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October 23, 2021

Electoral handouts

If we were to sum up the connotation of any Romanian elections campaign of the last 28 years, the word would be as simple as it is sadly revealing for all that Romanian politics means: handout.

In the Romania of politics and election campaigns, few things are of unquestionable certainty. And one of them is the fact that no politician and no party knows of any other way of behaving toward the voter except through a form of humiliating handout offered in a manner as degrading as it can be for any civilised person with a modicum of moral dignity left.

Whether we like it or not, this has basically become the only form of relating to and communicating with the Romanian citizen of voting age. Unfortunately.

There is talk, even now on the eve of this parliamentary elections campaign, of platforms. Platforms that are presented on television, in the mass-media and on Facebook in various forms that are as attractive as they are illusory.

However, the result of these platforms is inexistent in our palpable reality. And this is not a present observation. It’s a review that any citizen who has lived in Romania in the last 28 years can make in the simplest possible way – by considering their own life. Because there are no better economic, finance, budget specialists than us, the people, those who are facing the daily realities we have to handle.

Thus, every word said in the last 28 years, during any campaign, has been repeated in numerous ways and in all kinds of forms. But the substance has remained the same. The nothing. All electoral platforms, economic schemes, social schemes turned out to be empty words, covered during campaigns by the consecrated and traditional electoral alms-gift. In other words, handout.

The bag, the bucket and various “gifts” in the form of folk festivities organised at the commune’s grazing ground or at restaurants or markets in the cities (I believe we all remember the grandiose shows offered by the unequalled specialists in campaign stage-setting, the ex-mayors of Bucharest’s District 2 and 5, Niculae Ontanu and Marian Vanghelie) have become national electioneering models for Romanians.

Lately, since the bag and the bucket have ended up being “ostentatiously illegal” and outdated, they have moved to a new level, that in which a political camp creates so-called platforms that include a limited edition of unrefusable offers. While the other political camp, headed by a non-politician Premier used as an electoral mascot and an unbiased and self-styled politically neutral president are shouting that these programmes are not possible. That the economy does not allow it, that an exaggeration is being made with such electoral handouts and promises.

And for the way things are developing to be even clearer, with no intention to mask anything, I will try to better outline the “campaign tactics principle” through a mind-boggling event I personally experienced in such a context.

In a village, during an election campaign, the men of one of the candidates offered chicken to voters. Making however the fatal error of not pointing out who was the candidate on whose behalf they were offering the chicken. Immediately afterward, taking advantage of this huge and inadmissible omission, the other candidate went door to door, without offering anything and only asking people if they enjoyed the chicken they had received.

This is what all politicians are doing now and what they have always done in all campaigns. Regardless whether their current or former parties are or were PSD, PNL, ALDE, USR, USL, UNPR, PDL etc. Some offered chicken, others took advantage of it and of our naivete, lack of knowledge or indifference. Now, some are offering unlimited financing programmes for citizens. The opposing camp takes advantage of this bugbear the size of all 18 million Romanians.

The only difference is that now the chicken takes the form of colossal and absurd pension, salary, benefit hikes. In all the cases I described, the chicken as well as the wonderful platforms are exclusively at our expense. Not theirs. And for us, Romanians, this could be the last dinner with chicken on the menu until 2020.

Parliamentarians are each party’s campaign teams, the ones who this time around distribute the alms-gifts in the most legal form possible. During this campaign, this electoral alms-gift comes through the parliamentarian connection and consist of the adoption of salary or pension hikes in a rapid-fire, urgent manner, as if on a conveyer belt, and with maximum mobilisation, while thousands of bills, some of them extremely important, vital, are waiting and will wait for a long time.

And those who are not voting in favour of these raises in Parliament win too by criticising them, obviously for the sake of the citizens and of the country which teeters on the brink of bankruptcy. During which time the Premier, who still has full prerogatives but, for some reason I do not know, behaves as an interim one, nods disapprovingly, pointing out the dangerous, adopting an attitude the likes of: “It’s not good but it’s your business. I’m not interested (anymore) anyway.”

