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April 21, 2021

Crin Antonescu – The mystery of a heralded president’s abdication

What could prompt a man at the height of ascent and glory, especially in politics – the queen of every mortal’s power dream –, to step down overnight?

Leaving behind him not only a huge dilemma and a void, which generates a lot of radical, fundamental changes, although more or less visible or correctly and poignantly perceived by those who are outside the so hermetical walls of the political citadel, but particularly a fathomless question mark and an imponderable dose of mystery?

As Basescu once said, one leaves politics only feet first. Because politics is an extremely jealous god, ruthless to those who betray his mysteries and oaths.

Moreover, politics is not just a theory, an unequal game in which some win today only to lose everything tomorrow.

Politics means power. And power represents the essence of the reason to be of any individual that managed to cross the formal, apparent threshold of the political scene and to become one of its important directors and screenwriters.

If I were to find several somewhat plausible arguments, although not necessarily logical or acceptable, from top-level politics you can step down because of the following reasons, while remaining nevertheless alive and healthy:

  • Because your career ended for obvious reasons of failing to adapt to a world with extremely harsh and intransigent rules.
  • Because others (those who matter) told you that stepping down is the best solution for something that could definitely ruin your image and the whole structure of power you built with a lot of effort and by engaging in a dangerous balancing act throughout the years.
  • Because there are calculi and reasons from within the power circle you are a member of, which lead to the conclusion that your stepping down represents a genius move. A tactic that, although giving the impression of failure, leaves room for a masterstroke over a period of time in which your comeback is not only possible but also imperiously necessary.
  • Because you know something that is becoming a real danger for others.
  • Because you are fed up with doing well.
  • Because…

Not long ago, Crin Antonescu represented one of the brand products of the Romanian politics of the last 20-something years.

Quoted as a novel personality on the local political stock exchange, Antonescu stood out throughout his political career particularly through his “political intellectual” style whose first undeniable quality, at least at the first sight, was and remained that of reciting and creating from political discourse a rhetorical form with arabesque and almost lyrical and philosophical ornaments, although just as affected by the lack of real content as most of politics.

About Crin Antonescu one could have said he is a charismatic politician.

Something not of little or no importance as long as Romania has been suffering for years from a chronic lack of political figures remarkable on their own, not necessarily created artificially by one party or the other, by the mass-media or the Romanians’ temporarily exalted imagination.

However, as will be proven by the end, charisma and charism are not the same. And charisma does not represent the only argument or the essential argument, at least in politics, in order to manage to remain at the top of power, not even for you, the one who possesses it and uses it for this purpose.

President of PNL, co-president of the alliance that managed to register an almost historic victory against its political opponents in Parliament, and which will later became a reason for suspicion, dissensions and, in the end, one of the important sources of decline and elimination from the political scene for Crin Antonescu, Speaker of the Senate and interim president of Romania during a period in which the whole country was with bated breath after Traian Basescu’s suspension and the breathtaking rise of the Left, which had been kept away from the winners’ table for 10 years, Crin Antonescu’s career can be already included at the top of the political rankings and in the golden book of those who, few in number, managed to reach the highest ranks and honours in politics, step by step (fatal term for the PNL politician and not only for him!), in just 20 years, apparently hovering over political chasms and abysses.

Appreciated and applauded abroad too, having obvious endorsement and backing from European chancelleries and the partners across the ocean alike, Crin Antonescu had undoubtedly become the de facto successor of Traian Basescu and the only political human algorithm that, apparently, managed to undo the Left’s political course and to bring in Romanians’ hearts new hope for “something and someone else” at the helm of the country.

Well, yes, with hindsight it can be said that for Crin Antonescu everything looked wonderful and perfect in 2014. However, it seems it looked far too perfect.

And, to realize how imperfect perfection in politics can be, I have to start by saying that for me the first big question mark and the first big, albeit unnoticeable, crack in all that august construct on top of which Crin Antonescu was vertiginously rising, now the rack and ruin of his political downfall, was and remains the following:

Why, when you end up having control and power over an important part of the Right, with all the honours and attributes and with a huge and unique position from which you can, for the first time in well over 20-something years, restore that historical image and importance that PNL keeps clamouring for so long, you join a political combination more than conflict-prone and dubious, precisely with those who had called you names all these years and accused you of… coup d’état (!!!) in a clear attempt to break your political destiny and eliminate you from power’s main scene?

