Game of Palaces – illusion and reality

The war between the Palaces has started again… someone said…

But when did it end?

It is said an armistice is a kind of pause between two wars. A brief moment for regrouping, rethinking of strategies or simply creating the illusion that peace would have a chance.

In what concerns the relationship between the two institutions of power in Romania – the Government and the Presidency –, for almost 30 years peace has been an extremely rare occurrence, and armistice an extremely invoked but far too little observed attribute. War on the other hand was and is omnipresent.

There has almost always been conflict between the Victoria Palace, the emblem of the Romanian Government, and the Cotroceni Palace, that of the Romanian Presidency. Open and assumed or under the guise of the coldest possible protocol terms. And everything else has been caught-up in this entire conflict. From the other branches of government and state institutions to every regular Romanian.

Since he took office and until recently, President Iohannis was thought to be maybe the quietest and least “warlike” President that Romania had had so far. Laconic, with minimal appearances, extremely reserved in actions and statements, President Iohannis has often been criticised precisely because of this behaviour, his silence being taken for weakness. However, completely surprisingly, for some time now we have had the opportunity to see a new face of this President so much blamed for too much silence or lack of reaction.

More frequent and longer statements, several attempts to mingle with the crowds, firmly delivered points of view and a surprising and powerful spirit of combat have started to make themselves heard increasingly often and vocally from the Romanian Presidency.

The predilect target or topic? The current Government and the way it sees fit – from the Premier down to the last minister – to do its job.

It all culminated with the President’s repeated and emphatic demands that Premier Viorica Dancila resign. We all know the reasons invoked. Just as we very well know that, so far, both “camps” continue to unequivocally back their position. Each of them declaring itself the representative of the best intentions for the country and the people.

In every war there are stakes known by all. The official cause and the leitmotif for which the war is considered a just war.

And, also in every war, there are stakes known only by the makers of war. A closed circle of strategists responsible with the evolution of the “hostilities.”

As in any war, in the case of the one between the Victoria Palace and the Cotroceni Palace, apart from anything visible or intended to be excessively circulated, presented, and debated, obviously the second kind of stakes is the one that matters.


What are the real stakes of this war?

What is its real reason?

An answer would point to the presidential elections of 2019. Or, more precisely, their preparation. Something in fact circulated to some extent, but which, on a more careful analysis, proves to be a little different from what one might think. President Iohannis is yet to declare his intention to run again. But, in what concerns the other side, things are also slightly unclear. Even though we are talking generically about the imminent and undoubtable presence of a PSD candidate in next year’s presidential elections, an issue on which various suppositions and scenarios are being made, we must consider that things are not very simple and clear in the case of this mastodon long inflamed and crumbled by infighting.

In fact, the importance of these elections resides in their value as a sign of the direction that Romania will take in the following years. It would be extremely superficial to label President Iohannis as an electoral agent. However, it would not be wrong at all to see him as a facilitator of change. What I would say about him is that, on a political market in which the PSD holds the monopoly, Klaus Iohannis is trying to outline and build that competitor – the Opposition – that, for several years now, has lost both its meaning and power, the true levers of expression and its representatives. And this is becoming a topic of reflection and campaign that go beyond one or two presidential election rounds.

At this moment, in a suffocated Parliament in which parties such as PNL, USR or PMP are outright decorative, and their power of expression is equivalent to or even smaller than that of some NGOs for example, the only Opposition and, in fact, the only point from which that political competition that is so necessary can be formed remains the solitary presence of President Iohannis.

A President who, using prerogatives that some want increasingly few and meaningless, finds himself in the position of a Chinese drop. Which, through persistence and tenacity, weakens the nerves and the endurance of the one on which it acts.

On the other hand, PSD, at least in the public relations policy so far, tends to do increasingly numerous mistakes, and seems about to quickly lose its last drop of patience.

And from that point to a reckless and losing gesture, influenced by the illusion of unlimited and absolute power, there will be only one step.

Indeed, over the years there have been many wars between the Victoria Palace and the Cotroceni Palace. And they depended and varied based on the typology of their holders. There were open and fast wars, with forceful actions and reactions, with frequent pitched battles. Just like, at present, we are dealing with a far subtler war. One of nerves and patience. One between a tactician, who knows how to capitalise on his defeats, and a hazardous person who has the strange talent of losing all the advantages of a victory.

After all, a war is nothing but a game. And the best player, the one who wins in the end, is the one who knows how to differentiate very well between illusion and reality, while combining and mixing them up very well for the others.

Today’s war of Palaces is nothing but a long siege with a predictable denouement for those watching it from the outside. It is just that those in the fortress, who are losing – one by one – their supplies and defence capabilities, do not know this. Nor do they seem aware that the secret passage leading out of the fortress, which they hoped would be their salvation at the last moment, was the first taken over by those on the outside. Moreover, they behave as if they were the besiegers.

The next months will be defining for this entire conflict scenario, and anything that will happen in 2019 and beyond will depend on them.

History has proven that the impatient generals drunk on their own power and the several victories that they obtained, becoming overnight great generals from anonymous persons, tend to defeat themselves in the end.

After all, “to triumph in battle and to be universally acclaimed ‘expert’ is not the acme of excellence, for to lift an autumn down requires no great strength; to distinguish between the sun and moon is no test of vision; to hear the thunderclap is no indication of acute hearing.” (Sun Tzu)


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