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Romanians at the ballot - striking home

Ada MESEŞAN

The PNL - PD Alliance, known as the Justice and Truth Alliance (acronym D.A. - Yes) won the local elections held in June in Romania. The surprising victory of the Alliance this summer announces the one that could occur in the Parliamentary and Presidential elections in November - December 2004. The great looser is the Social Democrat Party (PSD), the ruling party, whose propaganda machine encompassing most of the mass media, submissive sociologists and analysts, has for four years induced the idea that PSD was meant to hold the power forever.   Beyond the war between the two main blocs dominating the political scene, D.A. Alliance (right-of-centre) and PSD (representing the left wing), the great winner of the local elections is the citizen, the only one who, against all opinions circulating in the political environment, has reinstated democracy in Romania.



In the past year we have emphasized, in our magazine, Cadran Politic, that the result of the local elections will be, in spite of appearances more or less subtly fueled, favourable to the PNL-PD Alliance.

The D.A. Alliance's electoral success against the giant PSD was mainly triggered by two elements: the economic and social policies pursued by the Government, which resulted in the accelerated impoverishment of most of the population, along with an all-encompassing corruption which has blocked any intention of reform and affected the people's living standards, and secondly, the positive image, of a lone fighter against a totalitarianism-prone party, of the Bucharest Mayor General, Traian Băsescu, co-chairman of the D.A. Alliance. To be honest, the D.A. Alliance's leaders, both Traian Băsescu (PD chairman) and Theodor Stolojan (PNL chairman), and the long line of deputy chairmen of the two parties ought to be aware that the people did not necessarily cast a positive vote for the Alliance, but severely penalised the ruling party. The chance for the D.A. Alliance consisted in the political flair and stubbornness of the two leaders, Băsescu and Stolojan who, while nipping in the bud the Liberals and Democrats' early outbursts of vanity imposed, in September 2003, the set up of the Alliance. This was the only chance to stop PSD leaders' triumphant march towards the establishment of a political-economic dictatorship in Romania.

 

"I thought it was only us, politicians, who sell doughnuts to people!"

 

The idea of setting up the Alliance actually belongs to the former PNL chairman, Valeriu Stoica, who proposed, in order to save the democratic Opposition in Romania in 2000, to create a coalition of the Liberals and Democrats. His proposal was turned down, in a first stage, by most of the PNL and PD leaders, who, interested only in their own position in the party, feared their authority will decrease once within a political alliance. In principle, there are no great differences between the PNL and PD and the PSD leaders. Romanian politicians suffer, all of them, of the same self-sufficiency and the same proneness to steal public money so as to enlarge their own fortunes. PNL and PD leaders have been all the more guilty as, although aware of the danger posed by a PSD at power, were unable to meet citizens' expectations any sooner than September 2003, when they accepted the idea of an alliance, as suggested by the civil society.

The image the PD and PNL had with the public opinion, before the establishment of the alliance, was rather colourless. Electors had severely punished the two parties in the general elections in 2000, for insufficiently implementing reforms during the 1997-2000 governance and for their bickering and quarrelling throughout their governance. Consequently, their presence in the Parliament and on the political arena since 2001 was rather modest.

PD's chance, but also PNL's in the future, was the very existence of Traian Băsescu and his presence in an office of remarkable public exposure: Mayor General of Romania's Capital city. In 2001, Băsescu took over the leadership of PD and replaced the entire structure of the party with young people, most of them anonymous and in doing so was the only party leader who had the courage to bring up front people without much experience or fame. It was then that Băsescu launched, for the citizens and for the political community, the great challenge: promoting a new class of young, compromise-free politicians. What in 2001-2004 was smiled away by the other political parties in Romania, PNL included, turned in 2004 into the triumph of the democrat party leader. Most of the young people promoted by the PD chairman at the helm of party structures were voted for by electors as mayors of important cities in Romania. This is why Băsescu is entitled to take pride in having won the local elections in June. His project was well received by the voters.

The Liberals, as politicians with a vocation for compromise, benefited of two leaders who ensured the party's survival during the PSD governance: Valeriu Stoica, the one who knew how to step out the party's leadership in favour of Theodor Stolojan, the only image conveyor of the party, and Theodor Stolojan himself who, together with Traian Băsescu, forced the Liberals into the D.A. Alliance. Stolojan enjoys a positive image with the voters ever since 1991-1992 when, as a politically independent Premier, tried to implement economic reform. His face with square features, the blue, cold look in his eyes, far from driving citizens away, drew them closer, as they saw Stolojan as very serious, relentless even.His inquisitorial face and abrupt speech, violently targeting the corrupted in the PSD, perfectly matched the voters' expectations. In fact, the strongest electoral magnet of the D.A. Alliance was the Băsescu-Stolojan couple, who conveyed the image of rebels standing up against the State-party, their structure being opposed to the arrogance and sneaking air of the head of PSD, Adrian Năstase and the host of social-democrat dignitaries. The appeal to the public of the two D.A. Alliance co-chairmen was particularly noticeable during the electoral campaign. The PNL and PD leaders' getting out in the streets would generally result in spontaneous crowd bathings, as citizens gathering around the two would wish them good luck in the elections and assure them of their votes. The dialogue between Traian Băsescu and the doughnut sales girls in Cluj will make history: "How are you, girls? Selling doughnuts? I was under the impression that it was only us, the politicians, who sell doughnuts to people!" (to sell doughnuts = sl. to tell lies). PSD chairman Adrian Năstase, the one who, right after the failure registered by his party in the local elections resumed his attempts to talk Ion Tiriac into taking part in the presidential elections instead of him, would never have been able to talk so naturally to the people in the street, as Traian Băsescu does.

