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May 23, 2022

The (non)campaign for parliamentary elections

Most of the election campaigns that took place in Romania so far were awfully noisy and as agitated as possible, ending up bothering and even hounding the voter.

Now, we are approaching the half-way mark of the campaign for parliamentary elections and the profound silence and quiet that characterise it have ended up being suspicious and extremely serious if one takes a correct, close and very mature look on the situation we find ourselves in.

Because, after all, quietness is not what bothers the most. What bothers the most is what it hides. The reality that lies beyond what this dangerous quiet hides, and which will hit us directly in the face immediately after December 11.

The first and most worrisome element of the strange campaign we are going through is the Romanian voters’ complete know-nothing about this absent-campaign.

If you were to ask to your right, to your left, among people you know, on the street, most people don’t know there’s an ongoing elections campaign. And, apart from shrugs and wide eyes, there is also terrible apathy and aboulia that this majority exhibits about anything of a political nature.

However, these people are supposed to cast their ballots in three weeks’ time.

And what this leads to is even more worrisome because a significant part of them will actually vote. Even though, as real percentage, the turnout will be lame, and the results will be just as lame as they were in the case of the local elections.

We have already got used to this inertia that defines our behaviour as citizens involved in the life of our society. Just like we got used with the tactics used by political parties during electioneering periods, the best known of them being to point out to the people the route to the voting booth by throwing crumbs along the way, from their homes to the ballot box, with the promise that once the vote stamp is placed correctly the cake will follow.

This year, once you have talked about the campaign for the parliamentary elections you have no reason and nothing to talk about the second or third time.

For the simple reason that there has been a shift to the other extreme. If everything consisted of permanent electioneering before, now the real campaign is completely absent.

What does elections campaign (still) mean close to the end of 2016 in Romania? Leaving aside the classical campaign elements, which should exist and which I discussed in my previous editorials and during other campaigns, pointing out that, in the end, these too remain just pathetic representations and remnants of some policies and politicians, which, even as it is, never excelled, not in terms of vision, or of inventiveness, intelligence, common sense, fairness or, why not?, good will.

If you dare say there is no campaign (which, I repeat, it’s something more than visible and shocking, even for those who are not involved in or have no political activity), the staunch fans of television stations will vehemently contradict you. By arguing that, day in day out, every hour, television sets are full of well-known subscribers to political talk-shows. Many of them (once again!) candidates! Barely refreshed with some faces labelled as new and presented as wonder-candidates for political and party change. Characters whose only action is to very gravely and martially point fingers at what others, starting from 1990 and ending with Dacian Ciolos, have done with this country and this people. And talking as if they have just landed in politics from among the ranks of common citizens. And this aspect is relevant regardless of the name of the political party which the said “speaker” represents, regardless of how old the political party is or how many governments it was part of.

In the same way, in Bucharest (benchmark case), the mayors, headed by the general mayor, are electioneering. During the time and with the resources meant to be used exclusively for the office they are presumably holding to further the interest of citizens. Not political party interests! Something new here? Not at all. We’ve seen this model before. I would suggest to the madam mayor and the gentlemen mayors or councillors to take a vacation… unpaid… electoral. The most appropriate measure to thus prove the fairness they keep claiming and declaiming but which, strangely, is not seen and felt anywhere. Except in our pockets and at our expense.

At local level… the candidates and their strategists have discovered new slogans and procedures. The likes of the plagiarism that is so much in fashion in Romania – “door to door.” And these represent reasons for great pride, political emancipation and becoming part of the civilised world.

“Door to door” = groups of candidates, political carollers, who have replaced the bags of food products with flyers and pens bearing the party’s logo. (for those who haven’t accessed the new dictionary compiled by Romanian political academicians)

This is the elections campaign.

The version for citizens.

However, speaking seriously and returning to very serious and grave things, what is this campaign beyond what is or isn’t presented to us?

What lies behind this electoral silentium stampa?

We started off with a campaign that was exclusively the leaders’. We continued with one in which they faded away too, deepening the silence. The only ones who have remained visible and somewhat more vocal are Traian Basescu and Dacian Ciolos.

The former is staking on the same well-known line of a one-man political show. Positioning himself, as usual, in any context and on any topic, something that is not only to his advantage but also creates a suspicious sentiment of being the chief of campaign of all the other parties.

The latter transformed the Government, the key national institution of the state, into his own campaign staff. Which has become, after 11 months of obvious inactivity, of course by chance, precisely at the height of the campaign, extremely productive and receptive to the country’s and citizens’ problems. In a point-by-point and applied manner. The Government is the one issuing various campaign platforms. And its leader is the one who, from an apolitical person, has become leader of a political camp and a common denominator in the campaign, overlapping the former character I talked about and eventually creating the campaign’s only active nucleus.

Their argument, as well as that of the silence around them, remains, of course, the awakening of the political class’s probity, fairness and consciousness.

Personally, the feeling this silent campaign gives me is that of great danger.

With or without the population knowing that we are in the campaign, the voting will take place. However, we should all know what comes after these elections. And we should know it with certainty and celerity. Because, right after December 11, we will face reality. Which is not virtual, nor is it a campaign topic.

And the consequence does not exclusively and primordially concern the new Parliament alone.

But it concerns a Government and a political reconfiguration of Romania. Which have to do with the citizens’ vote but also with a new paradigm whose cycle is ending now, after almost 30 years, and which most of us are not yet aware of.

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