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February 4, 2023

A new political style

Emanuel Ungureanu is an USR Lower House member elected in Cluj, where the party registered one of its best results in the country. Previously known by few, Ungureanu has become, not long ago, a local star and more.

The arrest of physician Mihai Lucan, urologist and kidney transplant surgeon, has simultaneously put the spotlight on the person who had been calling – for well over a decade – for the physician to be investigated. Initially, Unguranu was a social worker at the state-owned clinic that Lucan ruled with an iron fist, but this brief experience sparked his tireless adversity, which took a concrete form in repeated public accusations and denunciations lodged with various authorities.

All this time, the reactions were almost null. Only minister Vlad Voiculescu, member of the Ciolos Government, tried to shed light – during his brief mandate – on the famous surgeon’s condemnable practices, and a few months ago DIICOT Bucharest started an investigation after its Cluj-based branch did not show interest in this case. At any rate, far too many authorities have supported Lucan over the years, from mayor and Premier Emil Boc to high-level officials in the Health Ministry, including the incumbent minister, accused of taking part in fictitious audits.

Even now, the ruling of the judge who rejected an arrest decision was contradicted, shortly thereafter, by another ruling, proof of how easy reality can be mystified. Especially since the press rapidly revealed that the document that Lucan had invoked in his defence was taken into consideration without serious verifications.

But while the Lucan case propelled House lawmaker Ungureanu under the limelight, the stake is far bigger. For several weeks now, Ungureanu has been trying out a novel way of politicking. He is focused: his anti-corruption discourse is preponderantly circumscribed to the medical field. It is a sensitive field, because it concerns us all, sooner or later. Instead of offering empty tirades on any topic, Cluj’s representative in the Lower House is specialised on a single topic of major interest.

A remarkable quality in a political environment in which political appointments in leadership positions are done without considering any minimum link between training and activity on one hand and the responsibilities on the other. Huge inadequacy between professional and political biographies denounces a lot of imposture.

Especially the designation of individuals in fields for which they have not proven any moral sensitivity. To take the healthcare example, it is not sufficient to appoint physicians to expect results. Sometimes, the exceptions are significant: Vlad Voiculescu was not a physician, but his care for the real problems of the system, continuously hushed up by the solidarity of so many influential physicians, was (and is) surprising.

And this is not just about physicians, because the unbelievable case of hospital disinfectants, in which the Romanian Intelligence Service’s occult role is yet to be clarified, proves that Emanuel Ungureanu is right: nosocomial infections, not the bogeyman about Hungarians who want to steal Transylvania from us – a comfortable diversion for both Bucharest and Budapest –, are an issue of national security. The current USR lawmaker’s interest in healthcare’s big problems is not recent. In other words, he has a full agenda in this sense, which he is now trying to transform into a new way of politicking. New in relation to what the politicians who prosper by exploiting the electorate’s naivete have gotten us used to.

But Ungureanu not only has a more consistent and concrete agenda than others. He also knows how to introduce it in the public space. For instance, he filmed himself walking through Emil Boc’s Cluj City Hall. Not just to respond to the mayor’s accusations, but also to point out the obscure parts of local politics, unable to unblock any real reform in the world – so big in Cluj – of state-owned clinics.

The video was broadcast live on Facebook, which somewhat changes the rapport with the electorate. He no longer uses mostly media-brokered messages, he no longer hires PR specialists, he not only has small replies on social networks, but he simply has a far more direct and convincing dialogue with those interested.

There is no need for him to be invited on TV, or to have journalists on his side, or to be present at popular events. Talking to the point, sarcastically and trenchantly, but also empathising with the real issues, going beyond pompous rhetoric, having behind you precisely the institutions you are talking about can be much more efficient.

Another advantage is precisely the overcoming of an old and inefficient way of conceptualising problems. Like many political platforms that sound generous but fail to cover the contradictions of the most concrete reality. It is one thing to talk about corruption in general and another to illustrate it with daily situations that patients face in hospitals. That they are huffed at, that they are poorly treated unless they pay bribes, that they have minimum chances to have a transplant unless they have connections etc. This way, any citizen can feel that a House member actually represents his/her concrete interests.

The Emanuel Ungureanu model, especially if he continues with this inspired tone, could spread. After all, USR has disappointed as a party, being unable to harmonise the far too divergent opinions of its members. But Ungureanu’s style, if followed by as many of its MPs as possible, could bear significant political fruits.

He is not the only one. Vlad Alexandrescu has visited an orphanage, denouncing the prison-like system there. Mihai Gotiu is warning about environmental issues with which he became familiar during many years of involvement in the Rosia Montana case.

At any rate, in Parliament, USR can block almost nothing from what the current ruling power imposes. But it could further cultivate this style of their colleague from Cluj, which lays the ground for a welcome reformation of the way politics is done.


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