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Assessing two years of mandate


Two years into Traian Băsescu’s term in office as President of Romania, we draw the line and try to assess his political performance. Many criticise President Traian Băsescu as being a politician without a political project. Although he did launch many themes in the political arena, most of them either faded without securing him any image gains, or threaten to backfire at their initiator. Whether it is the fight against corruption, the “file craze,” the denunciation of communism or the energy market, each of them is rather questionable and seems not very convincing.

Fighting high-level corruption. Adrian Năstase, Dinu Patriciu and…that’s it


It started out vigorously, but it died away. It’s the investigation and trial of high-level corruption cases. Case-files such as Zambaccian, involving Adrian Năstase, or Rompetrol, involving Dinu Patriciu, have reached judges’ desks. But they are so intricate and the two have so good attorneys that the trials will certainly take years to complete. In exchange, it is under Traian Băsescu that the “TV-justice” concept took shape. Virtually every day we have information, we see on TV or read in newspapers about hearings in the Prosecutor’s Office or the DNA. Industry moguls and high-profile politicians visited the two institutions, as witnesses or even defendants. But that’s about all. There have been no sentences, but there is this prevailing distrust in prosecutors and judges’ work. The next logical step is to claim that some of these files also have political connotations. Why Adrian Năstase? Why Dinu Patriciu? Adrian Năstase was a prime minister, is a major Opposition leader and might have remained a tough opponent for Traian Băsescu, as he was in 2004. Moreover, Adrian Năstase is the perfect victim of “TV-justice.” The attack against Dinu Patriciu is based on mostly economic motives, although the political aspect should not be overlooked. Patriciu has been and will remain the one running PNL from the shadow, and PNL is the political party which rejected the PD merger and launched countless attacks against President Traian Băsescu. Although one of his winning electoral campaign slogans was “let’s burn the corrupt,” Traian Băsescu risks turning the fight against corruption into a mere political vendetta.     


The “file craze” and disputes between the “good” and “bad” Securitate people


In 2006, President Traian Băsescu took the risk of launching the so-called “file craze.” First he mediated the scandal triggered by Corneliu Turianu’s appointment as CNSAS chief. A compromise was reached: Claudiu Secașiu. Also worth noting is that, in the context of the new CNSAS Board leader appointment, Traian Băsescu was booed for the first time since he took over the presidential mandate. On the other hand, the start of the “file craze” entailed the transfer by intelligence services of a substantial number of Securitate files. More or less objectively picked, three resonant names of the political life, Dan Voiculescu, Mona Muscă, Rodica Stănoiu were on the list of those found to have collaborated with the communist political police. There have also been attempts at bringing the President’s name into the political game of Securitate files. But he managed to foil attacks, using a sentence that will probably remain in history: “Give me the file and I will make it public.” The whole “file craze” debate was not without sideslips. One of them is the argument, more or less deliberately initiated and promoted, of whether there were “good Securitate people” and “bad Securitate people.” Under these circumstances, we find it hard to believe that out of hundreds of thousand files, only two or three important politicians were involved in political policing. For this reason, the “file craze” may also be regarded as a tool used in the political battle.

Denunciation of communism – more objections than appreciation    

Without doubt, when Traian Băsescu decided to set up a presidential committee to publish a scientific report on whose basis communism would be denounced, he figured this could be one of the political projects he may take pride in. But what happened next gave rise to a genuine political war. President Traian Băsescu was booed in Parliament, and the report denouncing communism is heavily criticised even by historians and experts. Further, political opponents criticised President Traian Băsescu’s duplicity in officially denouncing communism while at the same time claiming that a lustration act was useless at the moment. Basically, as a political project specially tailored to win the President more points, the communism denunciation only divided the political class and civil society.


Energy market – a double-edged sword for Traian Băsescu


While over a year ago the Head of State was talking about the “smart boys” in the energy market, towards the end of 2006 things started to happen. The Petrom privatisation contract was declassified. Shortly after, inspection procedures were initiated, which resulted in the launch of criminal investigations into two ministers of the Tăriceanu Cabinet and the arrest of several energy market brokers. The so-called “Privatisation case-file” was put together. Although at first sight it seemed prosecutors had made a sound case, with serious charges of espionage, treason or undermining of the national economy, the affair is now losing its impetus, as it happened with many other important criminal case-files. Suspects are being released, and we might see charges against defendants being changed. Two are the major risks incurred for President Traian Băsescu’s image over the energy market issue. First, as long as gas, fuel and electricity prices continue to increase, which is quite likely, the initiative to declassify energy contracts will fail to yield the expected results. Second, the “Privatisation case-file” in its current form risks being included in the “TV-justice” concept that prevailed in much of Traian Băsescu’s presidential term in office.


War between Palaces at its peak


Although President Traian Băsescu would not admit that a dispute existed between Cotroceni Palace and Victoria Palace, the facts proved the opposite. The most important of them is Traian Băsescu’s confessing that he regrets having appointed Călin Popescu Tăriceanu as prime minister. This made the two dignitaries’ split-up official, with an impact on the relationship between PNL and PD. It was one political project alone that Traian Băsescu failed to put into practice: the early elections. By all appearances, early elections are unlikely in 2007 as well, for at least two reasons: this is a pre-electoral year, and the procedure is hard to initiate in constitutional terms. Another political project Traian Băsescu will try to apply is to oust Călin Popescu Tăriceanu as Head of Government. But one should not overlook Premier Tăriceanu’s proven political stamina, which at times surprised Traian Băsescu himself.

Two years after his election as President of Romania, Traian Băsescu acted on his promise: he was a “player-president.” He played on more than one front, but he got himself even more enemies. The key risk facing Traian Băsescu in 2007 is that he may find himself isolated in the political arena.





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