A major inflation is forecast in Romania. However, it is not the characteristic economic phenomenon, but an inflation of… parties. With no concrete steps taken by the leaders of major political parties in the Romanian political life to reform them at the pace the electorate demands it as shown by opinion polls, it has become a trend for politicians who no longer find their place in those parties for various reasons to speculate on this legitimate voters’ wish and announce their intention to set up new political entities.
Listening to people with such initiatives, it seems that one of the simplest things at this point in Romania is setting up a party. It is not at all like that. The public space has been filled with pompous and rushed statements, promises of instantaneous reform of the political establishment worthy of a magician’s charmed rod, yet unconvincing as long as their authors indulged in the comfort of the big parties they have now decided to leave for years on end. Parties they now criticise for being petrified in a state of affairs where reform and modernisation are postponed. Without having made any effort to reform the parties they come from, while they were still within as members and had the opportunity to make proposals and have reforming initiatives. On the other hand, when the prodigal sons desert their mother-parties, all of a sudden they turn into reformists with a vocation. They do not miss a dingle public appearance without attacking their party or origin or presenting in well-recited slogans and nicely mastered words the providential role they will have in the reform of the political class, of either the Left or the Right of Romanian politics, as the case may be, when the parties they are giving birth to would have become reality.
And some actually become reality. It has been demonstrated by the experience of the last 25 years of democracy. However, most parties created in that way do not pass the test of time, they do not resist under their new identity as alternative electoral variants and options. If they have the courage to stand for election on their own, most such pocket-size new political parties do not obtain enough percentage and are considerably below the electoral threshold. This is why the majority of small parties that have appeared over time, realising they cannot be stand-alone political forces from the point of view of their electoral offer and convincing the electorate, became satellites of big parties and entered into electoral alliances with them, by that passing the test of the ballot box which, most of the times, mercilessly filtered such small entities.
It is but obvious that the voters ardently want a different type of politician and a different way of doing politics, the most recent such proof being the massive vote for Mircea Diaconu in the European parliamentary election or for Monica Macovei in the presidential election, both being personalities assimilated to benchmarks of a different kind of politics.
And yet, what many of the people who plunge into the political space with the intention of creating new political parties do not understand is that the electorate wants no new parties set up by the same old politicians with old bad habits and with a compromised image. The refreshment and rejuvenation of the political class is an imperious necessity, but it is clear that the voters want a variety of electoral offers and not an inflation of parties, many of them already emerged or set to emerge having no chance to play a significant part in the power games. The best they could hope to achieve is satisfy the egos, vanities sand hunger for revenge of the founders in relation to the old parties which banished them or which they willingly quit as they no longer identified themselves with their political doctrines and programmes.
An active and lively political life, with diversified opinions, is no doubt very good for a healthy democracy in Romania, on condition those points of view are expressed by capable, credible, uncompromised people with an immaculate moral stature who are able to pertinently uphold the values of the pursued doctrine and who are also able to implement such values when they come to power. If they ever do.
Otherwise, like in all the other loud cases of appearance of new parties announced by their creators as providential for the Romanian democracy, the natural conclusion of the voters will always be that there is simply ‘too much ado about nothing’. The experience so far with the majority of small parties emerged during these 25 years seemingly like mushrooms after a good rain has shown that they wouldn’t have been able to show they mean something concrete as a doctrine, ideology or electoral offer. The only merit that could be credited to them comes from the loud slogans of cheap demagogy and radical populism such as that all previous parties are full of corrupt people, compromised and stained, and that the new party ‘X’ will be different and will have a providential role in the moral reform of the political class with the promise to only promote upright and uncompromised people. But the paradox is that, the louder the statements of the founders of new political projects – claiming to bring a fresh breath of air to a political stage already packed with compromised figures- were, the more they brought up to light exactly that type of opportunists, corrupt or compromised people, preventing the access to the front lines of exactly the unstained category with which they were advocating their case before the launch. A category of politicians the political class needs as one needs air in order to refresh and purge all that is toxic for its credibility. Evidently, in Romanian politics there is need for a new fresh wave of uncompromised faces and names, credible personalities with initiative and promoters of high moral values and elegance in politics.
