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White March in Bucharest: Romanian Awakening, or Beginning of the End of the PSD?

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By Modeste Schwartz.

Romania – After months of hesitation, during which it seemed that it would never be able to react, the ruling Social Democrat Party in Bucharest finally decided on Saturday, June 9, to take to the streets (a small) part of its impressive electoral majority, so as not to take momentum away from the tiny electoral minority that, still ten days ago, seemed to hold a kind of monopoly on slogans and discontent. Bet won, apparently: hundreds of thousands of (especially provincial and southern) protesters have marched, calling for the abolition of the “parallel state” constituted by the combo “services” (actually meaning: political police) + National Anti-corruption Directorate, operating these days almost openly as an instrument of political blackmail at the service of Western sponsors unwilling to let the Băsescu system go; exalted by the projection of a very good tennis match won by their national champion Simona Halep, they applauded Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă, but hailed even more loudly “the strong man” of the PSD, Liviu Dragnea, who was seen mingling into the crowd (hardly troubled by some provocateurs who were nevertheless able to get close easily thus contradicting the image of a clique “out of reach” that they themselves strive to spread about leaders of the PSD).

Visibly inspired by the Peace Marches organized for FIDESZ by Zsolt Bayer in Hungary, this all-white event (alluding, it seems, to the presumption of innocence, so largely forgotten during “the fight against corruption”) is the culmination of a long march towards exiting the autistic silence in which the ruling majority had remained stuck for more than a year, serving as a silent punching bag for the “civil society” and its anger financed by G. Soros and the German political foundations. This descent of the PSD into the street, which had been discussed for over a month, was initially supposed to take as its main theme the refusal unconstitutional, however that the president (from the opposition “right-wing” National Liberal Party) opposes to requests for the organization of a referendum on defining the concept of family (which, taking into account the prevailing opinion in Romania, would lead ipso facto, as in Hungary, to the inclusion in the constitution of the heterosexual character of marriage). A Gay Pride parade was also organized, preventively, in parallel, the same day, a few hundred meters away; it happened, tiny as always, without any noticeable incident. However, we can see a possible sign of weakness of the PSD in the fact that it finally gave up this theme to focus on the topic of “abuses of the judicial system”: did someone fear desertions from the “leftist” wing of the party (mainly embodied by Sorosite Corina Creţu but with which the very versatile Viorica Dăncilă also flirted in the past) which would have favored the (for the moment rather failed) mutiny attempt directed from outside the party by former Prime Minister Victor Ponta (now dreaming of being the “Romanian Macron”)?

Less transversal than that of the family, the theme of the struggle of the democratically elected bodies against the “binomial” (“services” + National Anti-corruption Directorate) that is to say, a kind of colonial prefecture instituted by Washington and Brussels to limit the sovereignty of the Romanian people until it “matures politically” has also proved to have a strong popular appeal. Displaying outrageous class contempt, journalists from the liberal camp have worked hard to “trap” protesters (mostly poor rural wage-earners without personal wealth) on the screen, asking them if they had personally been victims of judicial abuses; of course, their victims were not articulate enough to reply that the “binomial”, through blackmail, imposed for years (and continues to some extent to impose) on Romania policies (inherited from the Băsescu era) that do not enjoy any kind of democratic support, and that most of these protesters have paid the price of such policies: abusive privatizations (e.g. of the state gas distribution network to E.on Ruhrgaz in the North and Elf Aquitaine in the South, which, in a monopoly position, overcharge Romanian consumers for the same Russian and Romanian gas they have used ever since the Ceauşescu regime built these conducts now usurped by a Western oligopoly) policies of budget austerity (which, like everywhere else, have led to no macroeconomic improvement, but caused a massive economic exile of young people) and imported societal reform (LGBT agenda, political instrumentalization of the Gypsy minority, of women’s condition, etc.).

Faced with this crime of lèsemaïdan, the liberal minority (which largely dominates the Romanian media) has produced hysterical reactions of hatred that also seem to be a copy-paste of those of Hungarian liberals facing the Peace Marches in a little more ridiculous manner if possible, since these “journalists” “horrified” by the pro-PSD demonstration are, almost without exception, those who incented the “anti-corruption demonstrations” organized last year. As we pointed out at the time, those pro-EU and anti-PSD demonstrations, which, in flagrant violation of the obligations related to his status, President Johannis loved to join ostensibly from time to time, were in no way more spontaneous than the PSD’s White March, being organized by a dense network of NGOs funded by the West and mostly run from the “Soros galaxy”; organizing them was by no way cheaper, and they even received visible material support (in the form of free food and drinks) from local branches of Western banks (such as Raiffeisen); PSD-affiliated companies are now being accused of “forcing” their employees to take part in the anti-abuse march, but the multinational companies present in Bucharest (notably those in the IT sector) did not at the time conceal that they granted extraordinary days off to those of their employees who “wanted” to protest against the PSD (without specifying the fate reserved for those who would not have wanted).

This last example illustrates the incompatibility of the (vaguely) autochthonous project defended (at least in words) by the PSD and the type of “African-style” colonial economy that developed after the reforms of the Băsescu era (extended, in some ways, after the fall of the latter by the governments of V. Ponta); no wonder these employees of multinationals, earning 3 to 10 times a Romanian minimal wage, display such a fierce anti-fiscal ultra-liberalism: they owe much of their arrogant success to the de facto tax exemption (through off-shoring) enjoyed by their employers which employers do not refrain, however from using Romanian infrastructures built by those despised pensioners and maintained at the expense of non-exempt Romanian taxpayers (that is to say, provincial SMEs, with Romanian capital, whose underpaid employees were largely represented at the pro-PSD meeting …). Here we see in the most concrete way how the de facto economic betrayal of what is called in Romania the “corporatist sector” cannot not be the reverse of a political betrayal. Of course, one of the most ferocious critics of the pro-PSD meeting, written by an Anglo-Saxon expat, Craig Turp, was published by Emerging Europe, a site among the sponsors of which we find most of the big names in the world of Western outsourcing in Romania.

