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D.A. Alliance prepares to rule

Ada MESEŞAN

Much to the surprise of many, the leaders of PNL and PD, joined in the Justice and Truth Alliance (D.A), managed to finalise this summer the electoral lists for the Parliament and, even more importantly, the governance programme. The two projects will be made public in September. Contrary to the unequivocal expectations of PSD leaders, contrary to opinions persistently voiced in July and August by journalists and analysts faithful to the ruling party, and even outperforming voters' expectations, the co-chairmen of D.A., Traian Băsescu and Theodor Stolojan, have undeniably dominated their fellow party members and succeeded in what they had promised to the electorate: drawing up the electoral lists without any scandals and, in particular, their substantial refreshing by bringing in young people. With these data, the D.A. Alliance is set to outrun the PSD in the Parliamentary and Presidential elections in November 2004.



"We have won a battle, we are still to win the war"

 

PD and PNL promise more like Emil Boc on the lists

 

The birth of a new political class. All parties have appropriated this goal, not particularly because they would actually work with new people, but because this is what Romania's citizens ask for, as they are fed up with the same old Hrebenciuc, Bivolaru, Cozmanca and the like of them, champions of stripping off public funds and keeping the country at the outskirts of Europe-. PD chairman Traian Băsescu was the first to replace, in 2001, the old structure which had been leading the party since 1991 and to promote young people, of 30 to 40 years of age, at the helm of the party. The star of the new series of Democrat politicians was, undoubtedly, Emil Boc, a Cluj county local who at the age of 37 came to be the most valuable MP of the current Parliament and who defeated in the June elections the mighty PSD leader Ioan Rus, former Minister of Home Affairs, in the battle over the capital city of Ardeal, Cluj. Băsescu's modelwas followed, in a different manner, by Liberal Valeriu Stoica, the man who stepped down from the party's head office at less than 50 years of age, to invest as PNL chairman the upbeat Theodor Stolojan, current runner for President on behalf of the D.A. Alliance, and thus give the signal for change.

Separately, the PSD leaders, most of them with a 14-year length in service in the power structures and with an image utterly compromised by corruption scandals, could only think about the way to build stronger positions in the party. Structure and personnel changes operated by the Liberals and Democrats since 2001, although not quite in-depth transformations, were deemed as simply "funny" by the PSD leaders, who trusted the two rivals will get out weaker. The shock brought to the ruling party by their losing the locals to the Liberals and Democrats brought together under the D.A. Alliance umbrella baffled the PSD leaders, who only at the last moment, and only driven by the despair of coming up to the voters with another image for the party, acted out the PSD personnel cleansing. This is how, while the D.A. leaders were drawing up their MP lists with no big dramas, the PSD leaders were playing, for the voters, the show of "primary elections," further to which the same well known Hrebenciu and Cozmanca will get into the lists, seasoned with PSD's "promising youth": the unconvincing national football team coach Anghel Iordănescu, Gabriel Oprea, the most deficient member of the Năstase Cabinet, yet a specialist in real estate deals, and various veteran artists, rejected by the cultural community, but close friends to Premier Adrian Năstase.

Theodor Stolojan undertook to promote PNL Parliamentary lists renewed up to 75 percent. Senior Liberals swallowed rather reluctantly this impetus for refreshing proposed by Stolojan and resolutely backed by the PD leader, Traian Băsescu, going as far as to accusing their chairman of being spellbound by Băsescu. In his turn, the Democrats' head swore to the Alliance leadership that he would countersign no electoral list for the Parliament if he found compromised names in it. The victim, widely covered by the media, of this settling of accounts of Stolojan and Băsescu, on the one hand, and established PNL heavyweights on the other hand, was Liberal Viorel Cataramă, businessman, one of the party sponsors, whose image is stained by the scandal of the SAFI investment fund collapse scandal, in which scores of thousands of people lost their money. The incapacity of PNL leaders to understand that coming up with the same names hated by the public will only weaken their credibility was ruthlessly curtailed by Băsescu and Stolojan, who wrote off Cataramă's name from the lists. Conservative Liberals, driven by economic interests and stronger willed than their counterparts in the PD, who dare not comment on their chief's decisions, had managed to squeeze into the lists names by no means compatible with the political class refreshing policy pursued by Stolojan and Băsescu: the elderly Radu Câmpeanu, disappointing leader of the PNL in 1990-1992, Teodor Meleșcanu, a political migrant coming from the former PDSR, Dan Radu Rușanu, accused by the media of running fishy businesses. Moreover, the PNL county branches press the leading structure to promote to the Parliament controversial lawyers or businessmen having unclean connections with the most compromised PSD characters such as Corneliu Iacobov. The unsuccessful bid to have them included in the D.A. Alliance's Parliamentary lists, still to be finalised, was counteracted by Theodor Stolojan who backs a range of young people who proved they are endowed for modern politics: economist Ionuț Popescu, historian Adrian Cioroianu, Cristian Boureanu, Raluca Tatarcan, etc., people aged 30 to 40.