I still haven’t managed to untangle the logical and rational argument on which Crin Antonescu might have based his decision that the Liberalism he represents could comfortably and even in a brotherly and equal manner sit at the table with Social Democracy in order to form and reform a political anomaly whose only winning products would have been in those moments, apparently, a more efficient fight against the eternal and uncomfortable opponent, Traian Basescu.

However, since Traian Basescu could no longer have been the logical subject of the Liberal fears, for extremely obvious reasons, the only argument for the birth of the USL mutation, in what concerns Crin Antonescu, remained the complete securing of his future position as president of Romania.

And still… still…

Why did a politician of Crin Antonescu’s calibre, aspirations and obvious favour from Fortune, prefer to stake everything on a single card, that of an alliance which, in time, had proved countless times its extremely noxious contribution and effects on any side of politics that came into direct contact with it, singularly or at political group level, instead of making full use of all these exceptional attributes in order to create a strong Right and make PNL a really important party, both as political argument and as capacity to change the Romanians’ political orientation and options, managing in the end, with fairly obvious and extremely high chances, to bring at the Presidential Palace, for the first time in the history of post-Revolution Romania, a President of purely Liberal persuasion and his government?

This dilemma of mine was followed by an even bigger one, which became a veritable state of astonishment when, after 14-15 months of effervescence and political battle, in which Crin Antonescu was all but sitting on the Presidential chair, the persona of Klaus Iohannis, a pseudo-politician, banal city mayor, a man without proven top-level political aspirations, performances and ambitions, started rising from the depths of the political abyss, while Crin Antonescu’s political effigy crumbled rapidly, almost overnight.

After months of uncertainties and irrefutable proof of victory, Crin Antonescu’s position as political spearhead imploded layer by layer, level by level, all these levels of implosion being hallucinatory climbed, in a trampoline effect, by the anonymous figure of Klaus Iohannis.

As if Antonescu’s abrupt and dramatic downfall had been calculated carefully and extremely bizarrely to make not only possible but also particularly certain the automatic catapulting of Klaus Iohannis in all positions previously held by Antonescu, all the way to the presidential office.

The retirement from USL, from the Senate’s leadership, from the presidential race, the loss of PNL’s leadership and, eventually, as a final and mindboggling volley of this accelerated and devastating collapse, the definitive retirement from political life and the former Liberal leader’s announcement that he will leave the country, for reasons that remain even now extremely mysterious and lacking any somewhat acceptable explanation or motivation, followed.

And, coming on top of this, a 180 degree turn in Crin Antonescu’s attitude and position toward Victor Ponta, his previous coalition partner, with whom he paraded holding hands, exchanging kisses, niceties and mutual praises against the backdrop of the big USL brotherhood and victory against Traian Basescu, the political class enemy and the enemy of the nation.

“In a face-off on television, Mr. Victor Ponta told Mr. Klaus Iohannis that he is Traian Basescu on the inside. Nothing is true. I too can say today that Tariceanu, no matter how gilded, cannot look similar to Crin Antonescu. Tariceanu, this political stipendiary, has no way of pretending to represent PNL. On the final day of the elections campaign, Victor Ponta comes up with a major lie and hides his identity. What I notice from these events today is that Victor Ponta, one step away from becoming president of Romania, lacks the courage to really say who he is. Victor Ponta always felt the need to hold hands with someone, to rely on someone, to legitimate himself with someone, at times with the authentic USL, at times with someone else. If Victor Ponta wins the elections, we will have a deceitful, lying and weak president. Such people are dangerous when they want to rule the country,” Crin Antonescu later said.

Now, when the echoes of this more or less official – yet certainly extremely important for the unseen backstage of the great political game – drama have died down, covered by the rush of our daily lives, looking back, only one question comes back to my mind, without anger with a somewhat bitter amusement:

Who is lying better and more artistically, Mr. Antonescu – the Left or the Right?

Or maybe political alliances themselves are nothing but a far too thin and dangerous packaging for political idols and their political power, albeit shiny and extremely attractive for the unacquainted…

I wish Mr. Antonescu prolific rest at the shadow of the blooming lilies abroad and fast recovery after the almost lethal infestation with the embarrassing spirochete contracted following the amorous anomaly with PSD (even a novice knows that, without maximum protection, intercourse with a partner proven dangerous can stigmatise you for the rest of your life even if it does not kill you).





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