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September 27, 2022

In anticipation of the great protests

It is strange how, a year since the massive protests against Ordinance no.13, the people’s reaction to the so-called criminal law overhaul about to be adopted by Parliament is fairly weak. It is beyond any doubt that the current ruling coalition now succeeds doing what it only vaguely hoped for a year ago. The modifications are so significant that the “small” adjustments of a year ago seem distant pre-history compared to the era that is now just starting. And we are not talking about corruption accusations that will simply become unprovable or impossible to investigate. To protect themselves, the representatives of the ruling power are exposing the entire population to a predictable assault of criminality of many types. Various magistrates have already explained the absurd situations that will be reached in case of crimes that have no link to corruption. We will all be more vulnerable given the simple fact that it will become far more difficult to issue a punishment. Fearing less, the potential criminals will act more boldly. It is civilizational regress from the standpoint of citizen’s safety. There is no need for massive waves of immigrants: in Romania the dangers will come from the deliberate weakening of Justice. Some politicians’ fear of ending up in prison is so high that the changes are going beyond any logic of juridical common sense. In fact, it seems we are entering dystopia.

During this whole time, the reactions are surprisingly feeble. Not from the magistrates, who see their future and current work compromised. Nor from an Opposition fragmented and, unfortunately, extremely weak. The only party with real growth potential, ex-Premier Dacian Ciolos’s party, risks being scuttled by its inevitable allies. At any rate, the parliamentary majority has known to take better advantage of procedural opportunities to humiliate its adversaries with a crushing political victory. Unfortunately, it all depended on the good will of UDMR, a party that many Romanians and even many Magyars should radically disqualify in the future. Instead of moving us closer to EU standards, the Magyars are taking us into Europe’s grey zone, closer to the authoritarianism of Putin’s Russia. We should not imagine that the EU can exert efficient pressure without a massive reaction in Romania. The ‘Visegrad Group’ countries are proof to that, having become a veritable regional problem and a threat to the political unity of the continent. The new powers in central and eastern Europe are a combination of groups of economic interest and of ideological alternative to Western values. Nationalist populism, high-level corruption, reactionary isolationism, and a perverse pathos of post-truth have taken root surprisingly well in all these former communist countries, already inspired more by Russia, or by the America of the Trump experiment, than by the EU.

Nevertheless, Romanians could once again stage massive protests. Some are probably disappointed with the USR, for instance, which a year ago was still a promising novelty. It is true, serious internal disagreements have seriously diminished its credit. And in the current case, forcing snap elections seems to be the only political stake of massive and lengthy protests. The simple blocking of the overhaul of the judicial laws is already impossible. A serious political crisis is not ruled out. Even though Liviu Dragnea kept a low profile these days, his position remains frail, given the grave accusations levelled against him. Plus, the fact that he used his political office to burden the public budget with an important sum of money owed by the Teleorman-based company in whose control he has been suspected of being for many years. Anticorruption’s political stake is not depleted. Using it in intelligent rhetoric and in coordination with President Iohannis can at least prepare a serious change of voting intentions. Until then, many Romanians are still happy that their salaries or pensions have grown.

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