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Preliminary Elections in PSD: The king is naked

Andrei ŢĂRANU

That in the Romanian politics the king is naked has long ago stopped being a surprise for anyone, and if the fact in itself doesn't strike us as grotesque would be the proof of a cheerful society.And the most recent political events are tale telling in this respect. Primary elections, alliances, statements and replies make up the image of a very busy and effervescent public space, but, at a second analysis, boredom and lack of interest both in politics and in the political practice in the electoral campaign seem to be ruling back stage. The electoral campaign started - again, no surprise in Romania - with a spell of verbosity based on scandals and warlike statements, in an uncivilised and by no means picturesque manner. And, unfortunately, it goes on in the same line, only topics are changed. Players have no reluctance in throwing their cap over the windmills, again and again, with the belief this would be the only way to attract voters, who are nonetheless sick and tired of this game. Rating figures reached unprecedented records for soap operas and shows, at the expense of political talk shows, as news programmes are only rescued through coverage of rape and theft cases and music and film star gossip



The beginning of this autumn against the violent background of statements and retorts proves that Romanian politicians have reached an utterly embarrassing position - they have nothing left to offer. And, much to their astonishment, right at the moment the electoral scales are quite even, and no one can be sure as to which political party will be heading the next Government. Whereas the PNL-PD reached its highest possible level and apparently is unable to go any farther, the ruling party goes from one blunder into the other, yet not to the benefit of the Opposition, but only to increase the number of don't knows. And in this show, uneasy small parties realise they will be heaving even slimmer chances unless they rally with the right party, as only Greater Romania Party (PRM) seems to be sure of its future Parliament membership, whereas the Romanian Humanist Party (PUR) and the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) are knocking at the door of the needed 5%, not very sure whether they will make it in. The other parties in the Christian-Democrat wing are fidgeting with the hope a merger will save them, although probably are at least suspecting that even this move will not ensure their presence in the Parliament in the coming mandate. And thus the idea that politics is a win or lose game is gaining shape, only that all players are interested in gaining money rather than in winning the game.

The attack launched between the two major political parties was, in our opinion, sparked by the Liberal-Democrat Alliance - A..D.A.'s attempt to identify PSD's weaknesses in the nearing campaign, both in terms of human resources strategy and of communication strategy. Lately, either because of the summer holidays, or of the campaign structuring process, both PSD and A.D.A. explored the ground in view of either finding new allies, or of creating the logistics balance that the two parties need in the coming electoral battle. However, in-depth analysis proves that both structures are quite frozen: none has come up with entirely new people, as the old seniors still stand centre stage, none has a clearly defined internal structure, as command centres are still limited by branches' blockage or lack of action.

 

Autumn campaign of vote reporting

 

Whereas with A.D.A. the blockage is still generated by the two parties' integration process intended to establish a joint approach, in PSD the primary elections stand proof of an extremely rigid and indolent apparatus, rather on the defence. Inner PSD structures proved they lack the slightest interest in change, as they boycotted the primaries in a defining conservative manner. What should have been a win in terms of image and a way to showcase PSD's will for change, in fact only proved that deep inside the party is still attached to old Communist party apparatchick practices, accustomed to issuing false reports on autumn farm yields per ha. In an attempt to get as many seats as possible for their leaders in Bucharest (their political and economic deans) several branch leaders forged the lists in such a primitive manner that PSD president Adrian Năstase himself was put in the embarrassing position of holding them accountable and trying to cover flagrant errors with nice words. Which once again proves that PSD, in spite of many commendable intentions, lacks both the ability, and, very likely, the will to clean the party.

Primary elections, contrary to Traian Băsescu's statements, are a procedure to the appreciated and which proves a certain will in party central structures, as to restructuring the party. Political sciences define a party as the political organisation which is established voluntarily, based on clearly defined ideology and goal. So that anyone can join a party and operate inside a party, in a democratic manner, in order to reach the goal for which they had decided to enrol with the respective organisation. Therefore, it is not natural for a head of party to be the one who decides on the electoral lists, instead of the organisation as a whole. And this is precisely what primary elections are intended to achieve, although unfortunately Communist reflexes based on centralism and closed group politics made them look ridiculous.

