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June 28, 2022

The glory and decline of Romanian political power (I)

Gabriel Oprea’s resignation from the helm of UNPR prompted me to think, at random, how ephemeral power is and how steep and sharp the downfall from the height of glory and aggrandizement can be for every person that experiences the unique sensation of being a small demiurge, albeit for several weeks or months, moments at universal level.

Although Gabriel Oprea is not representative, at least in my personal opinion, for what could be called the “powerful of the day,” precisely because of his political volatility and ambiguity during the years he spent at the powerbrokers’ table and was complimented with all that it can offer and confer to any person that ended up there by chance or adequacy, he nevertheless remains an edifying example in the scenery of Romanian politics of the last 27 years.

And, through Oprea’s gesture to visibly retire from this tempting and alluring table of winners and of those who have control of political power in Romania, the curtain that separates a regular person from the convoluted and abstruse backstage of power was somehow removed for a moment, revealing, for those with eyes to look in places other than those at which the manufacturers of impressions and images point, an extremely interesting fact about the local factory of power.

For well over a quarter century, we have been all watching the game that the political class has been and is playing. Sometimes interesting, although dangerous, at other times jaded although just as dangerous, however always displaying an absolutely special stroke of the brush, almost traditional I dare say, for what the Romanian trait of politics and power represents.

Up until 5 months ago, Gabriel Oprea was one of the strongest politicians of the moment. I don’t know whether by chance or plan, I don’t know whether in a thought-out, calculated and well aimed manner, however, before the abrupt and fatal downfall of the Ponta Government, one could say about Gabriel Oprea that he is a politician whose future is far from being clouded, regardless whether the clouds were the opposition’s or those of any other part of the big political brotherhood he is a member of.

I accurately and with the same amazement recall the moment when, last summer, in the midst of the political fighting between the Ponta Government and Klaus Iohannis, Romania’s new and extremely isolationist president, the mass media were completely focused on the thundering rise of General Oprea, who seemed to be flying and soaring ever higher and ever faster, rapidly and brilliantly going, like a Hollywood star, through all the levels and strata of power all the way close to the one that was tottering, that of Prime Minister.

Tanned, with a new enviable physique, with a new look and with an appearance as relaxed as never before seen on the general’s dark and ominous face, smiling in his almost frightening way on the sunny beaches of the Romanian seaside, where he was giving interviews from sunup to sundown, in-between his trips to the Presidential Palace, the Supreme Defence Council meetings, the Government meetings and the raids at the party’s local or Bucharest branches, Gabriel Oprea seemed to have reached the apex of the luck that had followed him throughout his political career spanning over twenty years, generating on the hot corridors of power murmurs and whispering that he was bound to occupy (finally!) the most sought-after and highest position he dreamt about his whole life – that of Prime Minister.

With all the assurances and the eternal dithyramb of seriousness and solidarity with the government he is a member of and never helped fail (although the evidence points exactly to the contrary, however this remains to be discussed some other time), with all the pomposity and obvious preoccupation to be by Victor Ponta’s side and to support him in any overture, be it good or bad, as head of a government already hard-tested by an union that missed its mark and lost one of its members before being able to stand very well on the feet of the power it struggled to desperately reach after 8 years of rooting from the benches of the opposition (opposition Gabriel Oprea was a member of, how else!?), Oprea could not help himself from fully matching the frog and the scorpion parable.

And since I plan to talk about the glory and decline of the route of power, to conclude in what concerns Gabriel Oprea and his warlike and tumultuous saga toward the summits of power, October 2015 seems to not have been a fortunate month for the general’s personal power.

The road toward the accomplishment of his personal glory was brutally interrupted and killed in a Bucharest pothole, along with police officer Bogdan Gigina, during a rainy night and as part of an official motorcade that officially sent Oprea behind the curtain of power and, not long from now, could send him for some time behind bars.

Power and politics are two twin sisters extremely capricious and unpredictable with their suitors. And those whom they choose to become their princes consort they sooner or later throw at the dustbin of history or lock them up in the masses’ negative memory in an ungrateful and almost always painful way.

Thus, General Oprea’s downfall from the top hierarchies of power generated, in a domino effect, the downfall of his coalition and alliance partner, none other than Victor Ponta.

Oprea’s downfall only meant the beginning of the end for the one who had fought for 3 years, in all sorts of ways, the shadow and being of the power that Traian Basescu possessed (also in all sorts of ways) for 10 years, draining of substance the Romanian political Left through imposed isolation and through systematic destructuring dubbed opposition against the Right led by the player president.

In fact, it is well known that isolation precisely at the centre of power’s movement always managed to be one of the most astute and perfidious tactics used by certain political leaders of all times against opponents that had to be kept as farther away and for as long as possible from the power’s centre of action.

Isolation in power is as bad as a hunger strike carried out while tied to a chair at a table full of dishes.

And Traian Basescu proved to be a master of the art of starving the opponent out by cutting him off the source of power and by feeding it to him in morsels only to the extent in which the desired response corresponded with the interests and purpose Basescu had for 10 years – staying in power.

And, as a side note, because I don’t intend to discuss this issue here and now either, Traian Basescu’s personality and path represents a particular aspect in the scenery of the glory and decline of Romanian political power.

Because Traian Basescu not only reached the highest level of glory and power, but he managed to maintain the balance between its strong points and weak points, through an unique tight rope act of attitude and morality that helped him safely cross this great bridge of moans spanning the abyss of history and reach the other bank of politics like a true leader coming back home from a long and bloody war.

History forgives the winners, regardless of how crooked and grave are the rules they used as a guide in battle and for winning final victory.

And, as I was saying, in this whole epic scenery of the struggle for power, a struggle other statesmen of modern Romanian politics failed to carry through to the end with their chin up, with all honours (see the case of Crin Antonescu, a censorial figure, of Roman theatre, with impeccable rhetoric but with a weak and undefined capacity to apply to reality beyond the talk), Victor Viorel Ponta became the fall guy and subsequently the scapegoat that picked up all of the Social Democrats’ ideological, partisan and historical tabs of the last 25 years, sweeping them under the rug of reality, trying to create the ephemeral impression, which lasted only 3 years, that the Romanian Left is alive and victorious.

Nothing more difficult and basically impossible to pull by a young politician born and raised under the shadow of the great post-revolution leader Ion Iliescu, within a party and in an ideology of inter-party cannibalism where until you reach the party chief you have to run the gauntlet of the triads, brotherhoods and coteries of those that make up the great crypto-communist dynasty of the new Romania.

Maybe it is easy to grow and aspire, for 15 years’ time, to the office of party president, and it could probably become almost simple, through family misalliance and enhanced sympathy from certain leaders of the great left-wing brotherhood, to accede to offices and favours that are unhoped-for and incommensurable for most of those who desperately seek to enter politics and become brothers with it.

But, from party president to head of government and then, through a triple back flip with a turn to the Right and to the West, to want to become head of state, this already has to confer you the statute and privilege of a god.

However, Victor Ponta remains a simple mortal among the immortals of power. (To be continued)

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