Interview with the Romanian political scientist about his book with texts about the classical contradiction in the Romanian society between apolitical institutions/experts and parties/politicians
Florin Grecu is a professor at the University “Hyperion” in Bucharest. He teaches political sciences – political parties, electoral analysis, European governance, international governance. He has graduated from the Faculty of Political Sciences at the University of Bucharest. His doctorate is on the issue: “The construction of a unique party: The National Revival Front”. The blog “The Bridge of Friendship” has discussed with him on the occasion of the coming out of his book “Political/Apolitical”, where an interview with him from this blog is republished.
Political/Apolitical is the contradiction, which explains a lot in Romanian society in the last years. One one side stands the technocratic institutions, which are unelected, own specific knowledge and usually enjoy a good approval rating among the public. On the other side stand the parties and the politicians, who are not trusted a lot by the society, who are considered corrupt, but also represent the democratic vote and a chance for modification of the state policies, which otherwise serve too much the financial and judicial sector, the security, the middle classes and don’t take so much into consideration the interests of the poor people.
Mr. Grecu, your book “Political/Apolitical” has come out from the printing press. How would you present it?
The book’s preface and foreword are written by professor Sabin Draguliln and the journalist Antonio Momoc. The book is recommended for reading by professor Dumitru Bortun.
Often the political things are mistaken for apolitical ones, and the apolitical ones are mistakenly taken for political ones. The book analyses the electoral campaigns in the period 2012-2020 – the parliamentary elections of 2012 and 2016, the activity of the technocratic government of Dacian Ciolos in 2016, which tried to professionalise and make more unbureaucratic the public administration. Also, the European elections of 219 are studied. I have analysed the funding of the political parties and have shown that the small and new parties, such as the Union Save Romania, are the winners of the elections. I expect with great interest to see what will happen with the parliamentary elections in this year.
The book also dealt with the loss of Victor Ponta in the presidential elections of 2014. Nobody expected that Klaus Iohannis would win in the second round then.
The book has collected a number of book reviews. I have reviewed very good books by some professors. I have studied a few books by Antonio Gramsci, which were translated into Romanian by professor Sabin Draulin. I have also reviewed the book “Ideology, State, Dictatorship” by Florin Muller, the book “The cultural representation of woman in Romanian literature” by Aurora Martin. I have also republished an interview, given to the blog “The Bridge of Friendship”. The book is a collection of the publicist activity of me – Florin Grecu.
The tensions between the political and the apolitical characterises the whole Romanian politics in recent times. Could make a recapitulation of how the balance between these two forces – the technocrats and… let us call them populists, has changed over time?
To a great extent the politician needs the experts. Apparently in the ministries and out of them expert circles have developed, which compete with the political. It is seen well in the judiciary domain, in finance and in the fiscal system. Today the politician doesn’t make anything else, but to sign the decisions, taken in advance by the experts.
Another interesting thing is the professionalisation and the independence of justice. In the times of Mrs. Kovesi the magistrates had solidary reaction against the politicians’ abuses. That is how the technocratic and apolitical party has managed to compete with the political. The politician today is reduced to acquainting himself with the opinions of the scientific boards and the professionals.
There was a lot of discussion about the contradiction between the political and the apolitical in “the golden era times” of the anti-corruption fight.
Obviously when the judicial circles are touched, they react as a whole, because they are independent and have different opinions from the opinion of the politicians and the government.
I thought about something else: politicians are often criticised, because in their essence they are corrupt. A lot of protests took place, where there were shouts against the politicians “thieves, thieves”. On the other hand politicians are elected through popular vote, while those people, who realised the anti-corruption fight were not democratically chosen.
What is right to be done and what is honest in a democracy? Who is right? Which is the road to be taken?
Nobody knows the right way. But evidently, there are aspects of technical and political nature in our political system. The Romanian politician has political objectives – to seize the executive power and to govern. He governs, because he has won the popular vote. Evidently, the technocrats are not chosen in a democratic way. Both in Romania and in the EU technocrats don’t have the legitimacy, which politicians enjoy. This leads to a certain crisis of the EU’s legitimacy.
These things have been known for many years. It is very difficult to have a clear idea about what is right. There are organisations with an unelected structure, led by administrative councils, which are not elected, but are appointed.
The dispute between the political and the apolitical is at the margins of ethics. Evidently, the apolitical has a conservative nature and wants to defend the power. Today’s politician wants to synthesize the two elements – the popular vote, which gives him/her legitimacy and the expertise, which comes from the technocratic structures.
There are a few subjects that need to be discussed here. On one hand, we have unelected institutions, which enjoy public trust. On the other hand, we have elected institutions, whose public approval rating is low. For example, the parliament usually has a low public approval, while the Romanian Orthodox Church, the secret services and the army have a high approval rating.
These are known things. Some aspects of those institutions are desired, while others are not. But no institution can resolve the social issues. If a social conflict appears, the press comes at the place of the accidents and reports live, much before any state institutions has started to act on the issue. The public opinion is formed half an hour or one hour after the respective incident. The public institutions cannot act in the way that the press and online space can.
Is there cooperation between the technocrat sector and the political sector? They belong to the same state…
It is true that such cooperation exists. In many countries of the world the state will be transformed in accordance with the society’s needs. In many countries of the world modern parties appear. They are formed around influencer, around civic movements. This is what happened in Italy. The state has to have the necessary means to answer the society’s transformation.
We reach the discussion about today’s Romanian politics. You said that new parties appear. In the times of Liviu Dragnea (2016-2019) we were accustomed to the classical devision between the political and the apolitical – Dragnea was the face of the political sector, while justice and the forces behind it were the apolitical. It looks like recently, maybe after the European elections in the spring of 2019 or after the National Liberal Party came to power in the autumn of 2019, the situation is changed. Who is now the representative of the technocrats and of the political sector? Aren’t the two poles intermixed?
The answer requires a lot of analysis. The political can’t influence the government today. Some other parties should get the power for that to happen. It is obvious that a limited political circle in in power. As John Stuart Mill said – in many cases the decisions depend on the bureaucratic apparatus of the state. A conflict between technicians and politicians would block the decisions.
You said that the apolitical is a conservative element. Where would the change come from in the present situation? If you say that the politician doesn’t exist, where would change come from?
The political exists in some parties. The change will come from the citizens and from the EU, which has the institutional capacity to influence the political. The apolitical functions through Bruxelles. The EU has the capability to influence national politics.
There is a curious dimension to politics – the anti-vaccination movements, the anti-5g network movements. They are interested in conspiracy theories. Do they have the power to change something?
In every society there are prejudices of different nuances. What we don’t see are the superstitions. But they exist everywhere.
To what balance between the political and the apolitical Romania heads to?
You already asked me that. There will be a balance in the future. It will be a government of the professionals. But the political appoints different people, who don’t meet the professional criteria, in official positions. This doesn’t happen in other stable societies. The principle should be that the right person should be in the right position. There are no perfect societies.
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