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Bucharest
September 26, 2022
EDITORIAL

The cabal of party lists

For a few days now we are all witnessing a phenomenon which is gaining with each passing day, for me personally, an ever stronger evidence of déjà vu.

If I recall exactly, and I believe we all do given the gravity of the moment and the consequences with incalculable effects over a period just as incalculable, last autumn, more precisely on the evening of 20 October 2015, young police officer Gigina lost his life in a stupid accident. At that time Gabriel Oprea was seen as guilty for the whole drama. He was back then Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister in the Ponta Government.

A month after the death of young police officer Gigina came the tragic death of dozens of youngsters and the physical, emotional and mental scarring of dozens more in the devastating fire that gutted the Colectiv nightclub.

Back then too, at the start of that bleak November, Gabriel Oprea’s image and name raised public opinion’s fury to fever pitch, sparking massive protests throughout the country’s cities and the resignation of the Ponta Government.

Coincidentally or not, less than a year later, early this autumn, the spark that seems to ignite this year’s political restart and the start of a new electoral round bears the same image and the same name – Gabriel Oprea.

I believe each of those interested in the Romanian political phenomenon asked themselves, at least once, at least passingly, in this year that passed, why the Oprea case remained quiet and well hidden under the inevitable and well-calculated layer of the collective memory’s forgetfulness only for it to be forcefully reactivated now, with a completely overestimated degree of aggressiveness that overlaps moments in which the entire Romanian political class and its constituent political parties in particular is about to reconfigure itself and to reiterate the electoral offers for the parliamentary elections scheduled on December 11.

On September 23, Gabriel Oprea resigned from the Romanian Senate. Several days before, the same Gabriel Oprea and 23 MPs, most of them from PSD (in fact, 73 MPs voted in favour of Gabriel Oprea, but only 24 were “identified” and exposed by the footage), voted in the Senate against the lifting of his immunity in view of criminal prosecution.

The result: all parliamentary party leaders, overriding party members and reaching what actually matters – the public opinion –, started a veritable media war in which Gabriel Oprea and the MPs that voted for him were attacked in the most direct and incisive manner, finally generating so-called “spontaneous,” completely apolitical protests, of course, against the same eternally unsolvable problem – the corrupt persons in Parliament and politics.

However, at a closer look and a closer observation of the parallel unfolding of political events in recent days and weeks, one can notice passingly the odd overlap between this vote, so much attacked and stigmatized, and other events, apparently less important and less worthy for the attention of Romanian public opinion, of which the most suggestive and interesting to study was the PSD meeting in Tulcea-Murighiol.

The Social Democrats met in an Executive Committee whose goal (based on leaked information) consisted of talks on the topic of the campaign plan for the parliamentary elections and, not least, on potentially nominating on the party’s lists the most meritorious and upright members of the party, members desiring new terms in office.

However, in essence, it seems the purpose of this meeting was that of draconic checks, reassurances and vetting. Namely, a reiteration of what was done at each similar meeting held in certain parts of the country not at all randomly chosen. A purpose that primarily concerns the present and especially the future parliamentary manpower, which has to prove blind obedience and to offer complete trust, thus eliminating any misstep and any tendency to betray or show indiscipline, so visible in Parliament in the last months and so intensified ever since the Ponta Government ended its activity and the alliance of great confidence between PSD and UNPR switched from the stage of vital partnership to the disappearance of the precious partner.

I don’t know if and why Liviu Dragnea needed this scene of (re)vilifying Gabriel Oprea as a sieve with which to separate the black and subversive sheep from the white, clean and well-behaved sheep in the political stockyard of the personal party he shepherds so parsimoniously and in a continuous and burdensome note of mystery and terror.

It’s really ironic how Liviu Dragnea, a politician with one of the lowest, if not really inexistent public approvals, is giving off the impression that he is joining and resorting precisely to the masses in order to strengthen his power which seems total now, transforming him in the omnipotent and omniscient character. The one who declared himself the top opponent of Dacian Ciolos. Ciolos who, in his turn, comes out strengthened and at a net advantage from the entire criticism that Dragnea levies against him on a daily basis. Liviu Dragnea is behaving with Dacian Ciolos just like, a little while ago, Victor Ponta could not have had any public appearance without criticising or threatening Traian Basescu.

Similarly, I wonder why does the politician considered to be the strongest at this moment need to stage such a crusade against Gabriel Oprea and, especially, why does he need such inquisitorial attitudes toward his own party?

Could this be the manifestation of Liviu Dragnea’s full power or, on the contrary, could it be the sign of his desperate attempt to hold on to a vulnerable position well wrapped in layers of mystery, silence and attitudes the likes of that seen in Tulcea?

