Social Democrat MEP Catalin Ivan (photo) has compared the current direction embraced by the leaders of his party with that of late Vadim Tudor’s PRM. Aside from the rhetoric of a rebel who is in conflict with the current leadership of the party, a part of the truth is hard to deny. However, how did PSD end up being so close to the former PRM? Firstly, the two parties were only seldom outright antagonistic. In the early 1990s, they were even ruling partners in what was dubbed “the red quadrilateral.” There was also a moment of undeniable competition in 2000, when Ion Iliescu and C.V. Tudor reached the presidential runoff. Apart from that, aside from the feisty and caustic rhetoric of the latter – a blunt pamphleteer –, PRM was, after all, rather close to PSD, even if the exigencies of EU integration entailed a certain side-lining of a party considered far too extremist by European standards. But at the ballot box PRM’s sympathisers always had, to a good extent, the PSD representatives as a second option. So that Vadim Tudor’s party was rather an undeclared or at least implicit ally of the local Social Democrats.
What characterised PRM on the Romanian political stage? It was an ideological hybrid: ultra-nationalism – with clear anti-Hungarian and even anti-Semitic hues –, authoritarianism – specific to the far right –, rather left-wing populism – with promises of impetuous nationalisations –, nostalgia for the communist era – the party had among its supporters many elderly people who had held good positions in the former regime, including plenty of former Securitate members. On one hand it was an anti-establishment party, tailored to its leader’s pleasure to swear at anyone, but on the other hand it seduced through promises of an authoritarian state with strengthened alphabet agencies and a leader without complexes. What set it apart from the current right-wing populist – and Eurosceptic – movements in Central and Eastern Europe was a certain inadequacy in the economic field, an inability to match the exigencies of the dynamic of contemporary capitalism – the high number of members and sympathisers indebted to the old communist mentality was also to blame for this. While the Social Democrats – to a large extent also formed in the old regime – knew to reinvent themselves as successful capitalists and even as politicians with “liberal” hues, Vadim Tudor’s people played a different card. A half-winning one. And one that the Social Democrats were also resorting to in times of need: nationalist rhetoric.
A card to play particularly during its periods of crisis – let us recall Ion Iliescu in the elections campaign of 1996, when he committed himself to such outbursts, which were eventually counterproductive. Now we are undeniably witnessing such a crisis, and the chosen tactic is that of using an ultra-nationalist discourse. Constantly attacked by the very representatives of the current ruling power are multinational companies, (foreign) banks, magnates such as George Soros, the EU – which wants to impose on us the acceptance of migration quotas (in a country where nobody really wants to come willingly) or which pressures us with the CVM –, the U.S. – which interferes too much in our domestic affairs. The George Soros story is already an international campaign – ironically orchestrated precisely by Israeli specialists in media manipulation –, very suitable however in the Romanian context too, where Vadim Tudor has stoked for over two decades paranoia about the nation’s economic enslavement. PSD initially thought to revive PRM with fresh blood. Sebastian Ghita – currently a fugitive detained in Serbia, whom his former party comrades now in power in Bucharest are not in a hurry to bring back to the country – handled this, staking on the United Romania Party, of clear far-right orientation, but the electoral results were modest.
Thus, a move to a parallel plan was made in a new context: the bolder capture of PRM’s former electorate. At any rate, a decisive ally in this context was Dan Voiculescu’s media trust, whose television stations have perfected Vadim Tudor’s lesson in “journalism.” The fact that plenty of the heavy names of the Romanian press of the last quarter century took refuge on this side of the barricade shows a serious ailment of the sector, marked during this entire period by occult interests and repeated manipulations. Without Antena3 or RTV, PSD maybe would not even govern today. At this hour, the Social Democrats are about to take another step in the direction of PRM populism. They are getting ready to throw “the masses” in direct confrontation. While PSD for a long time played the card of the good ruler, capable of efficient management, it is now resorting to tactics somewhat befitting a “revolutionary” willing to throw its masses against those of the adversary. The common model – for PSD and Vadim Tudor – are the miners’ riots in which civilians (potentially armed) are used against other civilians, with the support of the authorities. Since Liviu Dragnea is with his back against the wall, the old restraints no longer work. Still, plenty of PSD members have a political culture that is different from that of the PRM type. With other sins – corruption, for instance, or abuse of power –, but not with “revolutionary” hysteria. Moreover, many Romanians still realise that the advantages of EU integration are far more important than any nationalist inebriation.