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Neck or nothing for D.A. Alliance


The European accession is gaining, with the start of year 2006, an increasingly evident and visible profile, as the society as a whole is, one way or another, nervously waiting for a favourable outcome. It's similar to a high-school admission exam - a prestigious high-school, though apparently more old-fashioned than it used to be. Anyway, to stay within the admission exam paradigm, 2006 is the year of preparations for an extremely important exam, whose passing or failing is critical to the applicant's whole future life. This is not the place to discuss whether the respective high-school actually needs new students, or whether it at least wants any.

We refer only to the admission as key existential process in the life of any modern person and, as we can see, in the fate of an entire nation.


Not an admission, but a make-up test


First of all, accession to the Union requires alignment of institutions and policies in Romania to the ones in the EU, and only secondly does it involve the integration of the entire society, which will only become aware of its effects in years, or even in decades from now on. Unfortunately, as it happens too often in the Romanian politics, public imagination has been over-stirred by purveyors of message, both in a negative and in a positive direction. As far as the EU accession goes, Romanian expectations are rather economic than political, although it is the political element that prevails in the process. As it happened to NATO as well, this political element however seeks to be relieved of this task and to channel towards the society-rather than to institutions, as it would have been natural-the full load of the accession moment.This moment, therefore, is construed in emotional, rather than rational terms, as few institutions - and the media are the ones to blame - bothered to explain clearly what the process involves.

What Romanian politicians (and media) forgot to say was that Romania is going in for a make-up test, after having failed the first: although admitted to negotiations in Helsinki in 1999 in the same class with the ten which joined the EU in 2004, Romania and Bulgaria have fallen behind, and are still to review important school subjects. It is this "oversight" shared by all Romanian politicians which is relevant for the biggest problem of the current Romanian class, in particular of those in power today. Failure to ensure integration in 2007 will sweep away most of the members of our current political community, as all internecine struggles will very likely come to light and new ones will break out, in an attempt by members to preserve some legitimacy. Because, while the 1997 Madrid was the detonator for the CDR blast and for Constantinescu's fall, rejection of Romania in 2007 will require the reconstruction of the entire political structure, in order for a new development paradigm to be built.




It is at least strange that only one year before accession, uncertainty still hovers about its likelihood, hypotheses are still being put forth and generally speaking, nothing is very clear about whether we will get in or not. This uncertainty burdens the ruling Coalition, and the PNL-PD Alliance in particular. The entire Coalition is under pressure, as most politicians become aware of the deadly hazard their political careers are subject to. The tension over Romania's European future has been gradually induced, ever since the end of 2004, as a campaign practice which extended to the governance as well, although in a first stage President Băsescu tried to push it on the backburner. Tăriceanu however, in a move to build his own image, independently from Băsescu, embraced it as a governmental programme, signing up all the ruling parties into the project. Only that, willingly or not, by undertaking the accession task Tăriceanu took over much of the PSD campaign project, which was fully channelled on the European integration in a Social Democratic manner. Even the "Liberal" adjustments to this project - such as the flat tax rate - failed to account for an in-depth change of Romania's development paradigm, strictly following the European model. Thus, just like PSD or CDR before it, the incumbent Power has no back-up plan in case of failure. The only one aware of this seems to be Traian Băsescu, who would not share responsibility for a governmental failure, although his all-too-faithful party is in the same boat with Tăriceanu.

Facing a situation with no viable alternatives, parties in the governmental coalition - except perhaps for UDMR - are in a position of being unable to abandon the race; they have to go the whole length, whether to bankruptcy or to jackpot. The Conservatives appear to be in dire straits, as they have few political combinations available after having betrayed PSD shortly after the elections: a new betrayal would take them off the political arena for good. Which is why the Conservatives seem to be the most interested in staying in the Coalition, whatever compromise and humiliation this would require. It is therefore evident that it is not CP that will walk out on the Government first, even if accession is not to take place in 2007.


The UDMR key


Those who may pose problems, and who are already doing so, although inconspicuously, are the Magyars in UDMR. For them, accession will not necessarily trigger image benefits, but it would even upset their plans to a certain extent. Once the borders de-materialised and the European minority system implemented, the actual need for a minorities' party would become obsolete. This is very likely the reason why UDMR made their future participation in the Government conditional on the Minorities' Status Act, as a last-resort blackmail. The new status actually sets out the reconfiguration of UDMR into a regional party, and the Minorities' National Council is a means to reconstruct new poles of regional power, much less controlled by the nation-state and relying much more on the will of the closed minority community. UDMR thus seems to the be weak link in the governmental chain, although so far it has issued clear signals that, if its interests are respected, it can be a loyal partner for any holder of the executive power.


