Comment: It was all going too well in Romanian politics
So, USL comprehensively won Romania’s parliamentary elections in December last year, even though only 40 percent of the electorate decided to vote. They confirmed their control of the government, under Mr Ponta, and took uncontested ownership of all the ministries with nothing but clear road, an empty sky and smooth sailing ahead; all the way until the next presidential election where Mr Antonescu stands ready to succeed the now totally isolated Mr Basescu.
USL is utterly dominant at the moment and they can do whatever they want. They are even re-writing the constitution, presumably in their favor. What could possibly go wrong?
Actually, rather a lot as it turns out.
As many people among the 60 percent who decided not to vote in December realize, where there is no clear program of public policy and general direction set out by the governing parties, only self-interest remains to determine how the coalition will evolve. Obvious competition between the parties in USL is compounded by the endless and equally destructive competition within each group. And the capacity of the respective party leaders to hold things together is therefore, inevitably, limited as time moves on.
Six months into the USL government Mr Ponta has issued a public ultimatum to his coalition partner. It is not a secret that party leaders and their supporters hate nothing more than being told what to do by another party. Parties are simply modern iterations of ancient tribes and in a society where almost everything is decided along the lines of dynamic tribal affiliation, Mr Ponta’s ultimatum seems doubly unwise.
Or does it? Can it be that Mr Ponta knows what he is doing and that, feeling that Mr Antonescu’s leadership of PNL is disputed within his party, he sees an opportunity to further weaken his partner’s position as the presidential elections draw nearer? Perhaps Mr Ponta fears a confident Mr Antonescu in Cotroceni and would prefer to work with someone else. Having lost face to Mr Ponta, perhaps Mr Antonescu will not be USL’s presidential candidate if his credibility within the coalition and his party can be continually attacked.
How long will the USL coalition last? Certainly not for the full term of this parliament, in my opinion. Fragmentation in politics is a process that can very rarely be reversed and where there is no reason to be in power other than to be in power, the downward slope is increasingly steep. However, as we have seen, new alliances can always be formed…
By Ronnie Smith, Guest Writer
(photo source: Photoxpress.com)