All of this converges to one thing: the complete mystery in what concerns the parliamentary elections lists.

Because it is very important to understand why these lists are not officially presented, not even in the form of a trial run, by the party who sets the rhythm – PSD.

And concerning the parliamentary elections lists, it seems nobody knows, and here I’m talking about the circles that are close to the PSD leader or to those that are less close and more indifferent to him, what will receive each of those who are part of the great Social Democrat family on more or less important and profitable positions and offices. We, mere mortals, will probably be the last to find out officially what Liviu Dragnea thinks, wants and, in the end, will decide about the fate of those seeking to secure a seat in Parliament (and not only that).

Behind the scenes, it is rumoured by the party’s heavyweight members that Liviu Dragnea is some sort of Sphinx whose composure, silence and mystery are completely incomprehensive and frightening. Even for those who presumably knew how to answer correctly Dragnea’s crucial riddles.

Thus, the meeting in Tulcea (officially) resulted only in several samples of “transcripts,” “discretely” and “quietly” documented by various illustrious no-names present at the event and leaked to the press in a skilful and targeted manner. Headlines such as “Liviu Dragnea fumes,” “Liviu Dragnea launches harsh attack on Gabriel Oprea and says he will NOT be on any PSD list this winter” (as if this wasn’t already obvious and logical) or “Liviu Dragnea says he won’t slap sanctions on MPs who voted against the lifting of Gabriel Oprea’s immunity howeverhe might remember their gesture when the lists for parliamentary elections are finalised.”

When that moment will come and who will be the lucky finalists, only Mr. Dragnea seems to know, and nobody else. Even now, after the Executive Committee meeting in Tulcea, and with just one month to go before the final deadline for submitting the lists.

Hence, mystery and horror in the Social Democrat area concerned with the final nominations for the parliamentary elections in December.

And the game is being played symmetrically in the so-called right wing of Romanian politics too.

There, for the time being, we have a PRU that has been calling for its political leader for around two months now. Namely for Victor Ponta. And who swears on everything a caricature-party could hold dear that they will undoubtedly win at least 10 percent of the parliamentary seats. If not 18 to 20 percent.

Who knows, maybe by December the PRU leader will decide to form the parliamentary majority and the new Government with the 40 current members who make up the party’s “elite.” Extraordinarily important and heavyweight politicians. People extremely serious and motivated to radically change the corrupt Romanian political class, a class they just left, and with a virtual leader who is called but does not show up, like the wolf in “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”

We also have a USR which, likewise, outgrew the stage of preciousness and lack of interest in alliances with other political parties already present on the national scene (which would those be, I wonder). It ignored with the elegance and indifference of a black swan the courting ritual enacted by PNL, a party with which it vaguely and temporarily flirted. And now it is forcefully heading, with matching announcements, toward the biggest political jewel of the last year – recruiting members of the technocrat Government as future USR members and, obviously, MPs.

Of course, Mr. Nicusor Dan is yet to decide whether it will sign up incumbent Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos too in the political super-elite selection with which he wants to garnish the precious house of dolls he managed to scrape through a fortunate turn of luck and through the even more fortunate need shown by some of the old puppet-masters of the world of politics of the last 28 years, who saw the young mathematician as a potential new messianic leader of an even more potential world of smoke and mirrors.

The impediment of persuading Dacian Ciolos to honour USR with his illustrious and precious person and personality would only consist of the complete indifference he shows toward the whole series of courtship dances that various political buffoons keep performing in front of him, political buffoons he ignores as clearly and as visibly as possible. The press remains the only side affected by the stage props, turning everything into big headlines, as bombshell news and big political brainwaves.

However, after his speech in Parliament two weeks ago, Dacian Ciolos seems to have managed to rekindle the Romanians’ interest in and hope for real political change, irrespective how small, thus becoming a flagship as solitary as it is coveted and hunted by various political pirates.

On stand-by, there are various political toys the likes of Marian Munteanu’s party (ANR), or Ms. Macovei’s Initiative for Romania, or some other fondant such as a PRM enriched with the political radioactive waste of the former UNPR.

This entre small retinue of party suiters lies in wait, tuning their instruments for the great rehearsal of the entire national political orchestra, which will take place on October 27 when the games and the mystery will end and we will finally be able to see who are those who will run on behalf of any side and any political party, more real or more imaginary, in the parliamentary elections of December.

However, leaving aside this whole racket and this entire spectacle that sometimes features strong dramatic undertones with which I believe we have all grown accustomed, I believe only one thing is left and is important – the recommendation to look beyond press headlines generated by political games and the capacity to maturely amend and appreciate, in an act of civic duty that is conscious and independent, not politically directed or trained, what is a defining moment in any real democracy in the world.

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