This civil war of multinationals (in a situation of massive tax evasion) against SMEs (which the multinationals blame for … living on public funds!) and of metropolises (starting with Bucharest and Cluj) against the provinces also includes cultural aspects, that the hostile audio-visual content devoted to the anti-abuse rally never fails to underline with the tasty naivety of recent converts to the progressive religion, convinced to be on the right side of history or even to caricature: while the abortive Maidan of 2017 often enough “degenerated” into street festivals of African drums, techno / rave or New Age music, rural Romania last Saturday went up to Bucharest with its popular fanfares; and if it was probably much less easy to get a joint or a rail of speed, on the other hand, beer consumption seems to have reached historical levels. All we still need to add is that most anti-PSD Facebook pages, in the run-up to this demonstration taking place on the same day as a homosexual pride march, frantically shared the following joke: a father, seeing that his son is preparing to participate in a demonstration, says “I hope you’re gay! and we will have completed the portrait of this Romanian “right” whose class hatred is the only remaining conservative feeling, and which is Christian only on days of anticommunist commemorations.

But let’s go back to the bottom line. The “anti-corruption” press, for instance in the words of Craig Turp, accuses Liviu Dragnea of having organized a “show of force” in anticipation of the June 21 hearing, which is supposed to rule on accusations of “corruption” against him by Laura C. Kövesi’s Anti-Corruption Directorate that is to say: to put party and government at the service of private and delinquent interests. The trouble is that as one can even read between the lines of Craig Turp, who no longer defends the whole Romanian judicial system, but only “a part” of it even some of the Romanian judges, having understood that they had a chance to escape the binomial’s blackmail, have begun to rebel against this arbitrariness unprecedented since the fall of Nicolae Ceauşescu, whose true heirs, in terms of methods, are the Kövesi-Macovei-Johannis team, not the PSD. On May 31, the Constitutional Court declared that President Johannis was abusing his prerogatives by blocking the replacement of Laura C. Kövesi at the head of the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, demanded by Justice Minister Tudorel Toader. The reality of the current situation in Romania is that of a civilian/police coup of low intensity, covered by the “anti-corruption” ideology, and whose purpose is none other than to frustrate a very clear democratic majority of its legitimate power. In Romania, as in many European countries, the EU’s friends are no longer the friends of democracy, and as it is difficult to threaten, as in Italy, the Romanians (whose meager savings rarely reach banks or stock exchanges) with “the punishment which the markets will inflict”, these friends of the dictatorial “rule of law” returned to the good old methods that their lady-patroness Monica Macovei, who was already a prosecutor in the communist era, applied under Ceauşescu: the van and the dungeon. The fact that the only leading Romanian party (that of President Johannis) that unreservedly supports this return to the darkest hours of mass reeducation calls itself “national and liberal” is only the Caragiale-style cherry at the top of this beautiful cake cooked according to the recipes of Balkan Baroque.

Aerial view of the event. Picture: Partidul Social Democrat

But this is also the point where the PSD’s narrative starts to wear thin: in power in Parliament for six years and at the government since the departure of Victor Ponta (who could reasonably be considered as having “divided loyalties”), the ruling PSD still behaves like an opposition party, denounces, recriminates, and does not act. It can certainly evoke the institutional sabotage on the verge of high treason, given its links with foreign powers practiced by Klaus Johannis, when it comes, for instance, to sacking the highly compromised Laura C. Kövesi. On the other hand, it is difficult to see what legal obstacle prevented the ruling coalition from reintroducing progressive taxation, from putting an end to the tax privileges of multinationals, and even (as in Hungary) from renationalizing some of the strategic sectors privatized in an abusive and fraudulent way by previous regimes. Apart from wage increases that are very welcome (and moreover inevitable, in a market where growth is increasingly hitting the wall of demographics), and free trains for those same students who are so keen on anti-PSD rhetoric, one has to admit that for the time being, the PSD has not done much for its base, renewing even year after year the pharaonic budgets of those same “services” that its official discourse accuses of political interference in the interest of foreign powers! For now, deep Romania seems as demonstrated by the anti-abuse meeting, despite Craig Turp’s ridiculous insinuations to still trust the PSD to finally embrace its interests, reverse the disastrous migratory and demographic trend and kickstart the modernization of infrastructures (which a Romania-V4 partnership, in the context of Hungary’s Eastern Opening, would indeed allow it to do). But it would be hard to deny that this confidence is based on feelings, more than rational trust supported by existing realizations and that, if Dragnea takes too long to fulfill its real mandate, he could end up seeing his people withdraw it from him. From this point of view, the very last deadline will probably be that of the presidential elections of 2019, that said Dragnea has a good chance of winning against the unpopular Johannis … provided he remains out of jail until then.

Unless, of course, Klaus Johannis Craig Turp’s “last good guy standing”, who for the moment “plays the clock” keeps refusing to replace Laura C. Kövesi in which case, given the recent judgment of the Constitutional Court, he will be subject to a vote of suspension in Parliament, leading predictably to a suspension of 30 days during which his acting replacement (probably the President of the Senate, Călin Popescu Tăriceanu, at the head of the small nationalist ALDE party, allied with Dragnea’s PSD) will have time to finish the homework he neglected. At the end of the suspension period, he will have to submit to the result of a confirmation referendum, which could hasten the fall of the presidency in the PSD-ALDE camp. In coming weeks, we can therefore expect violent reactions of the binomial, which is now practically on the run.