The Romanian elections from a bakery window

The wisdom of necessity arranged for me to meet a few days ago, displayed upon a window of a small store that was selling pastry and bakery products, the perfect symbolical representation of the signification of the Romanian election campaign for the political troubled consciousness of the Romanian people. On three sections that composed the window of the above mentioned store, through which you could take a glance at the inviting products of the fine art of bakery, one could read, written in scarlet-red letters the names of the three assortments of products that the store was specialized in: donuts, pie and pretzels. Under each of these headings someone stuck three posters advertising the faces of the three best known candidates to the Romanian presidency: Adrian Nastase from the PSD (the Social Democrat Party), Traian Basescu from the PD (the Democrat Party) and Corneliu Vadim Tudor from R.M. (the Great Romania party).


Illustration: Hanna Zeckau, Berlin

This presentation, created almost probably by accident and not with a precise goal (the salesman wasn’t aware of the association), has the value of an allegory. Not in the sense of the association between the quality of Romania’s political class and the tempting virtues of good bakery, but, on the contrary, in an idiomatical sense, which expresses, perhaps at its best, the image of the politician in the people’s public perception: “You’re selling me donuts” is the perfect Romanian equivalent for the English “You’re selling me bullshit”. The Romanian public consciousness exhibits at these elections a great disgust for the political class. As evidence it will suffice to take a look at the public opinion polls that show a low participation to the vote. Independent of their affiliation to a certain party, the politicians are generally perceived as not having sufficient moral standards, as being easily bribed, and as using public resources in the scope of personal interest.

Another reason for this would be the lack of variety in the ideological aspect of the programs of the parties involved in the elections. The two major alliances (the Democrat party with the Liberal party and the Social Democrat party with the Humanist Party) have similar offers for the electorate: they have both an ideological affinity with leftwing socialism representative for the peasant and laboring classes that make the majority of the population of this country, and both focus their rhetoric on the urgency of the integration in the European Union, which the Romanians are looking at with great expectation.

Although, the intellectuals and the young people are hardly satisfied by the offer of these parties which seldom care for the representation of these classes, this having as consequence the general disappointment of the members of these categories in the political offer. As far as the intellectuals are concerned, they remained without a clear political representation when the CDR (the Romanian Democrat Convention), a party that continued the Romanian liberal tradition between the two wars, broke apart after the 2000 elections. The intellectuals are currently disillusioned by the components of the now withstanding parties, the great majority of which were ex political clients of the communist regime that enacted during its life one of the harshest persecutions of the intellectuality in Eastern Europe. As for the young people, these are in general feebly politically informed and are showing a growing disinterest in politics, especially because of the fact that the dominating political parties, composed by elders, show duplicity in their attitude towards the absorption of the younger generation amid their ranks.

Another aspect, relevant for the atmosphere before these elections, is the anxiety caused by the evolution of the Romania Mare (Great Romania) party and its leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor which is known to have sustained, similarly to Jean-Marie Le Peine in France, a xenophobic, anti-Semite and nationalistic discourse which plays upon the tensions between the Romanians and the Hungarian minority in Transilvania. Although in the 2000 elections this party managed to get almost 10% of the seats in parliament, in the last period its poll numbers decreased dramatically, this being the cause of the change in the party’s politics which tried to diminish its extremist claims by refining its discourse in a pro-European one in order to expand its electorate.

The pro-European rhetoric is without a doubt the dominant of the election campaigns, leaving the second place in the slogans only for the battle against corruption whose standards are held high especially by the Democrat Party which thus makes allusions to the competence of the Socialist-Democrat Party, the former ruling party, among whose constituents were several persons accused by the press as being guilty of influence trafficking and bribery. As far as the Social-Democrats are concerned, they place their bets on the resources of popularity accumulated during their government, which was caused by the initial popularity in the 2000 elections and because of the slight economic growth in the 2000-2004 period.

Although there are still a few weeks of campaigning and the outcome is still disputed by the two alliances, the result, independent of who will win, will surely bring a positive element in Romania’s political life: because of the closeness in popularity of the two contestants it is expected that Romania will have for the first time after 2000 a strong party in the opposition.

Florin-Stefan Morar, email: mflorin2003(at)yahoo.co.uk

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