In the intricate puzzle of Romanian politics post-December 1989, the New Romania Party (PNR), the Civic Force (FC), the Alliance for Romania (ApR), the Civic Alliance Party (PAC), the Union of Democratic Forces (UFD) so on and so forth have been just a few attempts to create new political parties and spending money for nothing. And yet, although the founders of those new political projects were notorious names (Teodor Melescanu, Nicolae Manolescu or Varujan Vosganian to mention just a few), none of those parties passed the test of time. With longer or shorter life, with more or less notorious figures and names, each and every one of these parties has remained history, none leaving a substantial footprint on the Romanian political life, except on a very short term or for a temporary interest of the founders or hidden financiers.
Nonetheless, all these small entities with more or less meteoric appearances have invariably excelled at good skills shown even before they were born until they ‘died’ either swallowed by bigger parties from which they had originally been detached or ‘succumbing’ to the test of the vote when they were unable to reach the electoral threshold.
Currently, the really politically noisy parties compared to their actual scores are the People’s Movement Party (Elena Udrea’s PMP) or the Liberal Reformist Party (PLR), led by Calin Popescu Tariceanu. However, it is not known for how long they will still survive as stand-alone entities with own, newly assumed identity, without turning into satellites of the bigger parties at the two poles of power – PSD (Left) and the new PNL (Right) that will be generated by a merger of the former PNL and PDL. There is still another pocket-size party – PPDD -, but it is not feeling very well these days. In addition, Monica Macovei has recently set up the M10 Association.
On the side, on the right of the political playing field, warming up are Daniel Fenechiu, who wants to set up a Right-wing party, or Sebastian Ghita with his announced Left-wing party, the Progress Romania Party (PPR) he intends to have registered on 1 March, or the loud Mircea Geoana and Marian Vanghelie, expelled from PSD, who want a new and genuine Social Democratic party. Or at least so they said at first. In reality, they just want to break 50-60 MPs from PSD and, on behalf of the new parliamentary group made up like that, to negotiate a participation in the government with PNL.
But does this mean reform in politics to an experienced politician like Geoana, with a rich political culture? What about PNL, a very vocal party against political migrants, does this mean reform? Coming to power at all cost, supported by a new party that has never been tested through an election?
For the time being, in what concerns the carrousel of small parties in Romania, one of the most successful so far, that has been very good at playing its cards best, is the National Union for the Progress of Romania (UNPR) led by Gabriel Oprea. Since 2009, when it emerged, this party made up by Oprea after quitting PSD around the group of independent MPs, has always been in the government, first as a part of the alliance around PDL supporting the Emil Boc government, then in 2012, as a part of the alliance made around PSD, supporting Victor Ponta as Prime Minister.
And, based on the latest rumours, UNPR is not standing still, but has quickly adjusted to the times, negotiating, as Mrs. Gorghiu has admitted, an alliance with PNL to back the no-confidence vote prepared against the Ponta Government, designed to bring the Liberals to power.
UNPR’s success demonstrates that a new party has no guarantee of success just because that it declares to be an alternative to what exists on the political stage. It depends on what it does and on how it conducts itself. The simple appearance of a new party is just an offer that may or may not be accepted by the voters. But it is an absolutely necessary prerequisite for starting a process leading to a better representation or a political state of balance. The fact that new parties that have been funded so far have failed one by one is only their fault.
But the multitude of political parties can only be beneficial as long as they are able to provide credible alternative innovative and good-intended electoral offers. Otherwise, it becomes ridiculous. Plus, as natural question marks, in the case of the appearance of new political parties, there is also the issue of their financing. The emergence of new parties also comes with significant costs and allocation of money from the budget for headquarters, a bigger administrative apparatus on elections and so on.
How justified are these costs as long as these parties do not bring a better representation and a credible alternative electoral offer?