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For the elections in June, PSD is preparing to turn the Romanian map red

Arthur SUCIU

PSD has obtained, at the local elections in 2000, 35,5 % of the mayor mandates, meaning - in absolute figures - 1050 mayors. At the end of year 2003, after an aggressive recruitment campaign, using more or less constraining arguments, the social-democrat dowry counted 1947 mayors, which meant a 30% artificial increase, compared to the reality expressed by the vote in 2000. The strategists of the majority party are now anticipating getting not less than 45% of the votes, counting on winning almost half (1562) of the existing 3133 mayoralties in the country. Compared to the present percentage that it holds, after the massive migration of the mayors (65,4), the envisaged 45% could seem an underestimation. 

Forbidding the political migration: not trading what you have for something you don't have

If it holds today almost three quarters of the Romanian mayoralties, why then did PSD wanted to forbid the political migration starting with these very local elections, as long as it could have counted on using the same "arguments" it used before and try to "turn red" as many points on the map as possible, after June?  It may look suspicious that PSD is in such a haste for supporting the enforcement of the law stating that the mayors, the councilors, and the members of Parliament who will change the party under which's colors they have won their mandate, will lose their elected position. Statistics show that the social-democrats have benefited the most, both locally and in the Parliament, from the political migration process.
Beyond the fight for the paternity over the mentioned law project - as there is a dispute with PNL, the initiator of a similar law, but applicable starting after the Fall elections - PSD is trying to obtain an image plus, trying to pose, once again, as an honest party, which does not confer shelter to the ones seeking to earn a whiter bread through politics.  The social-democrat strategists are not completely strangers to what the polls show - three quarters of the Romanians disapprove the political migration and are strongly in favor of its prohibition, considering it to be the preset passion of the corrupted. But what is at stake is not just this image play, nourishing the hope for some votes. PSD seems to have estimated that it is best to be sure that its own mayors will not fall under the spell of other parties, being aware that, on one hand, the requirements for the EU integration will impose a strong decentralization and, on the other hand, that it is unlikely to have the chance of forming a Government, on its own, in Fall. 

"The PSD candidate kit": The Bible and the computer mouse, together with NATO and visas

Undoubtfully, the PSD candidates will not forget to throw at the crowd's feet the electoral arguments excessively invoked by Adrian Nastase, even if they are not quite related to the specific issues in one place or another. Out of the million of speeches, topics like raising visas, joining NATO, the road to EU, doubling framer's pensions, reduction of unemployment and, of course, in a favorite position, the famous program "The roll and the milk" will never miss.  Taken up from the center, the ideas that PSD has given back hope to Romanians and has brought the country into a floating position after Romania's sheer "adventure" in between 1996 and 2000 will be also used. It is true, "the incomes are too small and corruption is still too big" - as Adrian Nastase himself has recently acknowledged - but all of these are not important, as far as the PSD governing was the best since 1990, will argue the party's candidates. The message that PSD is a strong party and that it forms a winning team will be repeated obsessively, as indeed, people do not like the weak. System change, a new trolley bus line, clean cities, civilized schools and gyms, ecologic dogs, water pipes and methane gas pipes right outside people's door - all these promises will not miss from the candidates' bags.
But those belonging to PSD will have an extra advantage: "the candidate's kit", where they will find, at the advise of Deputy Ion Stan, the president of the SRI Commission in the Parliament, things suitable for maneuvering the popular symbols: the Constitution (no one is above the law), an overalls (work, work, and work again), a computer mouse (the bright future ahead...) and of course, the Bible could not miss. PSD seems to have thought of all the social segments - those fearing God, those hard working and accomplished, but also of the young and the women, the political analysts estimating that the party which will win the young electors and the women will make victory its own.
Therefore, it is not by chance that Adrian Nastase frequently insists on the fact that it will massively promote women and youngsters on the election lists. In order to get votes from the representatives of the beautiful sex and from the young generation, Nastase gave the disposition that 30% of the candidates will be youngsters and women. Expressed by figures, PSD will throw in the electoral battle 13.000 women and more than 14.000 young people.
The Opposition makes accusations that PSD and the Government are trying to block the candidate-ship of their political opponents
In order to fulfill their goal, the social-democrats have thrown in the game a very diverse arsenal. Starting with the famous paternalist-protective practices a la Marian Oprisan and Dumitru Sechelariu, up to changing, at the very end of the race, of the rules in the electoral game. 
The Executive has decided, through an Urgent Ordinance for the modification of the law of local elections that the wealth declarations of the candidates should be presented together with the registration at the Electoral Offices and not after the elections, together with the validation. More than that, it modified the format of the wealth declarations, so that things would get even more complicated. All of a sudden confronted with unpredictable problems, PNL, PD and PUR  protested against this last minute change, considering that PSD's purpose is to block, in due time, the registration of the opposing candidates' files. There were even accusations that those in power have hit below the belt, the liberals and humanists affirming that the social-democrats have informed their candidates long ago that such a change of the game's rules was bound to take place.
PSD defends itself, of course, by invoking the need to promote the transparency, but suspicions cannot be set aside, especially that, for half a year, when the electoral laws were debated upon in the Parliament, PSD never manifested its intention to introduce such modifications. For the drafting of these laws, all the parliamentary formations have closely worked together and, if PSD had presented such demands at that time, it would have lost the "surprise element" which is very well known to be a key one in the electoral race.
The Opposition, frustrated as it has to play once again by the rules dictated from the Victoria Palace - as the Ordinance will be inevitably enforced, PSD's voting machine still functioning - is thinking of possible collaboration strategies in order to stop PSD's trial to trip it in the electoral campaign. But, whether it will find them or not, whether they will prove productive or not, it is decisive for the Opposition not to fall in another trap set by PSD and let itself get caught in polemics and retorts, forgetting about its own campaign.

