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PD facing the PSD motion

Arthur SUCIU

The Social Democratic Party (PSD) announcement that it would table a no-confidence motion against the Tăriceanu Cabinet came as a surprise to the other political parties. Most observers agreed that the Social Democrats’ unexpected decision was unnatural and highly risky for the party headed by Mircea Geoană.

In a move to find out the motivation for such a decision, the mass media came up with a number of scenarios. In one of them, the PSD president was imperatively asked by his vice-presidents to do something in order to put an end to the decline of the party. The PSD leaders’ actual plan would be to bring about a new failure, and blame it on Mircea Geoană. According to another scenario, the motion is part of a strategy designed by PSD’s foreign advisers. The latter reportedly presented the PSD leadership with an opinion poll which indicates that the situation is far from disastrous (PSD would carry 24% of the vote), and a motion of censure would only strengthen chances for an upturn. 

As we can see, both scenarios rule out Mircea Geoană’s will to table the motion of censure. Mention must be made however that, while the scenarios above cannot be ignored, the PSD president must have had a say in the decision. Moreover, Mircea Geoană may well have been the author of the idea himself. In psychological terms, Geoană, whose position in PSD is hardly comfortable at present, would only benefit from a newfound popularity that would make not only the other parties, but also the members of his own party to tighten the ranks around him. On the other hand, one may state that the vice-presidents in their turn seek to ensure the success of the party, since they are in a position similar to Mircea Geoană’s. A conflict between the PSD president and the vice-presidents is rather unlikely.
     This is why the no-confidence motion was more of a coagulating and reassuring idea for PSD as a whole: a project that may help the party to tighten ranks and stay away from a new crisis. The point must have been that a rise of PSD in polls is out of the question as long as it depends on the parliamentary support to the Government, and that PSD has no other choice but to take the risk. Another factor contributing to this decision was, very likely, the pressure put on the central leadership by the local branches, disgruntled with PSD being neither in Power (no access to resources), nor in the Opposition, and with the fact that the Government supported by this party does nothing for the Social Democrats.
The PSD initiative came as an unpleasant surprise particularly for the political area dominated by Traian Băsescu. A proof in this respect is the coverage in the publications close to Cotroceni, in which the PSD decision was labelled as irresponsible for the country and suicidal for the party (although a while before, PSD not backing a PD motion was rated as a proof of the PSD weakness and irresponsibility). The PSD president was mocked by the media, although this time they had no serious reason to do so. The goal was to induce the perception that PSD stands no chances to come back, so as to counter the attraction potential of this motion for both PSD members and supporters, as for the electorate.
     In a second step, attempts were made at interpreting the PSD motion of censure as a new stage of the negotiation with the Liberals. The motion is allegedly a mere strategy for PSD representatives in the administration to derive material benefits. Furthermore, through information disclosed to sources, attempts were made at proving that PSD is neither willing nor able to get the motion passed, as the Senators and Deputies of this party do not grasp the meaning of such an initiative. These arguments came from the Liberal side (e.g. statements by Minister Adomniței), but also from PD. Emil Boc would not regard the PSD motion as anything but “blackmail” against the Liberals; he claims Social Democratic MPs will certainly vote against the motion. But this seems to be what PNL and PD would like to see happening. Both parties are concerned with the PSD motion alike: PNL, because it would lose power; PD, because for the time being they have no idea on how they should respond to the PSD initiative. But the truth is that the PSD determination and consistency as regards the motion will be proved in the voting, and that PNL and PD cannot rely on PSD’s inconsistency.

Officially, PNL has already announced that they would not negotiate with PSD on either their presence in the Government, or other conditions in exchange for parliamentary support. Which did not make PSD back down and give up the motion. On the other hand, PD conveyed the idea that the PSD blackmail was covert, and that in exchange for certain benefits PSD will have the motion fail. Moreover, as he emphasised the PNL-PSD relationship, Emil Boc meant to suggest that there can be no negotiation between PD and PSD (either officially or unofficially).
So we have a “weak” paradigm of the motion as blackmail, in which the outcome is assumed to be predictable: it will not change the status-quo. But there is also a “strong” paradigm of the motion, in which PSD actually and sincerely means to bring the Liberal Government down. This is the paradigm which makes both PD and PNL uneasy. As they decline negotiations with PSD, the Liberals operate within the “strong” paradigm and force the other parties, starting with PD, to take a position as to the no-confidence motion. All parties have announced their decision on the vote; only PD has refrained from doing so.

The question is, why would PD, which along with Traian Băsescu wants the Government removed and early elections organised, be unwilling to announce that it would back the motion under any circumstances (as PLD has already announced)? PD tries to downplay the PSD motion because this would benefit them whether they back the motion or not. The Democrats seek to minimise the image impact of the motion, so as to make sure that any decision they eventually make will work to their benefit. By deferring the decision, they maximise the benefits—not the benefits of the motion, but the benefits of the PD vote. The result of the no-confidence motion will thus seem to have been brought about by the necessary and sufficient contribution of PD. If it votes in favour, PD will claim that they meant to rid the country of a disastrous government and a dishonourable coalition (PNL-PSD). But they also reserve the right to vote against a text which criticises not the incumbent Government, as the Constitution stipulates, but the 2005-2007 government as a whole. In other words, PD cannot agree with a text in which its own ministers come under fire.

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