 

The voters, more intelligent that the politicians

 

PSD lost the local elections and is about to lose the Presidential and Parliamentary ones as well, as the party leaders created their own, heaven-like Romania, where they are rolling in gold, just like in fairy-tales, only that the ruling party leaders' money comes from the citizens' ripped off pockets; a Romania parallel with the real one, in which corruption and poverty reign. Quite funny, the first week after learning the results, PSD leaders had still not come to terms with the idea they lost for their own fault, and continued to blame people for not having voted them and blame journalists for exposing the party dignitaries' corruption. Compared to the rich and self-sufficient social-democrat leaders, the D.A. Alliance co-chairmen Traian Băsescu and Theodor Stolojan, facing the difficulties of life in the Opposition, sent their candidates in the streets, for a direct contact with the citizen's real problems. More or less happy to do so, the Liberals and Democrats got into direct touch with the voters, and learned they don't bite. On the contrary. With one tiny bit of normality and more interest in the public agenda than the PSD runners, the D.A. Alliance candidates for the town halls, local and county councils stroke a win that surprised themselves. PSD's propaganda machine is vainly trying now, through Adrian Năstase's party analysts, sociologists and journalists, on TV and in newspapers, to claim that after the elections PD has turned into a party of mayors, and that PNL is at any time willing to give up the alliance with the Democrats, to make it into the 2004 Government, hand in hand with PSD. The public saw it a lot simpler: PSD lost and is on an irreversible downward trend, the D.A. Alliance won and continues its upward trend towards Parliamentary and Presidential elections this autumn.

Paradoxically enough, the Romanian voters grew mature more quickly than the political class. They have also grown radical, and their requirements to the politicians they voted for rose, prorated with the economic and social difficulties the entire political class put them through. Which PSD leaders show no signs of having grasped, even now.

 

The little strokes fell great oaks

 

Bucharest was won, for the entire D.A. Alliance, by one man alone: Traian Băsescu. And only secondly, by the idea of a team created by the PNL-PD Alliance. Bucharest District Halls were won by Alliance people, with scarce previous public exposure and with little knowledge in the sector. More elitist, better known and more knowledgeable Liberal members would rather save their breath for the Parliamentary run in autumn, or for future Governmental offices. Less reluctant, PD chairman Traian Băsescu threw into the battle over the district and city halls the whole leading structure of his party, headed by the executive president Emil Boc. Seen by PSD supporters as the outsider in the race for the Mayor of the Ardeal Capital city, Cluj-Napoca, young Democrat Emil Boc dealt a heavy blow to the ruling party candidate, the powerful Minister of Home Affairs Ioan Rus. The highly aggressive, costly and showy campaign PSD ran in Cluj, co-ordinated by a renowned sociologist of the party, Vasile Dîncu, was designed the wrong way, contrary to Ardeal people's mentality, which made the locals love Boc and reject Rus. Phrases such as "you're a bunch of rascals" addressed by the serious Interior Minister to young Boc and his party only proved, once again, the innate despise of Adrian Năstase's self-proclaimed Social-Democrats for the voters. In Bucharest, after the first ballot in local elections, the PM and PSD chairman, Adrian Năstase, shocked with the results, poured on the voters the same electoral promises made 14 years before by the communist dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu, right before running away from the uprising crowd, and the arrogance of the Premier's bribe crushed the voters, who saw through this attempt to buy them for a penny. And after the runoffs, the powerful Minister of Economy Dan Ioan Popescu, leader of the Bucharest branch of the party, found nothing better but to blame the Bucharesters for not voting his candidates. The icing on PSD's farewell cake was glazed by the young anonymous candidate of the Romanian Humanist Party, Romeo Stavarache, who chased the famous PSD local baron, Dumitru Sechelariu, away from his estate, the city of Bacău, ultra-conservative stronghold of the Moldavians' ring in the ruling party.

In a nutshell, the democrats outran in these elections, two high dignitaries of PSD, Ministers and party deputy chairmen at the same time, Mircea Geoană and Ioan Rus, the government's image conveyors that the PSD leadership got involved in the electoral race in full disregard as to Romania's national interests: Geoană and Rus were in charge with the country's EU accession negotiations.

 

No comment: D.A. Alliance-43.6% - PSD-40.55%

 

The final election results are clear: the PNL and PD candidates won 20 county capital cities, and PSD only 14. The final number of votes is even more relevant: the D.A. Alliance was supported by 43,6% of the citizens present in polling stations, whereas PSD was voted by 40,55% of the electors. Furthermore, in the voting for the county councils, again a political vote, the Alliance came out first. Although scores might seem tight, the D.A. Alliance's victory in terms of image was perhaps unexpected and surprising, yet very clear, as Adrian Năstase's party was left to cheer up on the wins in villages.

DA Alliance co-chairmen Băsescu and Stolojan proved, in the very night before the runoffs even, political intelligence. Far from opening bottles of champagne, the two called their winning candidates and the parties' leading structures and began to analyse the positive and negative aspects of the campaign. The two have still a long and difficult road ahead before winning the general elections: they need to identify truly credible people to fill in the electoral lists, and, more importantly, a prospective governmental structure, and to design a sound governance programme able to finally meet the expectations of both the electorate and the European Union.

At the other pole, threatening voices are rising, of the second and third ranks of the PSD leading structures, calling the heads of the party to account for having misled them with untrue polls. PSD lost the entire Ardeal and many counties in Moldavia, Muntenia and Oltenia, unbreakable party strongholds in the past. How could they trust their leaders after losing even in Bacău, Suceava, Botoșani, Piatra-Neamț, Călărași, Slatina, Râmnicu-Vâlcea and so on? And who will pay the bill?

Weather forecasts warned that a stormy summer was beginning, with tempests and tornadoes.

Publicat în : English  de la numărul 16

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