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October 3, 2022

The satellites

From among all political parties in the more than a quarter of century since the fall of communism, PSD has governed the most. But most of the time it did not govern alone, it had allies. At first, the National Salvation Front was a heterogenous party, but the communist one-party tradition allowed it to dominate the first years of democracy without having to think about negotiations for coalitions. However, the so-called “red quadrilateral” followed, which included the nationalist PUNR and PRM and the professed continuators of PCR – PSM – and with whose help the Vacaroiu Government ruled. When the party came back to power in 2000, Adrian Nastase arranged a parliamentary collaboration with UDMR. A year of parity coalition with PDL followed in 2008, and then, starting in 2012, another one with PNL, under the joint name of USL. Let’s not forget that in 2004 and 2008 PSD won the parliamentary elections jointly with PC (initially PUR). Since the start of this year, PSD is governing alongside ALDE, and also has a parliamentary collaboration protocol with UDMR.

As seen, PSD governed with allies on positions of parity or led coalitions that it easily dominated. In the former case, the political agreement did not last long. In the latter case, controlling the smaller parties did not pose large problems. The small parties were fully interested in backing those who offered them an unhoped-for morsel of power. It’s true that, in 2004, Traian Basescu managed to draw on his side Dan Voiculescu’s people, who betrayed their PSD allies without significant problems, allies without whom they wouldn’t have entered Parliament. In fact, if we take a closer look, PC (formerly PUR) and UDMR have been PSD’s trusted allies in the last decade.

The former PC is now part of ALDE, an ally without whom PSD could not now govern at ease. So, it can be said, looking at the developments of this quarter century, that the most versatile small parties are UDMR and PC (under its various names). The former could enter any type of alliance because it has a constant ethnic electorate that other Magyar parties could not dislodge. UDMR played the “moderate” card and the card of integration in the Romanian power system, so that inconsistencies of a different nature were difficult to censure electorally. Instead of risking losing his/her parliamentary representation or endorsing an extremist party, the Magyar voter consistently banked on UDMR. Thus helping out, often against his/her political ideals, certain Romanian parties. Most Magyars are probably not backing the Dragnea Government, but UDMR will not be held accountable for the current alliance in the upcoming elections either. It’s a perverse effect of the current democratic system.

In what concerns ALDE, the former Conservatives brought with them the networks of influence and the experience of political alliances, while the much more negligible Liberal Reform Party brought with it a leader – Calin Popescu-Tariceanu. The latter made his debut as a Liberal minister, only to then end up being prime minister by taking advantage of Theodor Stolojan’s sudden and strange decision to withdraw from the electoral race in 2004.

Although Traian Basescu tried to remove him, dreaming of a large presidential party that would absorb the former great parties, the premier surprisingly resisted for an entire legislature. But the price was PNL’s alliance with PSD, which overturned the parties’ ideological system. Unable to take back PNL’s reins, Tariceanu created a small party, which he strengthened through the merger with the Conservatives, which were somewhat affected by the jailing of their leader Dan Voiculescu. Today, ALDE offers PSD not just decisive parliamentary and governmental support, but also something more. Firstly, Voiculescu’s media empire, decisive in manipulating a decisive electoral segment. Without this empire (and without low voter turnout), PSD wouldn’t have won the latest elections. Secondly, Tariceanu efficiently took over the second-highest office in the state.

Just like Crin Antonescu, he can dream of holding the office of president for a few months in case President Iohannis is temporarily suspended from office. Willing to do anything, Tariceanu is one of the most virulent advocates of the current Government, placing in the service of the new ruling power a proverbial tenacity and a talkative arrogance that is extremely useful for the time being. Since Liviu Dragnea is not a very brilliant speaker, the former Liberal premier, much more experienced in lengthy verbal confrontation, has taken over this role. At the level of public relations, Tariceanu is already playing the role of Victor Ponta, who always had a disdainful quip in his quiver, even against all evidence. Moreover, the coalition imagine can be useful for a Government that is already being held accountable, popular pressure starting just one month after its investiture. A coalition can give the impression that it’s more than just one party’s will. A deceiving impression when only “satellites” are involved.

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