Romania: Balancing two hatreds

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

The fall of communism may have given Romanians the right to vote freely but, so far, their vote has been fuelled by hatred more than reason, writes Ovidiu Nahoi. With President Basescu facing an approval referendum, history seems to be repeating itself, he says.

Ovidiu Nahoi is a Romanian political analyst and journalist. He launched Romania’s first independent radio staion, Uniplus, in 1989, and then worked for the press agency Mediafax, for the daily Evenimentul Zilei and the daily Adev?rul as a deputy editor. He was also the editor-in-chief of the Romanian edition of Foreign Policy. He now hosts talk shows for The Money Channel, a financial 24-hour TV news channel. 

"Romanians are, generally, laid-back, jovial people. They don't place a too high price too on their social life, but they like to live moment with their family and friends by their side.  Perhaps this is the footprint the past has left on them. Romanians have long lived throughout their history under foreign occupations and and abusive local leaders, and as a consequence it is now difficult for them to say when was the worst period of all.

Romanians always prefer to keep  from the business of the 'big names' in politics, whom they do not trust in the slightest. They opt for retreating in the small pleasures that the everyday life offers them. Hence the proverb which has now become world-famous: polenta not explode (the resigned acceptance typical of the country).

However, every now and then, something bursts out. The injustice, frustration and humiliation that they had been quietly accumulating over time, are quickly retaliated in a sudden outpouring of energy and a torrent of hatred. It was this that made the deadly execution of communist leader Nicolae Ceasescu possible and it was this that made the violent and abusive protests of the miners possible (January, February and June 1990, September 1991 and February 1999).  

Since Romanians have won the right to vote freely, their vote has been mostly negative, fuelled by hatred rather than reason.

History will repeat itself now. The new parliamentary majority, composed of Social Democrats and Liberals, plus the conservatives, has devised a mechanism of fast-track legislative changes designed to bring the unpopular president of Romania under the fire of a national poll, the so-called referendum. 

But the result of the referendum is difficult to predict, because people will be torn by two types of hatred. The first one will be the one accumulated over time against president Basescu. The second one, much more recent, will be towards the current government – a government deeply market by the plagiarism scandal in which prime minister Victor Ponta is involved (together with the subsequent speed with which he has made law and high-position changes before suspending the president).  

Although left with a confidence level of 10 percent, the now suspended head of state can still recover some votes from an emotional electorate, even if only by simply exploiting the mistakes of his opponents. It is not known which of the two hatreds will be stronger and who will win. Everything is possible. Once this will be laid down, Romanians will go back to their everyday poor but cheerful lives that they lead close to their loved ones, thinking that they have served their duty."

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