Worth noticing is that, compared to PSD's rushing to gather on their lists, just like the PRM, sports or show-biz stars, so that one is entitled to wonder where they could find the intellectual capacity to initiate economic, social or judicial bills, PNL and PD only resorted to their own members who got good scores in the locals or performed remarkably while in the Opposition. More firmly than his Liberal partner, Traian Băsescu reserved the right to an absolute veto on the PD's electoral lists. Slightly outnumbered by the Liberals in the D.A. Alliance's joint lists (1.3 to 1 in favour of the Liberals) the Democrats accepted with hardly any comments the decisions of their boss, Traian Băsescu: massive promotion of young politicians, up to 40 years old, and names from county branches. "I want to launch them at sea, to see them swim, to see them fight. Swim or sink, well, this is it," this is how the PD head described his policy to his colleagues. With all the efforts, media affiliated to PSD failed to uncover any declarations of war issued by the turned down ones against Băsescu. "I want as many like Boc as possible, get me the Bocs," Băsescu urged his Democrats, referring to Emil Boc, the one who, after only four years in the Parliament, grew into the model for the entire political community. Băsescu's attempt, similar to that of the Prince in "Cinderella", searching around the kingdom for the perfect foot to match the crystal shoe, only paid up in part. The young democrats proposed by Băsescu for the lists for the time being have in common with the role model only their age: Cozmin Gușă (the only PSD member to leave Adrian Năstase's party on his own will in 14 years, after having slammed the door to the PSD leaders' face and accusing them of all-pervading corruption), lawyer Aurelian Pavelescu, Anca Boagiu or Roberta Anastase and Lavinia Șandru with only beautiful faces to show for the time being. With all the qualities and flaws inherent to any human being, the young proposed by the Democrats and Liberals have proven an enthusiasm defining for their age, and will be able to disseminate, if able to swim, as Băsescu suggested, a new frame of thinking, a European pattern critical to the Romanian political community, which for the 14 years was rooted in the mean, post-communist, coterie thinking.

 

"Looking for a Premier, offer safe governance in exchange."

 

"No former dignitary who was part of the 1997-2000 governments will enter the new Alliance Government after the 2004 elections," Traian Băsescu threatened, and again raised the snakes among senior Liberals and Democrats. Another reason for the Liberals to accuse Theodor Stolojan, in half-voice however, of being dominated by the PD leader, although the PNL head had voiced the same resolve as Băsescu, only less crudely. PNL's deputy chairman Călin Popescu Tăriceanu made no secret of his desire to become the future Prime Minister of the Alliance Government. "Out of the question!" Băsescu settled it harshly. Tăriceanu was the Minister of Industries in 1997-1998, with no spectacular results. "We have won a battle, the local elections, we are still to win the war, the Parliamentary and Presidential elections. We need new people," the PD head insisted, nipping in the bud a new uprising insidethe Alliance.

The most recurrent name for a prospective Premier is that of Democrat Adriean Videanu, businessman, resigning from the Parliament so as not to come against the law on conflicts of interests. Appointing a Democrat for the PM office rubs salt into the vanities of the Liberals, who would have liked to have, if winning the general elections, both the pride of having given a President, Theodor Stolojan, and that of having proposed a Premier. The calculations of the two D.A. Alliance co-chairmen are nonetheless more pragmatic. Head of state - PNL, Premier - PD, the power is fairly distributed. Stolojan and Băsescu's power to control the vanities typical to the Romanian politicians evinced in the drawing up of the electoral lists, and will be further proven in the distribution of offices in the new Government. The two stated that none of the PNL or PD Parliament members will be appointedto head a Ministry, and that specialists will be favoured.

