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PSD in 2006: Geoană or nothing

Andrei STOICA

Identification of PSD with an Opposition party seemed clearer in early 2006. Last year both the Alliance and the media acted, strangely enough, as if the Social Democrats had been still in power. As ruling parties were striving to lay hands on all leading offices in most sectors (Parliament, Justice, local administration, healthcare, etc), they faced firm opposition from PSD or persons close to this party.



This induced the perception that the Alliance doesn't have a firm grip on the reins of Power (and therefore, that it may lose them any time).

 

Leader of the PSD resistance

 

It became evident last year that early elections could only be a solution for the political arena at most, particularly in the central administration and Parliament. For the other fields however, snap elections would have basically left the problem unsolved. On the other hand, the presence of the two PSD leaders Adrian Năstase and Nicolae Văcăroiu at the helm of the two Parliament Chambers was, in symbolic terms, a source of political legitimacy for the party's holding senior positions in the rest of the administration structure as well. Their removal was therefore critical topaving the way for large-scale changes.

The failure of attempts to remove Năstase and Văcăroiu was not the only one, but the most important in a series of other under-achievements: the Local Administration Act was not amended so as to allow for modification of the majority of votes in county councils; replacement of hospital managers triggered a harsh reaction from the ones dismissed; the Justice reform faced the opposition of the Higher Magistrate Council, but also of the system as a whole; the replacement of chairpersons in the public broadcasting and radio corporations sparked a huge scandal. One of the people who slowed down the pace of change is President Traian Băsescu himself. He refused to replace the heads of intelligence services and the Prosecutor General. As a result of these failures, towards the end of 2005 a fall in opinion polls was noticed for the Alliance, concurrently with a return to the Băsescu-Năstase tension as witnessed just before the general elections in 2004. It was the moment when PSD had reasons to hope for a comeback.

While he lost the PSD presidency in last year's Convention, Adrian Năstase nonetheless managed to preserve his authority within the party almost intact. After the elections, he was the leader of the PSD resistance to the Alliance's rush to replace party officials in the country. As he struggled to keep his position as Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, he indicated that PSD was able to hold on to its position. The Alliance's failure in its attempted large-scale change validated Năstase as a leader of the PSD resistance. Which is why at the end of 2005 Năstase was an increasingly uncomfortable challenger of the new party president Mircea Geoană, and became ever more credible in his attacks against the Power.

 

Symbol of corruption

 

The impact that Adrian Năstase's recent wealth statement will have on the developments within (and outside) PSD is hard to assess with full accuracy at this point. One can assume however that the political and media impact will be a major one. According to Năstase, his wife's aunt left the family a fortune of approx. Euro 1 million. The media covered the issue for days, and most of the voices agreed that the story was far-fetched. In fact, they believe, the inheritance is a veiled-though already classical-form in which the former premier has tried to cover his corruption deeds. The involvement of controversial businessman Alexandru Bittner in the affair (Năstase admitted that Aunt Tamara had businesses with Bittner), raised further suspicion. Irregularities had also been noticed in the wealth statements submitted by Power officials (Traian Băsescu or Gheorghe Flutur), but the media insisted for days on the Năstase case exclusively.

There are at least two circumstances which favour the over-emphasis on Adrian Năstase's wealth statement. First of all, there is the forthcoming PSD National Council gathering, where an attempt will be made to readjust the balance of power within the party. Part of PSD (including party president Mircea Geoană) has a direct interest in ousting Adrian Năstase from the leading team. Secondly, the D.A. Alliance, currently concerned more than ever before with settling the corruption issue one way or another, as it threatens to trigger a deferral of the country's EU accession, needs to find a political scapegoat. The number of rulings pronounced, or at least the number of prosecuted top-level corruption suspects is a condition imposed by the European Union, not by the Alliance. In the domestic political arena, PNL and PD need to identify symbolic cases, relevant for the corruption issue. And Adrian Năstase is a prototype in this respect.

 

The second Romania lost the elections

 

When one learns of Adrian Năstase's wealth statement, including the suspicious inheritance he allegedly received, the question that comes to one's mind is, what would have happened if this person had been elected President of Romania? Unquestionably, Traian Băsescu himself sold his stocks for quite too high a price, but he is far from Năstase's impressive fortune. Mention must also be made that in the past as well the former premier had been accused of being involved in various more or less dubious cases, which brought him the nickname "Năstase, four (six) houses." But this time we are talking about Euro 1 million. That's quite a lot of money. Implicitly, the consequences are more serious, and they are driven further by the current political context. Adrian Năstase's loss of image is almost a fact. He can no longer be a "symbol of resistance." On the contrary, his presence at the helm of the party validates the Alliance's action against PSD members in the public administration. His wealth statement triggers a loop back to the image of leader of the "wicked system," and makes PSD members dramatically vulnerable, after so far they have managed to hold on to their positions. They can no longer see Năstase as providing the political support they need.

All through 2005 there was a major uncertainty with respect to the sense of the latest general elections. The Alliance claimed it won, PSD claims there are "two Romanias" (Adrian Năstase), and power must be divided by two. Precisely when the Alliance proved unable to take PSD out of the administration and to thus confirm that it indeed won the elections, Adrian Năstase posted his wealth statement and brought light on it all. All of a sudden, it became clear that Traian Băsescu's victory was a good thing. Năstase did not deserve to win, and the Alliance did the right thing when trying to replace him as Speaker of the Chamber. Implicitly, it was right to try to eliminate PSD from public administration as well.

 

Upcoming turmoil

 

Naturally, Adrian Năstase is not expected to give up his power positions in PSD (or in Parliament). But his status is seriously shattered, which will trigger fresh turmoil in the party. Some of Năstase's allies are disappointed, without doubt, and will "migrate" towards Mircea Geoană. The undetermined will also turn their eyes to the new president of PSD. Which is not to mean that the air will be cleaned very soon. Ion Iliescu seems to be playing an increasingly tricky part. The former president may forge an alliance (natural, to some extent) with Adrian Năstase against Geoană.

The situation is particularly complex for PSD, as PNL and PD announced they wanted to merge. Just like the result of the 2004 elections, which led to Iliescu's losing the party presidency, this merger will step up reform moves and will thus once again strengthen Mircea Geoană's position.

Two major wars have been waged in the Romanian political arena over the past 15 years: the first, against communism (or crypto-communism), the second against corruption. The icon of crypto-communism was Ion Iliescu; that of corruption, Adrian Năstase. Ion Iliescu was defeated by the very party he had created. Adrian Năstase should be overthrown by the reformists he promoted. One may say that year 2006 will be Geoană's year, or else PSD will cease to exist.

 

 

by Andrei STOICA

Publicat în : English  de la numărul 32

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