The state of votes
A new opportunity for the revitalisation of the Romanian economy
R. J.|translated by: Alexandra Marinescu
A new roadblock to Romania’s socio-economic advancement
Alexandra Marinescu| translated by: Alexandra Marinescu
R. J. | translated by: Alexandra Marinescu | 2012. November 08. 18:10
Two months ago, Romania’s president announced that the country would remain in dire economic straits for a year. After a long period of austerity, initiated in July of 2010, the socio-economic situation of Romanians remains far from ideal. The PDL (the Liberal Democratic Party, which currently forms the opposition) clearly appears to have hampered Romania’s socio-economic growth. The accession to power of socialists and liberals (as part of the Social Liberal Coalition) is therefore what the country needs to put itself back onto solid footing.
Victor Ponta became Prime Minister after Mihai Răvzan Ungureanu’s government was overturned by a vote of no-confidence on 27 April of last year. After the dissolution of the shortest regime in Romanian history, Victor Ponta appeared to represent new ideas and promises which could be kept. These assets could help him restart Romania’s economic development.
One cannot deny that the Prime Minister is currently implicated in a damaging plagiarism incident, especially since the National Council in charge of overseeing titles, diplomas and university Certificates has confirmed that his doctoral thesis was directly copied from other sources. But the current interim Minister of Education defends Victor Ponta on the basis of the rule that the Council only has the right to verify works published after 4 April, since older works are the purview of the National Council of Ethics. The plagiarism accusation therefore has no legal weight. The illegitimate nature of this condemnation, rendered by a council considered as merely the puppet of President Traian Băsescu, explains Ponta’s refusal to step down.
Victor Ponta’s government defends the Prime Minister and insists that he has no reason to resign. This gesture also serves as an example of the new government’s solidarity.
The obvious landslide victory of the Social Liberal Union (USL), which received 70% of the national vote at the local elections, was not at all unexpected. It would be unrealistic to think that the Liberal-Democrat Party (PDL), which had imposed such harsh austerity measures, could be re-elected by a majority of Romanians. The 25% cut in salaries of government employees and 15% cut in pensions pushed Romanians to withdraw their support from a party which seemed to care little for their well-being and to turn their support towards the coalition made up of the strongest parties in the opposition. The accession to power of the socialists and liberals could jump-start the Romanian economy. The PDL was not able to respond to the 2009 crisis in a way which would allow Romanians to continue living comfortably. The change of political power, a sign that the Romanian political institutions are healthy, was especially important in this case as it constituted a popular response to the country’s social and economic difficulties.
But in the middle of a contentious period, the current government finds itself facing constant scandals, which explains the timing of former Prime Minister Adrian Năstase’s sentencing.
It was clear to observers that the perpetual power struggle between the Liberal-Democrat President and the Social-Democrat Prime Minister would not end well. The culmination of this political hatred can be seen in the recent events concerning the former Social-Democrat Prime Minister Adrian Năstase. University professor, doctor and renowned intellectual, Năstase projected an exemplary image. His incarceration, delayed by a week’s stay in hospital after a suicide attempt, made headlines worldwide. But this sentencing remains problematic. Eight years after the 2004 start of the trial in which he was accused of having embezzled public funds for his election campaign that same year, Adrian Năstase was finally found guilty of corruption in the “Quality Trophy” case. Why did Romanian authorities begin by trying him? Was this the most pressing case? And why did the trial go on for so many years? The Năstase case is clouded by such concerns. Today, Năstase is nothing but a detainee although his name used to convey dignity and command respect. This man is a symbol of Romanian intellectuals. The way in which he has been disgraced is impossible to justify. Ion Cazacu, Adrain Năstase’s solicitor, revealed that police kept the former Prime Minister in handcuffs after his suicide attempt, and did not remove them until the ambulance arrived to take him to urgent care. This cruel treatment constitutes sufficient grounds for a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights.
Therefore it seems that Romania must not allow itself to be rocked by political scandals which could curtail its nascent socio-economic development. Instead, Romania should learn from its previous experiences, thereby continuing to improve its future.
