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September 24, 2021

“Europe at a crossroads. Between nationalist populism and liberal democracy” debate

Rene Cuperus: Victoriei Square ‘Rezist’ movement could be called Romania’s good populism

The ‘Resist’ movement having Bucharest’s Victoriei Square as venue could be called “Romania’s good populism”, because it is a manifestation of the citizens against a corrupt regime or government, or against corrupt measures, Rene Cuperus, director for international relations at the Hague-based Wiarda Beckman Stichting and author of political articles on topical subjects said during the debate “Europe at a crossroads. Between nationalist populism and liberal democracy.”

Cuperus said that he would have wanted to experience live the ‘Resist’ Bucharest rallies which he considers “highly impressive”, while he termed the nationwide manifestations “an inspiration for Europe.”

Romania has been making breaking news again, two or three weeks ago, and being this time in the headlines is positive. It actually carries a bivalent connotation, both negative and positive – as it highlighted the image of a country fraught with corruption, but the ‘Resist’ movement was the positive element, the spearhead against corruption, said Cuperus.

According to him, one of the causes of populism is the people’s disappointment in the European Union.

Cuperus argued that the recent manifestations in Romania are a kind of “good populism.” We had an interesting seminar today about populism, about its dark, risky sides, but the ‘Resist’ movement in Victoriei Square could be called Romania’s good populism, as a manifestation of the citizens against a corrupt regime, a corrupt government or corrupt measures, added Cuperus.

In his turn, Cristian Pirvulescu, Dean of the Faculty of Political Science, delivered a brief review of the history of populism, stating that currently, at least in the region Romania is part of, one can speak of illiberalism – a movement that restrains the citizens’ rights based on the popular vote earned. ”Two traditions are the pillars of illiberalism: one is the cyclic election of the leaders, the second is the tradition of the rule of law. (…) Illiberalism meets populism because it needs a vehicle allowing it to reach the public,” Pirvulescu added.

In connection with this Pirvulescu cited as example two provisions in Ordinance 13, the piece of legislation which triggered massive protests before it was repealed.

“The infamous Government Ordinance 13, which was meanwhile killed by Parliament, contains two illiberal elements which have not been referred to at all. These two elements refer to attacks on human rights. Specifically, a paragraph at Article 269 on abuse of office referred to the abuse of office directed against human rights. It dealt with discrimination. (…). According to the old Criminal Code, the punishment for the perpetrators of such abuse was a 3 to 7-year term in prison, but in the form amended by the government and which will enter Parliament debate, the penalty ranges from three months to one year in prison or criminal penalty,” said Pirvulescu.

He stressed that, according to the proposed changes, the authorities making decisions against human rights would not have been punished for this.

The political analyst concluded that whereas one could consider Romania a liberal country given that human rights are protected, the latest developments could be a reason to change one’s views.

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