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The Social Democrat Party Works Hard To Its Own Dismantling

28 Iun 2004 - 00:00

ION CRISTOIU - June 28 2004
The political parties making the Alliance - the Democrat Party (DP) and the National Liberal Party (NLP) - did away with their state of euphoria following the results in the local elections and are working on their lists for the general elections in November.

The Alliance’s candidate for the presidential race has long been chosen as Theodor Stolojan (TR. NOTE: of the NLP). Traian Basescu (TR. NOTE: head of the DP and re-elected mayor of Bucharest) is back at work. In a gesture showing political wit he countered rumors that Cozmin Gusa (TR. NOTE: one of DP leaders, formerly secretary general of the SDP) will be forced to step down, while he also scolded publicly his political protégée, Anca Boagiu (TR. NOTE: DP candidate who did not win the mayor’s seat for Bucharest District 2).

These were obvious displays of impartiality from the DP leader. Undoubtedly, neither DP, nor NLP have a monolithic unity around their top leadership. They are thriving as entities originating in the Balkans … For the public opinion and for the electorate what counts is what one can see with ones own eyes. And so far, the message from NLP and DP is that their Alliance already works as a viable alternative to the current ruling party, the SDP.

Things are totally different for the Social Democrat Party (SDP). The mayhem within its ranks is hard to understand now, when the SDP’s unity before was even greater than the one of the Bolshevik Communist Party of the USSR ...
Nothing wrong with debating the measures to be taken in the time left before the general elections, and nothing wrong with debates turning into heating controversies. What is wrong, however, is turning such discussions into under-the-belt kicks for public display, thus bringing closer the idea that the party is reading itself for dismantling and not for elections. Wrong too is that the debates turned into kicks and blows do not seem to result from serious analyses of what the result of the local elections really mean.

The public statements so far give away that a huge state of confusion hampers the thinking of its members, including the one of PM Adrian Nastase, as shown in his interview with Mediafax wire services.
The SDP leaders seem to not communicate among them any longer, as each and every one of them goes public with whatever crosses his mind but has relevance to his own interests only. Their common behavior shows no closed-doors meetings took place to answer the question: what now?
The ill-thinkers say the disarray of the top-leadership was caused by the results in the local elections. Could the comparison between the party’s defeat in the local elections of 1996 (TR. NOTE: with the subsequent defeat in the general elections) and the SDP’s defeat in this year’s local elections justify the lost compass at the top?
I think not.

It was said that the results in 2004 are similar to those in 1996, and thus it was jumped on the conclusion that defeat in the general elections in November 2004 is also around the corner. Nothing could be more far-fetched.
The vote for the county councils (TR. NORE: which are said to give the closest assessment of how the parties will fare in national elections) brought the DP-NLP Alliance one percentage point above the ruling party.
In the 1996 local elections the Democratic Convention from Romania (TR. NOTE: DCR, also an alliance of parties opposing then the ruling SDP) took 19.53 of the votes, with the Social Democrat Party from Romania (TR. NOTE: SDPR, the then name of SDP) taking 16.28% of the votes.
But the DP-NLP Alliance run as an Alliance only for Bucharest and Cluj municipalities, while in other cities each of the two parties run on their own.
Though the DP and NLP had a sort of non-aggression pact after the first round of elections, they did not support each other for the second round. It would be thus absurd to believe that people voted randomly one of the two parties. Were it so, then NLP and DP would have gotten the same number of votes, which is not the case.

The valid comparison would be to look into the joint results of DP-NLP Alliance of 2004 and those of the DCR and the Social Democrat Union (SDU) alliance, of 1996. Then, the DCR-SDU alliance got 30.8% of the votes in local elections, against 14.52 of the SDPR: it was a crushing defeat. This year, the DP-NLP Alliance is to percentage points above the SDP score: this is too close to call or rather, to foretell defeat for SDP in the fall.

It is unthinkable that a party that loses local elections at this minute score-difference will go into disarray. It is understandable the shock of PM Adrian Nastase on elections’ night and hence his less than inspired speech.
The SDP leaders were honestly thinking they will roll over their political opponents.
Any other party in this big world would not have had such expectations: the obvious erosion the governing brings about, the mistakes done while the party drifted to the right, the corruption scandals - all should have been sobering facts making it hope that defeat will not turn into an all-out disaster.

