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September 30, 2022

A fractured country

It is difficult to estimate what would be the result if parliamentary elections were to take place now. However, what is certain is the political polarisation of Romanian society into camps for and against the PSD.

It would be naïve to believe that those who favour the ruling power are just some naïve persons deceived by skilled propaganda. In our age, almost the entire electorate is vulnerable to political advertisement, more or less deceiving. Moreover, many are only interested in having their already-formed opinions confirmed, so that arguments and logic matter too little.

The electorate reacts mostly emotionally. However, aside from this quasi-general captivity in relation to political marketing, more pragmatic interests can be gleaned. Those who support the PSD are not doing it because they are incited by Antena3 or RTV, but because they prefer the kind of society that the current Government cultivates. And we are not talking only about those who take advantage of social welfare of various types – sometimes fraudulently distributed, as was the case of the funds for the female victims of domestic violence.

We are talking about those who prefer the current, more chaotic atmosphere in which relaxation in what concerns corruption allows for added prosperity, without the legal constraints and the prosecutors’ over-zealousness. The party’s barons are not the only ones who stand to gain from the amendments to the judicial laws, many others do, with a laxer understanding of the legality of businesses.

Two other large categories are added to social welfare recipients and entrepreneurs: the pensioners and the public sector employees. It is proven by a placard at the recent PSD rally in Bucharest, which read: “Hands off pensions and salaries!” As a matter of fact, pensioners have almost always been pro-PSD, not only out of fear of seeing their pensions cut but also because they are far more connected to the pre-1989 realities.

Public sector employees, on the other hand, are a category that has only recently entered on a more massive scale the ranks of potential sympathisers. No matter what would be said, the salary hikes have astounded many who would look with distrust at a political change that would not rule out future new austerity. So that, no matter what the current Government were to decide, public sector employees will think several times before turning up their noses. To these categories we can add several more diffuse ones such as nationalists, conspiracy theory fans, eurosceptics, islamophobes or racists (fearing an immigration that is quasi-inexistent in our country).

However, who are those on the other side? Firstly, a constantly anti-PSD category of persons who reject almost viscerally the stylistic of this party and who see it as an apex of reaction. And corruption as a hideous outgrowth of a much too crony political system. There are also those who fear losing the advantages of the existence of the EU, which they see sacrificed by an irresponsible populist discourse.

And, especially, those whose incomes depend on the state only in a negative sense, and who wish, as a result, the diminishing of its role. For them, the poignant image is that of a proliferation of corruption that they are paying for, one way or another. In any case, in a democratic age like ours, the topic of corruption always remains sensitive. So the PSD is taking a major risk by unashamedly walking in the direction of partially decriminalising it, because popular resentment can only grow, even on the part of the electorate that is now loyal to it.

If President Iohannis were to now trigger a referendum on the topic of the judicial reform or solely of allowing or banning the criminally convicted from holding public offices, there are high chances that its result would be contrary to Liviu Dragnea and the PSD. After all, the strong desire to replace the current head of the DNA seems to aim precisely at the delicate probe into European fraud in which the very leader of the ruling party is being investigated. The case of his current trial, whose verdict is expected a week from now, is minor compared to a future one.

Only a new anticorruption chief prosecutor, appointed by PSD itself, would hamper its evolution. And, sooner or later, no propaganda will be able to defend the PSD leaders targeted by growing popular discontent. Incited precisely by the unpardonable propaganda of the high-level corrupt. After all, the masses always adore public “executions.” In other words, they do not live on bread alone but also on (bloody) circus. No matter what we would say, anticorruption offers this spectacle-wise benefit too. Let us not forget the power that Adrian Nastase had accumulated.

Who would have thought he would end up in prison, arrested precisely when his party was at rule? No matter who we are talking about, the corruption charge can destroy any prestige and popularity. Slowly but surely.

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