Comment: A very destructive conflict
Guest writer Ronnie Smith writes about the quarrel between the Romanian President and the Prime Minister.
Not surprisingly one of the main objectives of the Social Liberal Union (USL), since recently forming the government of Romania, is to reduce the political influence on government of a president who many thought had over-reached himself. Mr Basescu now finds himself very isolated in Romanian political life as his party appears to be experiencing melt-down. In addition his erstwhile allies in various ministries are being systematically removed by Mr Ponta, the Prime Minister, who continues to press home his many current political advantages. It is fair to say that these two men are at each other’s throats and this is a situation that is likely to continue until impeachment becomes a real option for the government, probably after the parliamentary elections later this year.
I have twice heard Mr Ponta speak in public. On the first occasion he introduced Mr Tony Blair as the speaker at an event held at the Romano-American University, where he confessed his admiration for British Parliamentary Democracy and the achievements of Mr Blair in particular. The second time, Mr Ponta spoke to an invited audience celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, in the presence of the Prince of Wales, where he made clear his belief that an emerging Romania must learn from countries like the UK in the fields of commerce, education, health and the rule of law.
However, Mr Ponta may be unaware that Mr Blair is disliked by many in the UK, precisely because he is perceived as having spent a great deal of time subverting the fundamentals of Britain’s democratic traditions and undermining the rule of law. His unpopularity arises not only from his lying to parliament and the British people about the necessity of invading Iraq, but also his dependence on controlling the media agenda and reliance on unelected consultants to initiate public policy without reference to either his party or Parliament. During the last three years of Mr Blair’s mandate, very few people believed anything he or his government said. He became the lamest of ducks.
A characteristic of Mr Blair’s government was the random character assassination, by his spokesmen and supporters, of anyone who opposed what they were trying to do and we now see that in this respect at least, Mr Ponta has studied his British hero well.
The row between Mr Ponta and Mr Basescu over who has nominal control over the Romanian Cultural Institute (ICR) is just one more chapter in the conflict between the two men. In passing it is worth musing on the government’s main argument, which seems to be that they want the ICR to come under Senate supervision to ensure that it is not subject to politicization. This is like telling the Iraqi people, as the Bush and Blair governments did, that in order to bring them peace their country must first be utterly destroyed and hundreds of thousands of them must die. Peace through war! De-politicization through politicization! So far so good, the ICR is just one more bone for the politicians to fight over.
However, the government’s tactics include an attack on the character and integrity of the current RCI President, Mr Horia Roman Patapievici. Mr Patapievici is one of Romania’s most respected contemporary thinkers and writers. Many believe that he has done an exceptional job as President of the ICR, including ensuring that its work is free from political interference. However, Mr Patapievici is not of Mr Ponta’s party and, indeed, has enjoyed a longstanding friendship with Mr Ungureanu, Romania’s previous Prime Minister and is, therefore, to be singled out for punishment.
Supporters of Mr Ponta have accused Mr Patapievici of being a spy in the pay of a foreign power. I’d love to see any evidence of that. What information is Mr Patapievici, the philosopher, supposed to have disclosed to his employers? Details of Romania’s advanced nuclear weapons program, to the Chinese perhaps? Information to the Americans concerning Romania’s impending space mission to study the moons of Saturn? The sale of the blueprints for Romania’s revolution in healthcare that will abolish the under-reported but serious instance of Hepatitis C from the country within 12 months, to the Russians? Let’s get real!
If that doesn’t do the job, Mr Patapievici must endure the allegation that the budget of the ICR has been misused and public expenditure undertaken without due transparency. OK, prove it, show us the figures. But also remember that Romania has not yet reached the stage in its evolution where a politician can accuse anyone else of financial irregularity without the entire country laughing.
Mr Ponta’s public performances have been impressive so far and people had a right to hope for high standards from his new government. Unfortunately the attack on the political independence of the ICR and the disgraceful allegations made against Mr Patapievici provide disturbing evidence that the old political norms of immaturity, petty revenge and egotism are still very much in play. Now, for example, we see Mr Basescu’s people accusing Mr Ponta of plagiarism in his doctoral thesis. Will they ever grow up?
Romania, like every other country in Europe, has a long list of serious problems to deal with if she is to move forward in these very difficult economic times. Neither the ICR nor Mr Patpievici are on that list and the conflict between Mr Ponta and Mr Basescu can surely not be allowed to destroy everything in its wake. A mature country needs the ICR to be properly independent. A mature country cherishes someone like Horia Roman Patapievici.
By Ronnie Smith, Guest Writer
Ronnie Smith is Scottish and now lives in Romania, working as a professional training business consultant and communication coach. He is also a teacher of political science, a political and social commentator and a writer of fiction. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Romania Insider.com.