Meanwhile, trade unions’ demands are appearing as if by coincidence, and the governance platforms, which overnight become the parliamentarians’ order of the day, decree exceptional living standards for all social strata. Instead of cutting down trees for the tons of paper used for beautifully coloured and printed platforms, and instead of squandering the little money that is left at the bottom of the state coffers by paying foreign specialists to savantly, preciously and uselessly draft economic charts and mind-boggling financial schemes, and in order to save the precious time of parliamentarians, who at any rate have to honour the campaign on the ground too, by electioneering in constituencies, a single platform should be drafted.

One which decrees that each Romanian citizen will receive from the state 10,000 Euros each month.

A measure just as utopian, impossible and, after all, insulting as all those that the political class has taken in the past and will keep taking in the future.

An alms-gift offered in the campaign in the form of words, advertisements, banners, flyers and other electoral paraphernalia that do nothing to cover up an extremely harsh reality. On the contrary. And a reality that should not be derided in any form. An obvious insult which not only has no way to ever be positively reflected in our pockets but which we will all have to pay for, as usual, after the elections. And not only us but generations from now on. With real money. Because while their platforms are just like the game of Monopoly, our indebtedness and payments are as concrete as they can be.

To talk now about these platforms which include measures that, although useful and normal, have always been used for the past 28 years as bait and handouts (just like the bag of flour given to people who will bake ten loaves of bread out of it in return for 3 years and 11 months of hunger), is just as grave and grotesque as the disastrous financial and economic consequences which would stem from them.

Just like I said each time I had the chance, in Romania everything is annoyingly redundant. An endless story in which some feign doing something while others (Romanians) have nothing left to do.

Consequently, even the much-blasted electoral handout has disappeared. Becoming… platforms that offer us, for 30 days, the illusion that we have arrived in a country in which everything is commonsensical, normal, decent. In which politicians are working for those who vote for them and consider it natural that the latter must be treated respectfully, that their lives should be good in all respects. In which election campaigns are constructive debates, the platforms enforceable and actually enforced, and the handout just a tragic image of a sad and dark land in which increasingly skinny and unreal beings are content to live off the words and coloured images of other beings who are increasingly more powerful and increasingly more real.

It’s useless to talk about the sustainability of all salary or benefit raises offered and about to be offered throughout this electioneering period.

It’s useless to talk about whether Romania affords now or has ever visibly afforded what are normalities in other states.

Just as it is useless to wonder on what grounds certain politicians cyclically reach the conclusion that it is possible for all these things to be accomplished for us, citizens. But only during electioneering periods.

Everything is useless because everything happening in recent weeks is a simple show put on by all political parties, uniformly and rotationally distributed as heroes and villains.

More clearly put. All of this will remain in the current stage. Namely words. Or, if you like, electoral dithyrambs. Nothing new. It’s called a platform because it sounds more pompous and interesting. However, beyond all this, there is a reality. The reality that any amendment proposed will have to be implemented in the bills and any bill passed will have to be promulgated by the President whose decision we already know! By the time the bill is sent back to Parliament and re-discussed, the current Parliament will no longer exist!!!, and the political distribution and political majority will no longer exist or will not be the same.

Hence, everything that politicians and their parties have offered us so far have been unkept promises and bags that have become waste. Literally and figuratively.

Now, Romanian politics and politicians no longer use bags. Only words, papers and ballots, showing us once again, just before we elect the future parliamentarians, that Parliament is only a big campaign team, a circus caravan which will always have the show ready and the hand up in the air for the parties it originates from.

Starting this year, during the month of actual campaign we no longer have the typical banners and posters. The campaign is taking place in a single location. Parliament.

As a final thought for a campaign start, I believe that before you can draft national platforms you must know how to engage in real politics, not how to make a circus out of it.

In other words, before being able to write novels and become a famous writer, you should first become literate.

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