 The fight against corruption - between propaganda and reality

One of the arguments often used by PSD in order to win its electors is the fight against corruption, fight over which it claims exclusive paternal rights.
After three years during which those labelled as "local barons" have occupied their chairs without being disturbed, all the more, getting good behaviour certificates from some of the state institutions, now, when the clatter of the electoral swords is more and more heard, PSD tries to wave the image of a party cleaned of its noxious elements. It started with the clever solution of suspending some local leaders accused of business illegalities, just to make them available for the PNA. As a great victory, the suspensions of Marian Vanghelie, Nicolae Mischie, Florian Serac or Bebe Ivanovici. Without forcing the interference in the PNA's investigation, the executive president of the social-democrats, Octav Cozmanca, did not forget to ask PNA - if it's possible, great, if not, not - to hurry the investigations in the case of those waiting for the prosecutor's "OK" to be present on the electoral lists.
 Even if it went beyond any length in defending its honesty and morality, PSD has already validated the candidate-ships of some controversial local leaders - Dumitru Sechelariu, Marian Oprișan, Mircea Cozma, Florian Serac, Gheorghe Savu - party sources affirming that Marian Vanghelie and Nicolae Mischie will also receive certificates of good behavior and will therefore be able to run for another mandate.

The great problem of the social-democrats remains the one of conquering power in the big cities

If PSD, at least according to an average of the results revealed in the polls, is quite well placed in the regions recognized as traditional electoral pools - Moldavia, Muntenia, Oltenia - the problems raise especially in Transylvania and in the big cities, a predictable thing, judging by the structure of its loyal electorate.
If in Cluj the PSD officials announce the possibility of Gheorghe Funar losing to the social-democrat candidate and in Constanta recruiting Radu Mazare solved the crisis, in Bucharest, Timisoara, Sibiu, Brasov and even Iasi things are far from being encouraging for the supporters of the three roses. For example, with all the war declared against Traian Basescu, he manages to lead quite comfortably, as the last minute PSD candidate, Bogdan Niculescu Duvaz raises only 25% of the options of Bucharest's inhabitants.
In Timisoara and Brasov the situation is somewhat similar, PSD's men not being credited with the first chance and in Iasi, after "the promotion" of Constantin Simirad in more exotic places, the difference between the PSD candidate and the one from the opposition is pretty tight. It looks like the human resources are still a problem for the social-democrats, the polls indicating chances for victory in the places traditionally marked by red (especially that Adraian Nastase has recently said that it is time to give up the blue and get back to red).
That is why, or maybe for efficiency reasons also (as in football too - a sport that inspires Adrian Nastase with reflections applicable to politics - it is said that it is not good to change the winning team), PSD runs, for the June elections, mostly with renowned candidates, its present mayors. The few places where it had the courage to change things are the very cities where it was in a crisis, as it is the case for Bucharest, where no one of the important members of the party wanted to become involved in a lost fight. The same situation is with the candidates for the sector councils in Bucharest, where the six present mayors of PSD will run again, even though some of them, as Marian Vanghelie, are confronted with PNA investigations.
But PSD confronts itself with another kind of problems too, related more to conflicts generated by the division of power spheres at a local level. There are branch leaders with some chances to win the locals, not being supported by the organizations. It's the case of Bihor, where PSD was placed in the unpleasant situation of calling deputy Mihai Bar to run for the council of Oradea, after having him publicly excluded two years ago. 

The Victoria Palace threatens with going to court

For a while now, the opposition has expressed its fear that the Government prepares a fraud for the elections, invoking some precedents: the illegalities during the referendum for the new Constitution, the allocation of huge funds from the Government, during the partial elections in 2003, exactly where the elections took place, drawing voters with raffles, concerts, sausages and beer.
Tired of confronting this kind of accusations at this early stage, Adrian Nastase has replied, more than trenchant: "Up with the deeds, down with the gargle!" asking, therefore, tangible proofs. That came after having caused a general stammering among the members of the Cabinet and of the party he leads, when he announced that the Government will sue those who will dare to word such accusations.
The press was puzzled for a while, the social-democrat leaders contradicting themselves when they were to answer the questions: who will sue, the party, or the Government? And if the latter is the case, isn't it going to clean its own image in court at the price of public money? The confusion was so great within PSD that some officials have even sustained that Victoria Palace has the right to sue in court on public money, as "the image of the country abroad" is at stake here.
Luckily, there was a clear mind in the Government which realized that the solution was not quite a legal one. As a result, Nastase established that every member of the Cabinet will be able to sue the eventual plaintiffs, acting in solidarity, but each paying out of his own pocket. The hired legal firm remained "confidential", Nastase threatening that he will make it public at the time of the first trial on this matter.
 And in order to protect its image as well, the Executive has decided to invite representatives from the Congress of the Local and Regional Powers to supervise the election process.  (Translated by Ramona CHERCIU)

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