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Romania under the sign of PD

Arthur SUCIU

PD is a party in fashion, a party with a future, which is why it is hardly interesting to analysts, who tend to focus on current or prospective failures. PD’s being always taken by the President in tow is not particularly interesting either. To oversimplify, the Democrats’ politics is Traian Băsescu’s politics. For the time being, this is PD’s trump, but also a source of major risks.

With firm support from PNL, PD managed to shift from the 2001-2002 dissolution stage to being a respectable medium-sized party before the elections in 2004. Its growth potential at the time was still limited, on the one hand by the PNL exclusivity in the right wing and on the other hand by PSD’s dominant party status. For the Democrats to overcome these hindrances was very difficult, though not impossible, as time proved. Traian Băsescu deserves credit for having offered PD an opportunity to overcome its role as a flap for right-wing governments. His inspired moves in 2004, crowned by his individual success in the presidential elections, laid the foundations for an in-depth restructuring of the political spectrum and, more importantly, placed PD at the heart of the new changes.

Upwards, rightwards

For over 15 years, the left dominated the Romanian political arena. But time seems to be on the right’s side. The question Traian Băsescu must have asked in the beginning of his term in office was, “How could I outrun the left and the right at the same time?” How was PD, a left-wing party smaller than PSD, to become a dominant right-wing party? PD very likely wouldn’t have pursued a statute and doctrine change, had it not been required by the presidential political project. And since in politics, and perhaps in other areas, too, one will always stand out at the others’ expense, Traian Băsescu moved, on behalf of PD, against PNL and PSD. On the one hand, the Head of State aimed at dismantling the Iliescu paradigm within which all issues have been approached since the Revolution. This includes the constitutional framework, the consensus institution, the left-right logic of inter-party relationships, the privileged relationship with the majority, and so on. On the other hand, he went for PNL’s role as a right-wing alternative, the sense of the right wing’s political future.

The two majorities

Traian Băsescu’s political project is particularly ambitious. He attempts a performance at least equal to Ion Iliescu’s in the early ‘90s. As compared to the early ‘90s, the political context is less favourable, but similarities can be identified, at least in terms of mood, with what Romania was like shortly after the Revolution. Two lines of action which may enable the President to reach his political objectives may be taken into account: 1. towards achieving a parliamentary majority made up of representatives of one party (PD); 2. towards a strong public support for the President in initiating a number of essential changes, such as introduction of the uninominal voting or the Constitution modification. The second line exclusively depends on the President, on his capacity to lobby for adequate solutions. Traian Băsescu could impose his political projects, even against parties’ will, but only if the majority, the vast majority of the electorate backs him. The first line on the other hand must be pursued by the President together with his party. It is easy to note that there is a problem in this respect, which refers to the difference between the President’s reasoning and the one of a political party. Access to resources dramatically changes political leaders’ agenda. These are first and foremost concerned with preserving the advantage thus gained, and less interested in embarking on risky projects. It has been noted, for instance, that there was some resistance in the party to the modification of the PD doctrine, as the change did not serve the party’s immediate objectives. Similarly, while they support the President unconditionally, the Democrats can hardly conceal their worries as to what would happen if Băsescu moved on from words to action. The PD president and vice-president were elected mayors and, in this capacity, they are directly interested in securing a municipal council majority. Hence the question, what would happen if the Alliance splintered? On the other hand, with all the differences between PNL and PD, and the President’s criticism of the Tăriceanu Cabinet, the Democrats are comfortable in Victoria Palace and are not willing to move out.

Between PNL and PLD

Traian Băsescu is fully aware that the party’s resistance may end up threatening his political projects. For the time being, he doesn’t seem to ask of PD more than compliance at an image level. But a day will come when the Democrats will have to take greater risks, which will very likely be a real problem. For instance, neither Boc, nor Videanu seem to see any point in the relationship with the Liberal Democratic Party (PLD). What will they do when Traian Băsescu asks them to “work very closely” with Stolojan and Stoica? The latter have already hinted that they are discontent. While praising the President, PLD leaders also criticised PD’s participation in the governmental activity, in the Tăriceanu Cabinet. This is what Băsescu would tell Blaga and Berceanu, and a scenario should not be ruled out in which, after having been used as a weapon against PNL, Stolojan is set against PD as well. Apparently the blackmail is already working. On the other side, PNL tells the Democrats that, because of the President’s conduct, they may be removed from Government.

The country’s foremost party

Although the situation is not very comfortable for PD, we must admit it is not tragic either. PD leaders have recently announced that they would leave the arena in the event of failure in the EP elections. They also announced that PD targets a 35% rate in the 2008 parliamentary elections. Contrast the current target with the one three-four years ago, and you will realise the size of the change. From a small and mean party, PD is about to turn into a mighty and powerful one. In early 2005, we were announcing (“Cadran politic,” issue 22, story titled “The end of the PSD rule”) that the age of the dominant party is gone. Shortly after the elections won by the opponents of the “state-party,” all data indicated that the party system was in for restructuring into a multiparty system without a dominant party. For a while the dispute over the PNL – PD merger overshadowed PD’s aspiration to grow into a dominant party, but later the conflict between the Liberals and Democrats made it evident. Headed by Băsescu, today PD stands the highest chances to become the country’s foremost party.

By Arthur SUCIU

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