The drafting of the governance programme, the most important element that a party can use to convince the electorate it is worth voting for, was launched shortly after the victory in the locals, and has Liberal attributes, being reforming in economic and financial terms, yet with a sound social dimension. He was drawn up jointly by the Democrats and the Liberals, co-ordinated by Democrat Adriean Videanu and Liberal Varujan Vosganian. As for the future D.A. Alliance Government, the only information so far is that it will be a lot smaller than the Adrian Năstase Cabinet, which can take pride in one performance: it is the most numerous of all the European governments.

 

"The Fleet file"- PSD and PNA's political tool in the fight against D.A.

 

New crises can affect, before November 2004, the two blocs struggling in this autumn's elections, PSD and the D.A. Alliance. Who is to run the PSD, PNL or PD after an electoral success? In PSD, the tension is quite high, and the only concern of older or more recent heavyweights is their tooth and nail struggle for power inside the party. As of 2005, regardless of the outcome of these elections (whether Adrian Năstase wins or loses the presidential race, whether PSD stays in power or moves to the Opposition) Ion Iliescu will take over the party's helm. Therefore, PSD is doomed, on its own will and incapacity to reform, to remain a frozen party, fuelled by very strong coterie interests which only caused suffering to the electorate. PNL leaders are already looking around for a new party leader in case Stolojan wins the Presidential elections, rumours pointing to Paul Păcuraru or the rather anonymous Gheorghe Flutur. Traian Băsescu announced that after the elections he would withdraw as party chairman, yet his statement is part of his policy to intimidate the Democrats: if you don't do it my way, you're on your own. At least for the PNL and PD, parties which underwent reforms in the past four years, focusing on who will run the party after 2005 instead of convincing the citizens that they are better performing than the outdated PSD is utterly counterproductive.

Frightened by the prospects of losing the Parliamentary and Presidential elections after having lost the locals, PSD leaders, who admitted publicly that they will resort to a negative electoral campaign, ordered the Justice, namely the National Anti-corruption Prosecutor's Office to reopen, God knows after how many failed attempts already, the ancient "Fleet File" which incriminates (among others) Traian Băsescu for having illegally sold Romanian vessels. Their hope,that the image of the PD leader, the main electoral driving force for the Alliance, will be fully compromised and will generate tension between the Liberals and the Democrats did not come true. The public is more interested in projects able to guarantee that Romania will overcome the utmost poverty and all-pervading corruption which have been eating into it for the past four years of PSD rule, than it cares about endless scandals. Far from the voters' expectations, PSD strategists and leaders prepared for this electoral autumn a serious of ruthless attacks, primarily targeting Theodor Stolojan, Adrian Năstase's true opponent in the Presidential battle, but also Traian Băsescu, overlooking the fact that the entire ruling party is shattered by corruption accusations and inside struggles for power.

For the time being, coming as a surprise to many and contrary to PSD expectations, PD and PNL were only shaken by certain frustrations of politicians which see themselves, just like the ones in PSD, as eternal and irreplaceable. The consistency proved by the Democrats and Liberals over this period is exclusively due to the two leaders, Băsescu and Stolojan, who apparently have learned the lesson of the right-wing governance of 1997-2000. The latter lost the 2000 elections not on account of underachievements or slumbering spending power, but because of the unending scandals inside the coalition made up of PNȚCD, PNL, PD, UDMR, UFD and PSDR. Here is one of the reasons why the two leaders of D.A. seem hardly interested in enlarging the alliance to include the tiny Humanist Party (PUR) headed by the owner of Antena 1 TV station, Dan Voiculescu, leaving PSD leaders with yet another problem to solve: cutting trustworthy party members out of the PSD lists in order to be able to offer PUR the needed seats in exchange for positive image on a high impact TV station.

Political alliance games are far from being closed. PUR announced it was willing to play its own cards in the Parliamentary elections and considers a post-electoral agreement with the D.A. Alliance. The same statement was made by UDMR leaders, as the Hungarians' Unions is known to rally with anyone wins the Power, with no remorse. PSD is left with the already announced co-operation with the Greater Romania Party (PRM), both in the case it wins back the power and stays to rule, and if it moves to the Opposition.

The poll worked out in June by IMAS, an institute serving the PSD for the past three and a half years, revealed that the D.A. Alliance already outscores the ruling party by over 5%, while IMAS head Mircea Kivu says it is unlikely that the data change radically by the November elections. And still, Traian Băsescu's say, after the success in the locals, holds true: "We have only won a battle, we are still to win the war."

Publicat în : English  de la numărul 18

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