The difference between the reality on the ground and their perception of it reminds the attitude the SDP leaders had in 1996 and should turn them into a thinking-mode. If SDP would have approached these elections with more self-awareness and modesty, then it would have been able to take in the defeat in a more graceful manner and would not have fueled the idea that the Alliance scored a huge success.
One could understand the first shock following the first round of elections, but not the current disarray within SDP party ranks, when statements should come after analyses well-thought over. The question is: why the disarray still stays?

It stays for a very serious reason: using the local elections’ results for setting scores inside the party. Each party leader goes public with his personal explanation as to why the party lost. They all come with different criteria and different reasons as each and every one of them tries to make his colleague’s defeat look bigger. This is not a fight among crew-men on a sinking ship, but an opportunity to deliver mortal blows to political opponents inside party ranks.

One is free to see now what was going on for a while in a less visible way: the SDP is not a party, but a confederation of clans with opposing interests hence the fierce confrontation.
There is first a division of the party on political and economic lines, like the one between the two palaces: Cotroceni (TR. NOTE: HQ of the Presidency) and Victoria (TR. NOTE: HQ of the Executive). The clan of PM Nastase is fighting the clan of President Ion Iliescu.
Then there is a division of interests along the various ministries, led by the SDP leaders at central level. And then there is another division of clans controlling the various parts of the country, as they are controlled too from the SDP Hq.

A lot of talk has been talked on the local barons (TR. NOTE: name given by Romanian media to local leaders of SDP who also control the economics of a given region). These barons have on their turf their own vassals serving them, while they are vassals of the barons at the SDP Hq. They work as a 2004 version of the medieval lords of Middle Ages: each local leader has his own protector in Bucharest.

The ruling party does not have SDP members only. They are also either the people of Miron Mitrea, or of Victor Hrebenciuc, or of Dan Ioan Popescu, or of Ioan Rus (TR. NOTE: top SDP leaders and also ministers, some of them). To the ruling party, Romania is not a united independent state, but a federation of Mafia-style turfs.

The conflicting statements coming from SDP leaders are caused by their will not give up on their slice of party and of country, but more so from their vassals’ will to not relent power. During the four years in office, these party members / clan leaders did not have the opportunity to go at each others throats. They used the media to blame each other for corrupt business practices. They used the government reshuffles to get more influence in the ministries. But they did not put each other out of the game. Thus the results in the local elections but more so the logic of our political life is an opportunity to deliver the fatal blows.

This stays true also since no clear winners and losers emerged from the electoral fight.
In fact, any clan finds solid reasons to go after another clan and blame it for the failure on their own turf.
The SDP-family in Bacau County long waited the right time for kicking the SDP-family in Bucharest. The clan in Cluj County blames the failure on the clan in Vrancea County. The people of Miron Mitrea (TR. NOTE: minister of transportation, public works and tourism) were waiting in the wings to get into the fight. The people of President Ion Iliescu are also clapping their hands in satisfaction. Though heading the SDP, PM Adrian Nastase does not have the moral authority of Iliescu, or the political leverage Traian Basescu has over his DP. Thus Nastase cannot do much to stop the confrontations from going on. He can only stay away from the fight with hope that that will bring about both their weakening and his absolute rule over them.

During a press-conference yesterday, Ioan Rus (TR. NOTE: former minister of interior who resigned prior to the second round of local elections to show his commitment to his bid for the mayor’s office in Cluj city; he lost) suggested nothing less than a decentralization of the SDP.
His stated political reasons barely hide the real interests: for the party to be fragmented along turf lines, or in other words, to make the reality official.
As the European Union comes closer and room for maneuvering to appropriate wealth gets tighter, the SDP leaders are ready to torn the party apart and hand it over by the piece, which will also mean partitioning Romania’s national territory into officially recognized zones of influence. This would be a first not only in the history of Romania, but also in the one of the European continent; the federalization of a country along Mafia-style turf lines.
This would be the end of SDP, but also of Romania.

Translation: ANCA PADURARU
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