This article by Kostas Vaxevanis in the New York Times and International Herald Tribune this week about Greece reminded me of Romania:
DEMOCRACY is like a bicycle: if you don’t keep pedaling, you fall. Unfortunately, the bicycle of Greek democracy has long been broken. After the military junta collapsed in 1974, Greece created only a hybrid, diluted form of democracy. You can vote, belong to a party and protest. In essence, however, a small clique exercises all meaningful political power.
For all that has been said about the Greek crisis, much has been left unsaid. The crisis has become a battleground of interests and ideologies. At stake is the role of the public sector and the welfare state. Yes, in Greece we have a dysfunctional public sector; for the past 40 years the ruling parties handed out government jobs to their supporters, regardless of their qualifications.
But the real problem with the public sector is the tiny elite of business people who live off the Greek state while passing themselves off as “entrepreneurs.” They bribe politicians to get fat government contracts, usually at inflated prices. They also own many of the country’s media outlets, and thus manage to ensure that their actions are clothed in silence. Sometimes they’ll even buy a soccer team in order to drum up popular support…
Romania, like neighboring countries is not really a democracy and how could it be? Will it be one? Some look to the EU to help but how can the EU remedy a democratic deficit?
On the whole there is a lot more freedom in Romania than in Western Europe. People smoke in restaurants and make sexist remarks and disregard EU regulations. But they do not think government is on their side. Romanians do not have a party system which allows people to choose between parties that reflect different points of view.
The essence of democracy is that one party leaves office after defeat to be replaced by another party which brings in distinctly different values and laws from its predecessor, as happened in the UK in 1979 and 1997, in France last year, such as has not happened in Russia. This is democracy, rule by the masses, and this fear of the electorate colors everything democratic governments do.
In Romania parties leave office regularly but the same ‘Structure’ of shadowy interests seems to rule. The 1996 election in Romania which ousted the revamped Communists and the 2000 election which brought them back did represent real change but since 2004 all parties have seemed corrupt and not to represent divergent philosophies. In Eastern Europe it is hard to think that there are coherent right wing or left wing programs. The liberals here are not liberal, by which I mean pro-business, and the socialists are not socialist. There are no conservatives as people do not think there is much worth conserving.
The present political class or their successors will in power for generations. I wonder if real democracy is possible in Orthodox countries. What Romania needs is a public minded elite and a moral revolution from below but it is not her destiny to resemble Norway or England. Perhaps corrupt but not too corrupt; Ireland might be a role model.
Economics springs from culture which springs mostly from religion and genetics. Roger Scruton writes interestingly on this here.
Thank God Romania, unlike Greece is not in the eurozone.
By Paul Wood, Guest Writer
Paul Wood is the owner of Apple Search, the executive search company, and is writing a book about Bucharest where he has lived since 1998. His personal blog is here. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Romania Insider.com.
(photo source: sxc.hu)