5 December, 2023
Iohannis said the magic words to Trump that Romanians want more American troops (photo: YouTube)

While Emmanuel Macron speaks that the EU is on the edge of the abyss and the Alliance is in ”cerebral death”, Romanians elected a leader, who stares at the White House

Vladimir Mitev

This article was published on 25 November 2019 on the Bulgarian section of the site ”The Barricade”. 

Klaus Iohannis has won a new five-year mandate as the president of Romanian with an excellent score – almost 66%. His opponent – the former prime minister Viorica Dancila got 34%, and some say this result has been above her capabilities.

By siding with Iohannis, Romanians emit a message of euroatlantic loyalty. In a moment when the French president Emmanuel Macron speaks that the EU is on the edge of the abyss, and NATO is in ”cerebral death”, Romania sided with the candidate, who has the White House’s approval. In the summer Iohannis visited Donald Trump and said the magic words that he wants more American troops in his homeland. The first and probably only meaningful things, which Iohannis did in his first mandate was to gather the party leaders and to secure that 2% of GDP will be given to the army. Now Romania realises projects for multi billion dollars in the defence sphere, which are related to missles land-air, homemade armoured vehicle and a new infantry machine.

So, Iohannis’ election is strategic from the standing point of the state. But it is also a vote, which is function of the desires of the Romanian urban middle class, which has protested a lot in the last 3 years against the social democrats’ deeds in justice. A few consecutive governments of the Social Democratic Party have changed the balances in the judicial system, have dismissed Laura Koveşi from the position of DNA’s chief prosecutor and have temporarily tamed anti-corruption. The urban middle class was repulsed and protested all that time. Now, when the strong man in the Social Democratic Party Liviu Dragnea is in prison, the government of Dancila is down and Dancila herself lost the presidential elections, there comes a time, when the people, who won from the 30 years of transition, feel empowered. The union between these people and the hatred towards the social democrats was what Iohannis relied on.

It didn’t matter that he himself was united with the social democrats 10 years ago, when he was going to be the prime minister, had Mircea Geona won the presidential elections against Basescu. Evidently, neither does it matter that there is a court decision, according to which Iohannis had acquired a house on the grounds of forged documents – in other words illegally. In the last three years Iohannis was “the European” in the Romanian politics and as such it is expected that he guarantees now that there will be no deviations from the “right path” of development. In the person of Iohannis Romanians and their Western parners have a leader, who is pro-western without nuances and without local colour. This is probably the secret of the success of the ethnic German, who is otherwise known for his emotional constraint, lack of decisiveness and sluggishness.

The result of the elections was predetermined, when it became clear that Iohannis’ opponent will be Viorica Dancila. She is criticised for her many gaffes and the lack of qualities. In the last months a large-scale campaign of hate unfolded against her. It was said openly that she is “the stupid (woman) of Romania” – a label, which showed disdain for a politician, but also superiority towards an ordinary woman, who has reached by chance the high floors of Romanian politics.

There was no clash of programmes, visions or different opinions in this election campaign. The Romanian left-wing analyst Florin Poenaru said ironically that the only debates in the election campaign was whether there should be debates or no. The debates between the two opponents didn’t take place. Klaus Iohannis and his team didn’t want to legitimise “the thing”, called Viorica Dancila, her party or her voters, by granting her debate. Many Romanians with social feeling at the end have voted for Dancila, not so much because their vote would turn the elections upside down, but as a sign of protests against Iohannis’ lack of respect to the democratic principles and towards Romanian society, seen in his refusal to debate.

The victory over Dancila was presented by Iohannis’ supporters as a recovery of democracy and of the pro-Western course of the country, as a new birth for Romania. For the Romanians of the middle class the social democrats’ rule was a humiliation. Social democrats are considered by the middle class as less educated and greater thieves than other political forces. When the presidential elections come, representatives of the middle class always threaten that they will leave the country, if social democrats win. At the same time the opponents of Iohannis were angry that a regime is being formed, in which the leader doesn’t even need to announce his position on internal and external political topics. In other words, even a simple democratic exercise is unnecessary. What matters is that Iohannis hates the social democrats and he is recognised by the Western partners. The choice is made in advance.

In the meantime during the campaign Iohannis imposed veto on two laws with social importance. The first obliged the employers to pay the overtime hours of their employees. The second connected the increase of the minimal salary with the increase in the value of the consumer basket for a decent life. These activities were telling about the line, which Iohannis will probably follow in his second mandate.

As a result of the presidential elections the country will be led by a tandem of the National Liberal Party – the head of the state Iohannis and the prime minister Ludovic Orban, who formed a government on 4th November 2019. This means that for the first time in the last years the power in Bucharest will be under the control of the European People’s Party, just as it is in Sofia and Athens. It remains to be seen whether this will lead to better understanding between the governments of the three countries and to more infrastructural cooperation. The expectations are that Romania of the duo Iohannis-Orban will keep stricter the fiscal discipline and will coordinate its policy in justice and finance with the European line. The minister of defence is the former chief of the Romanian General Staff, who realises the cooperation along the lines of NATO. So, Iohannis enters his new mandate with a comfortable balance of powers for him.

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