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Adrian Năstase’s victory

Cristian BANU

For a better understanding of the consequences, mention must be made of the special nature of these elections. In case the uninominal voting system is used (and chances are it will be, although we have hardly the best bill in this respect), these will be the last elections in which centralised party structures will have significant sway.

The forthcoming elections: what’s at stake?

With the second cycle of uninominal elections, power will be seized by “local barons.”
It is not accidentally that all parties are pushing for early elections: once elected to local administration seats, most party activists may well lose interest in the parliamentary election. If the local and general elections are coupled, a party will stay on the ball.
Later, “local barons” will find it easier to control party candidates in the general elections, and there will be a shift in gratitude from central lea­dership to local heavyweights. This is precisely why many major leaders are not seeking central leadership posi­tions, but rather try to consolidate their power at a local level, and thus to wield pressure on the party.
It will also be the last presidential elec­tion of some consequence – al­thou­gh the 2009 presidential ballot may also lose its importance. Traian Băsescu’s term in office has proved that the president has virtually no po­wer. Were I Ion Cristoiu, I would say that a president’s job description strikingly resembles that of a village shop guard: by controlling the judiciary and the intelligence services, he makes sure that his friends go about their business untroubled, but it’s still the shop assis­tants who run the dirty dealings; the guard can only provide them with protection.
Minor legislative changes - bringing intelligence services under tight parlia­mentary control - and enfor­cement of exis­ting judiciary-related legislation may deprive the guard of the very pepper spray that he uses on the occa­sional punks, to the effect that the presidency will play a merely cere­mo­nial role, that of a constitutional monarch elected by the people.
But it all depends on Traian Băsescu. If he runs for a fresh term in office, there will be something at stake in the presidential race; the goal however will be to “beat Băsescu” rather than to win the seat. I doubt that he will wish to run, although he might be talked into it by the “good oligarchs,” who will rely on him for protection against the “bad oligarchs,” since PD cannot take power.

The fallout for PD

For PD, staying in the Opposition is not necessarily a bad thing. Its cheap demagogy and populism, its inability to take any responsibility better suit an opposition party than a ruling one. A proof that the party is giving serious thought to this option is that many of its leaders focus on local admi­nis­tra­tion positions.
On the other hand, without central administration levers many of them may flounder on the rocks of the cen­tral budgetary allocation proce­du­re, which is why we can expect some of them to return to PSD.
Also, the result of an envisaged Adrian Năstase-Traian Băsescu race is uncertain. As long as Traian Băsescu was able to guarantee a victory in the presidential race, PD could live with its opposition status. But with Adrian Năstase back in the arena, things are less secure, especially since the PD leader is running out of bullets in this battle. A while ago, Vasile Blaga stated in an interview, “If the party founds that Traian Băsescu is no longer of use, we wil give him up.” While diplo­ma­tically phrased out, the threat is real and it was applied, during the impea­chment scandal, when Theodor Stolo­jan was the only one left on the President’s side.

The fallout for PNL

The battle between “two ex-commies” will likely pave the way for an outsider having no connections what­soever with the previous regime. In this respect, Adrian Năstase’s presidential claim gives PNL room for manoeuvre as an alternative force, without ties with the communist regime. This is basically a battle between factions of the old PCR/FSN, in which PNL may act as a referee and a “third way.” If the Liberals swiftly adjust the tactics they have successfully used in vilifying Tra­ian Băsescu and continue to take pre-electoral distance from PSD, they may secure a better score, by focusing on the question, “Why should you choose between two communists, twenty years after the revolution?” If the Liberals play it smart, they will be the main beneficiaries of Adrian Năstase’s victory.

The fallout for PSD

In 2005 PSD tried for the first time to break away from its traditional role as a former communist party heir, only voted for by people who are afraid of the future. Unfortunately, they wagered on a loser. Mircea Geoană’s stamina and efforts are commendable, but hard work is not enough – not without the brains to back it.
The “dumb” label has become a “brand” that got stuck on Mircea Geoană forever. His awkwardness, as he sat near a triumphant Adrian Năstase and a contented Ion Iliescu indicates that he is over.
For PSD, Mircea Geoană meant uncertainty, first and foremost. A weak leader, he tried to please everybody by pushing the party into several directions at once. But his energy hardly made up for the incoherence and strategic inadequacy. True, he had little help in a party where many chose to “stay out.” It was a matter of time before the party had enough of it and took measures. But it made the wrong choice. Skilled as Adrian Năstase may be, as an intellectual, a party leader or a manager, he first of all stands for the past.
Looking back, I should say that with Mircea Geoană’s 2005 election, PSD postponed the inevitable. Sort of “tainting the communist ideals.” The party now resumes PCR’s slow evolution, back from the mid-90s. Had Adrian Năstase taken over the party in 1996, right after Iliescu had lost the election, there would have been consequences. But now, 12 years later, its too late already. Both for Mr. Adrian Năstase, and for PSD.

by Cristian BANU

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