Comment: Dark clouds on the horizon for Romania
Guest writer Ronnie Smith analyses the most recent changes on Romania's political scene and their impact over the worrying future of the country.
In the past few weeks the Social Liberal Union government (Social Democratic Party - PSD and National Liberal Party - PNL) has attacked the political independence of the Romanian Cultural Institute, passed an act through Parliament that removes the possibility of parliamentary legislation being referred to the Constitutional Court and continued their attacks on the President, Traian Basescu (Democratic Liberal Party - PDL). Combining these events with the collapse of PDL as a functioning party of opposition to the government in Parliament and the country as a whole and we are looking at a very worrying situation in Romanian politics.
Any government in any country that takes blatantly political steps to bring the nation’s major cultural organization under its control is heading towards censorship, at least, and the use of art as a propaganda tool at worst. Possibly the most notorious example of a cultural organization working entirely for the ruling elite is Stalin’s Union of Soviet Writers and this surely can’t be the cultural model that Romanians wish to emulate. If a nation’s art and culture are not free of political control they wilt and die, like un-irrigated crops in the July heat.
By simply removing one of the important checks on the power of the Romanian legislature, the government appears to be dismantling the country’s democratic system. Classic western democracy depends on a mechanism whereby the Executive (government and Head of State), the legislature (Parliament) and Judiciary (judges and Constitutional Court) are separate and can act to ensure that they abide by the rule of law and do not abuse their powers. In short, the prevention of dictatorship depends upon this separation of powers. Without these checks and balances, a government can do whatever it wants. Do Romanians think this is a good idea given their very recent experience of dictatorship?
The European Union leaves the selection of national representatives at Council meetings to the member countries. It is a purely internal matter but the issue is being used by the government as a further stick with which to beat the current President. At the moment the government is determined to weaken the President as much as possible because the man who occupies the office is of a different party, but they are not weakening the man, they are attacking his office and thereby altering the country’s constitutional balance without proper debate. This too is a dangerous sign for democracy in Romania.
No major political party in Romania brings a comprehensive set of public policy programs before the Romanian people, ever. The parties do not represent any identifiable ideological positions or visions for the future development of the country. They are tribes representing the competing interests of influential people in the country at local and national level.
Romania’s fiscal and economic policy rests with the IMF and the EU. Romania’s foreign policy is tightly aligned with the interests of the USA. The major parties and their leaders have little to think about but playing the game of keeping power for their tribe.
It seems that the Romanian Cultural Institute should say and do what the governing tribe wants. The Constitutional Court should no longer be able to review legislation by the tribe in power and a President who is not a member of the governing tribe must be attacked and removed, before the next scheduled election, as a matter of urgency.
It was reported in Romania-Insider.com that Romania has scored lowest of all EU countries on an index of political stability and state effectiveness. This is not to say that Romania is the new Somalia but there are no immediate signs that Romania is making any progress in the sustainability of its new democracy. One tribe does not represent the cultural aspirations of the whole country. No tribe has the right to remove any of the constitutional checks because it finds them inconvenient; and the office of the President is set above any tribe, it is for mature politicians to understand how to work with and respect the country’s Head of State.
The USL government could be said to be overconfident because they do not yet have the validation of a general election to sustain their new power. However that point is lost because of the implosion of the opposition and the likelihood that USL will win the election in November by a huge margin.
Nonetheless, there is a question to be asked about the USL’s future. When Basescu has been impeached and replaced, probably by Crin Antonescu, will the governing coalition of tribes fall out amongst themselves as the new President fights to regain the powers he helped take from his predecessor? Will the new ‘dictatorship’ implode just as the PDL of Basescu and Boc has?
Can Romania ever move forward?
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.