Furthermore, they have also generated a negative response at the middle or even top level of branch structures, as those who lost an eligible position now have reason enough to attack the party and the governing group inside it. Their reaction to democracy now also finds concrete reasons to fight back central senior officials which they believe they had been serving, even against the will of their own electorate. Those who lost the primary elections are now asking for, and apparently already getting important offices either in county or central level bureaucracy, confirming that many PSD members understand this party as mostly a party of cronies, based on the close relationship between bureaucracy and private business, a relationship which spells "corruption" in Romania. And they all understand that being left out of this space means losing money or power, i.e. actual poverty for themselves and the group of economic and political cronies, and, in some cases, even losing their freedom.

 

PSD can no longer change....

 

If elections had been properly carried out, definitely Adrian Năstase would have achieved at least part of what he had targeted, namely to convince the public that a new PSD, more active, with fewer corrupt members, and, eventually, with a higher number of members supporting the new leaders indeed exists. Unfortunately, the primaries gave rise to even louder scandal, and, in terms of image, were even more damaging for the party - since resuming primary elections in several localities was an implicit acknowledgement that there had been frauds, and that the guarantor to lawfulness and democracy, the ruling party itself, was the one involved in the scheme. The local elections were the clear cut evidence, even for those who wouldn't admit it, that what happened in the referendum last November was not a mere ungrounded allegation and that elections - primary or not - can be easily subject to fraud by the group which controls bureaucracy and the business environment at a local level. And we speak about the local level because it is obvious that party members in Bucharest are a lot more skilled as far as image issues are concerned, than the ones in the country - at least in the Capital city, even Adrian Năstase with his seventy-and-something percent of the votes in the primary elections is a lot more honourable than his counterparts in Vrancea or Suceava with scores higher than in Ceaușescu's time, that is over one hundred percent.

 

... even backed by Antena 1 TV

 

The corrupted primary elections were overshadowed by the other very good move of Adrian Năstase, namely the alliance with PUR, and this way the attempt to subordinate Antena 1 TV station, which during the local elections seemed to be the only national TV station openly supporting the Opposition. It is now evident that Antena 1 was in fact supporting the party and the business group behind it. Whereas in the local elections, when PUR was taking a stand against the corruption in PSD, Antena 1's excellent journalists were competing in exposing the games pulled by the Power, thus indirectly supporting the Opposition, at that time allied with PUR at least apparently, now the tone should grow softer. Very likely, in an attempt to preserve their credibility the TV station and the related media structures will restrict their approach to full coverage of news, but they will definitely no longer be supporting the voice of the Opposition, A.D..A.. in particular, which thus finds, just as it did early this year, that it lacks a high impact information channel.

 

A.D.A.. coalition potential blocked inside

 

No doubt the Opposition is also to blame for this, as it failed to properly negotiate with the small parties, which proves the two A..D..A.. member parties have used up their alliance potential already. Horizontally, A..D..A. performs poorly in its relations with other political players, as negotiations with UDMR or the Peasants' Party were rather scarce and limited to general talks. Which proves the arrogance and lack of confidence in partners of senior leaders of the Alliance, that is precisely what they criticise the ruling party over. Obviously the Alliance did get a certain advantage out of PUR's defecting to the PSD side, as strong PUR groups preferred to leave for PNL or PD, although many of those who left are former ApR members, therefore political migrants, and precisely what A.D..A.. sees as the most horrible feature of the Romanian politics.

Political talk shows turn into football talk. Not very relevant, though

It is therefore evident that the Romanian political year has concluded or is only to begin, given that what we can expect next is a mere electoral campaign, a fierce one, rich in scandals and accusations on both sides, in other words, nothing new. Only the common people, unbiased, will be facing a show self-proclaimed as an analysis of the political "championship leg," but full of empty words and much ado about nothing, just like in football. Transfers seem to be the same, so do coaches, even players don't change much, only that, whereas in football Romanians seem to be getting out of Europe-, in politics they hope to get in. Although football, just like politics, has its own inescapable rules: one cannot cheat for ever, as fans find out and their penalty comes quicker than that of European officials themselves.

Publicat în : English  de la numărul 20

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