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January 23, 2021

Divide et impera

Why is Liviu Dragnea in a hurry to hold the referendum against gay marriage? Victor Ponta, now his sworn enemy, is talking about “cheap populism.” But it would be too easy to see everything as a diversion meant to cover up political measures that have a high potential of unpopularity, such as the expected judiciary laws. Undeniably, such an initiative – let’s not forget that PSD’s support first came right during the days of the extremely large protests against Ordinance 13, which sounded like a threat – seeks to confer legitimacy upon a ruling power that prematurely lost it. But, at the same time, it is naivety to believe that the “traditionalists” who are thrilled with the anti-homosexual turn will blindly support the ruling party. Many were protesters last winter, and they find many other measures not convincing, so they will not be won over by a simple constitutional ban. In fact, some are even homophobes, so denying the possibility of gay marriage does not fully satisfy them. But there is also another political risk: out of revolt toward the ruling power, many “traditionalists” may vote against the constitutional amendment, being more preoccupied with the political stake rather than with the moral one. It is what the situation within the USR is showing, USR deciding to position itself against the PSD, however without assuming an entirely opposite stance. Opportunism aside, it is not excluded that such options could tempt the other Opposition parties too, even though their populism holds its own against the current ruling power’s populism. Romanian politicians are extremely versatile, so predictions in this regard are at any rate hazardous. Although USR could score points by becoming the leader of the “No” campaign if the Liberals or Populars prefer not to enter an open battle.

One also has to take into account the growing unpopularity of the Romanian Orthodox Church. We are not talking about the hard core of faithful, who defend it no matter what and who always see only conspiracies against its prestige. But many others are impacted by the scandals that have affected its credibility. Especially those concerning homosexual bishops and priests who corrupt minors. The phenomenon is definitely larger than the cases that make it to the press show, so that preaching against homosexuality and, at the same time, secretly practicing it raises question marks for many. Of course, no garden without its weeds, but the Church’s lack of concern over such cases – well-known in those circles, tolerated as long as they do not become public scandals – in parallel with an extremely violent rhetoric against homosexuality can only be called hypocrisy. PSD is continuing its already “traditional” alliance with the ROC, but the results may be disappointing. Didn’t Victor Ponta stake massively on an elections campaign full of Orthodox references and lost to a German Protestant despite that? On the other hand, to be honest, based on the cannons of the forefathers’ Church, the PSD leader himself is not quite all right, because he is living with a woman he has not married, and the far too high age difference between the future spouses is at any rate frowned upon.

In fact, the stake of the referendum is to divide the Opposition. This is the only favourable strategy for the current ruling power. Knowing that the Liberals are rather in favour of “Yes” and USR rather in favour of “No,” PSD is trying to cultivate a breach that would persist until the future elections. With an Opposition unable to coordinate itself, regardless of what the ruling power does it will not be easy to remove it or even block it in its plans. At stake is the eternal “divide et impera.”

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