22 September, 2023
Ludovic Orban (photo: YouTube)

The screen writers of the TV series “Game of Thrones” have things to learn from Romanian politicians

Vladimir Mitev

This article was published on 10th February on the site of the Bulgarian daily newspaper ”Word”. 

Romanian politics has always excelled in its vitality. There is always something going on there – unions, divisions, agreements, cohabitations between political leaders and parties. That is why the fall of Ludovic Orban’s government, followed by the nomination of the same man by the president Klaus Iohannis for future prime minister, should not surprise anyone. There is even a political joke circling around Facebook. The people from the National Liberal Party (PNL) say: “We propose Orban for prime minister”. Somebody asks them why. “In order not to vote for him”, says the answer.

Indeed, the cabinet Orban has falen after a three month rule without any emotions by the National Liberal Party. The obvious goal are the snap elections. Now, after Orban is expected to receive two times mandate for government formation and every time fails to obtain majority in parliamnet, snap elections will be called. There is even a discussion on a date in June, so that the parliamentary elections coincide with or be one week away from the local elections.

For the PNL to succeed, the Social Democratic Party (PSD), which has close to 50% of the deputies in parliament, should not vote for a new Orban government. This is where another picturesque element from the Romanian political life intervenes.

Officially Orban’s people and the social democrats are merciless adversaries. Orban’s government came into power with the legend that the social democrats have made a big governance failure in the economy and justice in the period from the beginning of 2017 until October 2019. The Romanian middle class and important parts of the business have been demonising the PSD for years as a representative of everything bad in Romanian politics – corruption, clientelism, mediocrity, incompetence. The incomes’ rise and the big economic growth were ignored by the PNL, which put an accent on the increased budget deficit and current account deficit, on the business’ insecurity, because of the ever-changing rules for taxation, etc. It is not coincidental that some of the first measusres of Orban’s government were the renouncement of fiscal regulations, introduced by Dancila’s government, which have angered the financial institutions.

The social democrats and their voters also had their counter narrative. It is being discussed in Romania that Orban’s government came in power after the European Commission’s pressure, which insisted that the Romanian commissar would come from the European People’s Party, not from the circles of the social democrats, who were in conflict with Brussels in the times of the leader Liviu Dragnea, because of their reforms in justice. That is why the Romanians with eurosceptical positions were accussing directly Orban and his men that they are national traitors.

However, “real” poltics means that interests and not emotions dominate. The daily “Adevarul” wrote the fall of Orban’s government was the result of “an understanding” between the two big parties – between Ludovic Orban and the temporary leaders of the social democrats Marcel Ciolacu.

The snap elections would benefit the two big parties from the times of transition. An opinoin poll, commanded by Europa FM showed that PNL has 47% approval. The Social Democratic Party receives 20%. A lot of the small parties – those of leaders such as Basescu, Ponta and Ciolos, may not enter in parliament, if they don’t make a coalition with somebody else. The Union “Save Romania – the party of the young in Romanian politics, which declares itself as the opponent of the elites from the times of transition, evidently loses poisitons and in the case of snap elections would enter the parliament, but with a poor result.

What do the social democrats gain from “the understanding”? It looks like their leader Marcel Ciolacu and influential local figures – such as Bucharest’s mayor Gabriela Firea aim at a good result in the local elections. Orban’s government bound the support for itself with the introduction of two round elections for mayor. The measure would have hit the social democrats, had it been introduced, because the social democrats are strong on local level, but at the second round the right parties unite against them. Firea insisted that there be elections in one round, because that is how she would continue to govern Bucharest. The success of the no confidence vote means that mayors will be chosen again in one tour.

That is how both big parties have won from the fall of Orban’s government and now it remains to be seen whether everything will go in accordance with the plot, popularised by media. Ludovic Orban and Marcel Ciolacu reject that they have an agreement. But other members of the parties have confirmed its existence before “Adevarul. It is seen from the actions that so far everything goes along the plans. Orban is nominated again for prime minister and it is expected that he doesn’t receive the support of the parliamentary majority.

How should we understand those events and what should we expect in the near future? Orban’s government stirred social protests with a number of it measures, which promoted the interests of the private sector in heath care, in fiscal policy, in the relations with the state. It governs now as well, but in state of limited capabilities.

One of the questions is who would govern the country on 1 September 2020, when the pensions will be raised by 40%. For the time being both parties claim that they will not renounce on this increase, but it will make the budget holes larger, unless tax collection is improved. Also, the increase’s revocation will provoe people’s indignation, while its introduction will be a challenge for anyone who rules and could bring him other negative consequences.

The social democrats seem to have internal problems to decide at this moment. As “Word” daily wrote on 7 February 2020 this month the Social Democratic Party will have a congress, at which Ciolacu will try to consolidate his grip on party power. He has a red point in his balance – he preserved the mayoral elections in one round. If the social democrats manage to keep their local influence, they will have resources to distribute and voters, who rely on them. But Romanian politics creates the impressions that it advances from one era of another, with the left and the right being dominant in one age or another. It seems that now Romania enters a period, when social democrats are in opposition.

The Union Save Romania will probably be the losing force in the case of snap elections. This party was created with great enthusiasm by a younger generation, which wants to replace the old corrupted elites. But it is constantly undermined by internal and external conflicts. The party has its beginnings in the ecological protests, related to the gold mining project “Rosia Montana”, but has recently become more libertarian and pro-business. Its ruling elite is challlenged to answer the present situation, when the old political elites set the game in their advantage.

All the balances of power in Romania politics are temporal. Each of the parties has different currents, with one current taking the lead in one moment, and others ruling in other times. For example, now there is an ongoing media story that Ciolacu is different from the former leader of the social democrats Liviud Dragnea, because Ciolacu had proposed for prime minister after Orban cabinet’s fall the rector of the university SNSPA and partner of George Soros in Romania Remus Pricopie. Before entering in jail Dragnea used to claim before media that Soros had declared him an enemy and felt threatened…

It looks like in Romanian politics, just like in the series “Game of Thrones” no hate and no “understanding” is eternal.

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