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June 28, 2022

Sex and violence

In Belgrade, Premier Ana Brnabic recently participated in the Gay Pride march, in a first for Serbia. Meanwhile, preparations for the anti-gay referendum have started in Bucharest. Serbia is one of the few European countries that is not a member of the EU. Until recently, it experienced a regime that was ultra-nationalist and which invoked Orthodox identity during its war against its Catholic or Muslim neighbours. During those years, many priests and bishops consecrated the Serbian weapons and troops, which seemed to have strengthened the influence of the Orthodox Church. Nevertheless, few countries in Europe have had an openly lesbian Premier, as it is now the case in Serbia.

Romania, on the other hand, has been a member of the EU for years, has advanced legislation for the protection of ethnic minorities, for two decades its Hungarians have spent more time as members of the ruling power than of the Opposition, it has an ethnic German as President and the scandals involving Orthodox priests and bishops have diminished the Church’s popularity. Nevertheless, many Romanians dream about a constitution such as the Serbian one, which only allows marriage between a man and a woman. In other words, the two countries are moving in different directions, at least in what concerns sexual policy. At any rate, the Serbian reality should not be idealised. Former ultra-nationalist Vojislav Seselj has just registered great media success by taking part in a talk-show while mockingly dressed as a judge from the International Court for the former Yugoslavia, an institution that will soon try him in an appeal, after it acquitted him in a first trial.

At the same time, Serbian authorities are not in any hurry to extradite Sebastian Ghita, the Romanian fugitive who knows many secrets, especially pertaining to Romania’s current ruling party. But tolerance for gays is on the rise, unlike what is happening in our country, where it has become a pretext for political fighting. The truth is that the myth of the traditional family functions better in a hypocritical society such as the Romanian one. It is also a legacy of a more prudish communist regime that controlled the population by banning abortions and even by socially criminalising the dissolution of marriage “based on the defendant’s exclusive fault.” From this standpoint, Yugoslavia was less repressive. Ceausescu’s obsession with a nation as large as possible is perpetuated today through the obsession with the fertile couple – heterosexual and socially united through marriage.

Conservative when it comes to sex, Romanian politicians are more lenient in what concerns violence. Unlike Serbia, which was confronted for years with the exacerbation of political violence in a militaristic and xenophobic regime, but which took difficult steps on the path to democratisation, Romania experienced a more meandering path. In the early 1990s there were all sorts of paramilitary troops here too, but used in a sort of civil war – the miners. The current ruling party started its career in the blood of repression. However, years of much suppressed political violence followed, matching a more democratic society. Extremism the likes of “Great Romania” and PUNR gradually became marginal. After 2000, Adrian Nastase’s era openly sought Western-type honourability.

Now we are witnessing a certain recrudescence of political violence. The case of the Senate Deputy Speaker who was assaulted by a former spokesman of a PSD Government, during the commercial break of a televised talk-show, is significant given the aggressor’s political evolution. Mirel Parada lost his aforementioned position precisely because of outbursts of verbal violence. He then moved closer to PRU, not by chance the party that Sebastian Ghita – today’s fugitive – wanted to relaunch. PRU is the heir of PRM, whose leader, C.V. Tudor, had imposed the style of hooliganism in post-communist politics. And Ghita’s television station, RomaniaTV, only served to relaunch, even more aggressively, what Dan Voiculescu’s television stations had started – a violent defamation of opponents, via veritable media lynching.

But the fact that today PSD is more threatening than before is a sign of weakness. Ever since it took over power, Liviu Dragnea’s party has been on the defensive. It was challenged shortly after an apparently crushing victory – which also came against the backdrop of record-low voter turnout –, it triggered significant suspicions about its judiciary reforms, but also concerns about its far too high budget expenditures. Apart from this referendum – which at any rate will be representative only to a small extent, because most political forces will probably adopt a position similar to PSD’s –, no strategy on relaunching the party has appeared.

The party’s president fears backstabbing more than ever, and his outlook on taking over the Government seems not only unrealistic but especially losing. He would risk, most likely, fatal unpopularity. For the time being, he can still hide behind the incompetence of some Premier or of various ministers. If Adrian Nastase fell because of excess of “arrogance,” Liviu Dragnea risks losing out of inability to get out of the defensive otherwise than through political nervousness.

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