most hostile media organizations as well, is an obvious winner, not only in terms of personal prestige and image, but also as a representative of a party that may reap the benefits.
It is yet to be seen how fast other parties would follow the example of PNL, to appoint new and undisputable names, free of any stains, at top positions.
Yet, the sooner they decide to give in to the wind of change, the sooner they will recover some of their image and credibility losses. For a certain amount of time, Romanian politics is slowly cleared of compromised names by the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) that efficiently solves a row of corruption cases involving important politicians who seemed infallible and untouchable due to the influence they kept on referring to not so long ago.
Nonetheless, Romanians expect wonders regarding the clearing of the political scene, and DNA is not their primary source of hope. They expect obvious signals from the top managements of the parties, who must clearly assume their mistakes, the stains on their image, their morality issues, etc. It is not only the case of PSD, as they should have subdued to the wind of change right after losing the presidential elections, but also of PMP, who still keep Elena Udrea as their leader despite of the fact that her name is more and more frequently associated with the major corruption cases, and has a lot to lose in terms of public credibility.