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Political fight not over when polls were closed

21 Iun 2004 - 00:00

ION CRISTOIU - June 21 2004

Not even now, at the end of the second round of voting, is one to know for sure which political party won the local elections.

The Social Democrat Party says it won, pointing out the number of mayors it got. The National Liberal Party - Democrat Party Alliance says it won too, showing off the number of councilors it has in the county councils.

The bickering took national proportions when the media jumped in taking the two opposing views too: and this is bound to upset the common sense of lay citizens.
They know it for a fact that of two dogs fighting for a bitch only one is the winner: the one that gets to mate; and yet, here they have two winners at the same time to contemplate.
This nonsense would be funny, had the political fight not turn stronger than at the time of electoral campaigning!
During the electoral campaign the parties were vying for votes. Now they fight to wear the winning badge, not for the sake of wearing the laurels, but for a very precise and immediate interest ...

If the sole aim of winning the local elections would have been presenting the communities with the best candidates possible, then we would have not witnessed this mind-blowing fight over who won more votes. In that case both the SDP and the NLP-DP Alliance would ask their elected mayors and councilors to start their work with no further delay. During the electoral campaign both sides accused each other that they did nothing for the well-being of the citizens who gave them the previous mandates; now it would be the time for all of them apply themselves to the job and show the accusations were baseless.

The only problem is that winning the local elections is not a target in itself for either side. Both of them regarded winning the local elections as a step-stone towards winning the general elections in the fall.
This is why both sides are encroached in a life-and-death spin contest to prove they won the local elections.

The profound Romania, the one of polenta and garlic sauce, is defined by opportunism. Since the 1989 demise of communism, each time the political party holding power showed signs of weakness in the local elections in the summer, every body switched camps and started to support the party on the rise, thus bringing about the latter’s win in the general elections in the fall.
This is why the results of the general and presidential elections mirrored those in the local elections.
It was not an irreversible trend of the electorate, but a result of the fact that the party holding power was deserted by the people in the administration, in the media, in the secret services, and by the businessmen.

This process is taking place because the parties do not have a solid following, made of people who would fight for the party’s ideas, but a weak follwoing, made of people who see the party affiliation as a means towards their own ends.
And the SDP is at an all times high from this stand point. As proud inheritor of the National Salvation Front (NSF), and later on of the Social Democracy Party from Romania (SDPR), the SDP stands out as a party of political cronies. It does not have its own militants, its own die-hard followers (except for those of President Ion Iliescu). What the SDP has are the people of the self seeking kind.

As during its 1992 - 1996 rule, the SDP made sure this time too it won political supremacy with granting favors: for the people in the administration, for the businessmen, for the people in the media. This is a risky enterprise, if one considers that an army of mercenaries when put to a serious test is bound to take a dive quicker than one which is motivated by beliefs, by ideologies.

The SDP leaders are aware of what their past experience meant, and this is why they now focused on posing as winners of the local elections.
For four years now, the opinion this was a party that was here to stay in power was build up with a bombardment of favorable opinion polls, triumphant statistical data, and media avoidance of dissenting views and controversial television debates.
The same spin went on before the local elections too. Romanians were flooded with axiomatic claims in opinion polls that the opposition was weak and the SDP led undeterred.
As public networks did not excel in presenting corruption cases, fights within party ranks, and the hardships of day-to-day living, one could come to believe that an overwhelming victory of the SDP was to come.

This party well recalls the terrible lesson it learned in the summer and fall of 1996: after it accepted defeat in the local elections, disaster struck in the general and presidential ones too. Heads of Police, of the Financial Guard, and of the Secret Services started to serve to a different master that was about to come to rule: the Democratic Convention from Romania (DCR).

Commands were not followed any more, and compromising documents reached the hands of the opponents of the SDPR (now SDP). Businessmen stopped to fund the party, and turned their money to the likely winner in the fall. Print and electronic media suddenly discovered the filth in the SDP ranks, and the greatness of the DCR.
This is why to SDP claim it won the local elections of 2004 it is a life-and-death issue.

Neither the NLP-DP Alliance is made of politicians deployed here from Mars, where everybody knows no local elections occur. They are our own flesh and blood. Furthermore, neither Traian Basescu (TR. NOTE: leader of DP), nor Theodor Stolojan (TR. NOTE: leader of NLP) are former victims of communism, but former beneficiaries of that system. They both worked for the political systems during communism, and then during the NSF, and learned how to exploit the Romanian opportunism.

Since the NSF days they learned to cry out loud they are the winners to get air-time on national television (whose leadership already shows now benevolent signs towards the two politicians); to get money from businessmen who forgot the pay their dues evenhandedly, and gave money solely to the SDP; to get access to compromising files on the SDP leadership, kept in the safes of the secrete services.

Furthermore, claiming victory is also meant to hearten the NLP-DP Alliance’s own following. The parties’ staff in the country gets thus the signal to fight ten-folds harder as victory is near. This cry is also useful to bring tighter together the two parties.

In 1996, as in 2000, the results of the local elections changed the odds and the final outcome of the fall elections as a consequence of the Romanian opportunism.
Would this phenomenon repeat itself in 2004? It is hard to tell.
This year is a little bit different than years 1996 and 2000 were.

In both 1996 and 2000 the local elections in the summer confirmed what the opinion polls stated: a dive in public confidence of the party holding power at the time.
This time, the SDP came as a constant winner in all public polls conducted prior to elections’ time.

On the other hand, the NLP-DP Alliance is a little more than a feat of the imagination. There is a long way till the two parties will forge into a solid alliance. Also, many leaders of the police, financial guard and secret services have too many corruption scandals likely to send them to prison terms, to trust the Alliance will follow through with the immunity to prosecution eventually promised.
And even when these leaders are not guilty of any wrong doing to fear for themselves, the experience of the power change in 1996 tells them that the DCR sacked the local leaders to bring in their own people, even when those leaders secretly worked with it against the SDPR. Also, SDP members own a good number of newspapers, radio and television stations.

Therefore, it is not certain we will witness in the following months a desertion of the SDP in favor of the Alliance. One thing is certain though: we will see the Alliance fight to get as many betrayals in the SDP ranks, while the latter party will stick to its guns ready to reprimand any such attempts. It will be a show to follow, that will confirm the pessimism of moralists. It will be a display of the Romanian opportunism.
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