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October 22, 2021

He acts in silence

Klaus Iohannis starts the second year of his Presidential term. The first was quite unremarkable, at first sight. After the “deadly” blow given by his unexpected victory to his much better rated opponent, the dying has agonized for almost a year. And the President abstained from intervening, and allowed electoral “injuries” and the DNA to do their job. Which, combined, finally expelled the governing parties into the Opposition.

Actually, it was the tragic incident at Colectiv that offered the President an unexpected opportunity: giving up on all parties in order to create a new Government. In other words, the “silent” and “passive” President was able to achieve what neither of his post-Communist predecessors did: appointing a Government of technocrats.

There were Prime Ministers with a technocrat repiration before, but in Theodor Stolojan’s it was just the political image of the “specialist” among his party colleagues of scarce economical training, and Mugur Isarescu, who indulged in a short political adventure during a vacation at the National Bank, had an entire political alliance to support him. And in any case, so far, Governments had no more than a few technocrat members so far; never before was there an entire Cabinet free of obvious political affiliations.

Actually, neither someone like Vasile Dancu seems the proper representative of PSD in the Government; he seems more like an ambitious person who caught the moment to accede to the peak of power by avoiding the troubled waves of party life, in the midst of which he seemed more like a ship wreck. The liberty to the parties seems all the more surprising as Iohannis was propelled by a party who had established their future Prime Minister long before the elections.

Klaus Iohannis is also completing a different revolution. So far, Presidents tended to impose Prime Ministers who were docile to a certain extent, whenever they could. Ion Iliescu had Nicolae
Iohannis has no party tools or personal tools to control Dacian Ciolos. From this point of view, he is the only President who does not intend to weaken the authority of the Prime Minister. The difference to Traian Basescu, the adept of a more pronounced presidentialism, is visible. The “player President” remained in the public conscience more like a failed and obnoxious experiment, who only managed to degrade even more the Romanian political class. The new President withdrew in a less intruding attitude, thus leaving even more space to a real political democracy.

Unfortunately, this kind of democracy is now going through a terrible crisis. There mere fact that a tragedy of several dozens of deaths needed to occur in order to change a Government that already lacked credibility for quite some time shows that the regular mechanisms of politics are not really working any more.

Parties thelselves are well aware of their increasing lack of popularity and, therefore, they accepted almost passively the option of a technocrat Government. The fire in “Colectiv” occurred on the background of ravaging corruption, which practically canceled the “safety systems” meant to prevent such tragedies. The state works poorly at various levels, because politics fails to act convincingly enough to make people quit corruption. Let us not forget that Iohannis’ main electoral promoter was DNA. The spectacular arrests of politicians who seemed intangible some time ago is an obvious sign of change. It is just that the other levels of the system are already severely infected, and therapies require time and effort.

A President cannot influence whether a Government completes the programme they assumed. All a President can do is acknowledge the failure and ask for their dismissal; but he cannot force it either. If Dacian Ciolos’ Government fails in an undoubted manner, Iohannis’ credibility will register a decrease as well, too. So far, parties were the ones to bear the responsibility for the failure of a Government. In this new case, the only person to be held responsible on the future results of the Government is the President, as he has made the appointment, without any interference by the parties. It is a risk no other President had assumed before him.

Although it seems a year of “unremarkable” activity, we thus have proof that Iohannis’ achievements are far from ordinary. He appointed the first entirely technocrat Government. He sent all parties in a quasi-opposition. He gave carte blanche to the new Prime Minister. Yet, he has a great challenge to face in the year to come; and this is the relation with the Parliament where the “old” party policy is showing again.

His ally in this dispute, though one that may be fatal to the new technocrat strategy, is the electoral perspective that scares everyone. Fearing punishment by voters, the responses of the party will be unavoidably more moderate.

Finally, the reserved attitude of President Iohannis implicitly encourages political alternatives. All they need is to show up.

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