Fate of the Alliance


We left the Coalition hard-core and Government driving force last, i.e. the D.A. Alliance. Built up as a circumstantial alliance against PSD, it took almost a miracle for the Alliance to come in Power, towed by Traian Băsescu into the Victoriei Palace. Without a clear majority in Parliament and without a substantial technical expert basis in the field, D.A. was in a permanent crisis all through the year 2005, which its main leaders handled with frustration. What all PNL and PD members understood is that the Alliance is doomed to existence and to cooperation, although relationships between the two member parties are not particularly fortunate. The scandals which undermined the Alliance's inner structure are fundamentally tied to power, and in particular to the power of appointing a party's men to key positions, so as to manage to impose a new development course for the society.

The Alliance's personnel shortage has been evident since the very start of their mandate, when key positions were offered to blatantly under-skilled individuals whose only quality was their loyalty to one of the parties that were making up the Government. The Alliance thus got to reuse people from the CDR governance or even to keep former PSD servants, such as the heads of secret services, which annoyed many of the lower- or higher-rank members of the ruling parties. The same problem, with an even heavier tension load, was reported and continues to exist in the country, where county councils were reconstructed after the general elections not in terms of political loyalty within the ruling coalition, but in terms of obscure economic or kinship interests. Thus, in many counties it is PSD, CP and PRM who actually head county councils, at the expense of the D.A. Alliance, or even worse, PD and PNL representatives are at odds with each other and forge alliances with Opposition members.

This tension is brought to light, on a regular basis, by various D.A. leaders themselves at war with each others through most media channels. We have therefore a number of internal wars, of which that between Băsescu and Tăriceanu is only one: the most publicised one, but not the most important. It is not that important because the two may eventually practice the art of compromise, whereas in the country the internecine war is a lot harsher.

In spite of this tension, the PNL-PD Alliance will not splinter in 2006, but members will be forced to stick closer together. Of course, a merger is also out of the question, as none of the two parties is willing to become a subordinate, and the long-term goal of such a step is not particularly evident. What ties PNL to PD is the governance, and the deeply anti-PSD attitude, i.e. a love-hate relationship based on psychoanalytical rather than ethical or moral grounds. Both parties are aware that in the medium term none of them will be able to single-handedly fight PSD (which they fear to some extent), and that neither can they form a government without the other's help. Even without circumstantial allies such as CP or UDMR, the Alliance stands higher chances to win and to govern than each of the parties would have together with the circumstantial allies. Political realism should therefore urge them to be at least polite to each others, if love is out of the question.


The enemy is somewhere else


The Orban Syndrome however reveals something else, too: that hiding behind the fight between Tăriceanu and Băsescu are internal battles inside each party. Many party members, both in PD and in PNL, had grown used to the concept that public offices are simply distributed against the criterion of membership to the ruling political party. Instead, under the pressure of the integration obsession, the concept of public office has also evolved, and outside the competence criterion replacements are no longer as easy to operate. But according to the sidestepped, the ones who kept their offices are PSD members and therefore they must be replaced. Alliance members thus accuse their own parties of lacking the political will to promote their people. In a state where the public sinecure is the rule of the game, its absence can only give birth to crises. Under these circumstances, political leaders will be forced to channel political rhetoric at their own members rather than at the rest of the society. Because at the moment, the fear of PNL is haunting PD and the fear of PD is haunting PNL, although the enemy is somewhere else. But in the medium run, it is quite clear that a merger based on fear is not possible.

Moreover, a primarily ideology-driven party such as PNL will very likely be unable to negotiate with a dynamic, ruthless party such as PD, which leaders of both parties have already noticed.

While merger is not possible, divorce on the other hand is not imminent either. With both parties involved in the accession process, a prospective negative answer on May 16, 2006 will destroy their legitimacy. Doomed to existence, the D.A. Alliance prepares to become a new political player, perhaps more important than its members in case of accession delay, and a poor actor if the accession answer is positive. But, as has been said, the referee remains Traian Băsescu and, possibly, the Romanian society, if it continues to take an interest in politics.

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