The Drama of Romanian Politics:
The Romanian Presidency Ends Amidst More Scandal
Photo : Traian Basescu, Romania's President
Photo : Victor Ponta, Romania's Prime Minister
Amongst the notorious aspects of Romania, accusations and convictions of corruption, blackmail, and bribery are hard to ignore. Two frequent targets for such claims are the Romanian President and leader of the Democratic Liberal Party; Traian Basescu, and the leader of the opposition; the Prime Minister, Victor Ponta.
Ponta is always quick to advocate outcry against the President, once suspended from office twice since his presidency began in 2004; accused of electoral fraud when winning his second 5-year term, due to finish this December. During the last term, he has made numerous controversial statements; including such about the former communist rule over Romania, and the last reigning King of Romania, Mihai, all alongside cursing aimed towards the heavily critical press.
This latest scandal, however, is one that Basescu insists he has no direct and or indirect involvement with.
It is also one scandal Basescu cannot ignore, as it is a matter concerning his own flesh and blood-his only sibling, Mircea Basescu. Based in the coastal city of Constanta, Mircea Basescu has had more than one encounter with the currently convicted gangster leader, Sandu Anghel, and is even the godfather to one of Anghel's grand-daughters; the "purely Christian thing to do". Mircea Basescu is accused of accepting a EUR250,000 bribe from Anghel, with Anghel hoping that the President's brother would help him dodge an eight-year jail sentence, given after Anghel attacked and stabbed his nephew. The President's critics, led by Ponta, stress the need for him to resign; stating that Basescu will undoubtedly influence the probe and any following convictions on his brother, given his position of power. Basescu denies any sort of intervention on the Anghel case, and refuses to resign.
Unlike Basescu, Ponta has been cleared of his most famous accusation; plagiarising his doctoral thesis, but remains criticised by the President; one previous dispute being over which of the two should represent Romania at the European Council. Despite the court ruling in Basescu's favour, against a man referred to by the President as a "compulsive liar" and an "ogre" during the 2012 elections, Ponta attended regardless. In response, the Romanian people continues to grow frustrated at behaviour more suited to school children, rivalling to be 'king of the castle'-or in this case, 'palace'.
Disillusion from politics is becoming the norm in Romania, with a general distrust towards the government and affairs such as this scandal potentially involving the President. Reactions, where knowledge of Mircea Basescu's conviction exists, only suggests that corruption is expected of the Romanian government.
Anger and lack of trust was openly displayed in public demonstrations and clashes with police in January 2012. This followed the sentencing of the former Prime Minister, Adrian Nastase; illegally using public money for his 2004 election campaign-the opposing party, led by Basescu, won said election. Nastase's four year sentence is being served, following his failed suicide attempt. The Romanian people displayed little sympathy. Ponta later accused Basescu for looking for corruption in the opposing parties, but not his own.
Discontent with the current government, in a country still very new to the concept of modern democracy, is displayed in national polls, such as one conducted by one local "Adevarul" newspaper. When asked which of Romania's four presidents was best suited for the job, Basescu was placed third; behind nearly 24% saying none were suited for the role, and 24.2% voting that the late General Secretary of the former Communist Party, Nicolae Ceausescu, was best suited to lead.
This nostalgic reflection isn't shared unanimously. "It wasn't better. It's much better now" says Serban Riga, a tour guide in Bucharest whom has lived in the capital for the majority of his life, as he waves one hand towards the Palace of Parliament as he drives past it. "America is not the land of opportunity-Romania is. I believe the country will change, for the better, but not in my generation's time."
More positive perceptions on the present and a not-very-distant future, as far as the upcoming December presidential elections are concerned, also do not immediately reflect on an appreciative view of the government.
Riga then drives past another government building close-by and sneers in gesturing again, only this time at politicians in their offices, whom he calls "the real vampires of Romania."
To have a politician, let alone the President and or the Prime Minister, mentioned in the national press is only done in a negative fashion often linked to corruption charges, conflict with the press, and between others in their own political parties, and opposing ones, all of which seeming more suited for gossip columns in glossy magazines.
One thing that is certain, in regards to the December election, is that the opposition leads. Ponta leads very much unopposed, as a 'lesser of two evils', with an overwhelming majority.