Alexandra Marinescu | translated by: Alexandra Marinescu | 2012. November 08. 18:10
Romania’s current political climate is one of uncertainty, especially since members of Victor Ponta (president of the Social Democratic Party PSD)’s government are implicated in several scandals. Hopes that this new government will improve Romania’s socio-economic situation are in vain.
Held on 27 April, the Social Liberal Coalition (USL)’s no-confidence vote in favour of deposing then-Prime Minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu received support from 235 voices, four more than necessary for its passage. This action allowed for Victor Ponta, president of the Social-Democratic party and a relative newcomer to the political scene, to accede to power. The numerous faux-pas made by Ponta and by his government demonstrate the president’s lack of political experience.
After two Ministers of Education, Corina Dumitrescu and Iosif Blanc, were connected to plagiarism, Victor Ponta finds himself in the hot seat facing the same accusations. In order to prevent his guilt from being proven, Ponta took the extreme measure of dismantling the National Council in charge of overseeing titles, diplomas and university Certificates. Despite this, the members of the Council maintained a united front and eventually confirmed the Prime Minister’s intellectual theft. Their findings revealed that 85 of the 307 pages of his thesis are complete reproductions of other works which were not cited in his bibliography. The Council, which has no affiliation to a political party, conducted an objective review and based its decision purely on the academic facts.
At the European Council held on 28 and 29 June in Brussels, Victor Ponta told the Spanish newspaper El País that he would resign if the accusations of plagiarism were confirmed. He has yet to do so, although several voices are calling for his resignation (most prominently Vasile Blaga, the new president of the Liberal Democratic Party (PDL), the right-wing opposition party). The Prime Minister should have followed the example of the German Minister of Defence and the Hungarian President who immediately stepped down under similar circumstances.
Victor Ponta, co-president and founder of the Social Liberal Union along with Crin Antonescu (president of PNL, the National Liberal Party) and Daniel Constantin (president of PC, the Conservative Party), believed he would be able to rely on the popular support which he has enjoyed since USL’s resounding success in the local elections of 10 June 2012. Ponta’s party received an amazing 70% support on the national level. However, this outcome is more due to the Romanians’ disenchantment with the austerity programme than to an actual affiliation with USL. Complaints regarding the current government are many, since Romanians have not experienced an improvement in their living conditions and since none of the USL candidates’ campaign promises have been kept, at least not yet. But the Romanian government, facing a wave of scandals, seems to have other priorities than improving the standard of living of their constituents. The political warfare between the two main ideologies, the Liberal-Democrats led by President Traian Băsescu versus the Social-Democrats and Liberals led by Prime Minister Victor Ponta, is still raging, as the Adrian Năstase incident demonstrates. The political power struggle is far from over.
One of this government’s highest-profile scandals was a result of the endless ideological war between President Trajan Băsescu and Prime Minister Victor Ponta, namely the sentencing of former Prime Minister Adrian Năstase (PSD) to two years in prison. This punishment was inflicted as a result of his implication in the embezzlement of public funds for his 2004 election campaign, specifically for the “Quality Trophy” case. The trial was an extremely dragged-out process: the verdict was handed down on 20 June 2012, after eight years of courtroom proceedings. The verdict was without appeal. When the police arrived to arrest Năstase at his home on Zambaccian Street in Bucharest, he reacted in a manner unusual for a university professor, doctor and former Prime Minister. In a display that shocked the whole country, he attempted suicide in front of police by shooting himself in the throat.
Năstase was immediately admitted to urgent care at Bucharest’s Floreasca hospital, where he spent a week. This stay was criticised by some, who felt that Năstase was not being considered as a detainee during this period, although he was under constant surveillance. Why was he not transferred to the hospital of the Rahova penitentiary, which was well-equipped to give him proper care? But more importantly, why did Adrian Năstase attempt such an act? Ethics aside, no one would have expected such a deed from a man who, judging by his qualifications and former official functions, should have been an example for the country. After spending a week in hospital, a period of convalescence rumoured to be excessively long for a superficial wound, the former Romanian Prime Minister was transferred to prison. The Attorney-General was skeptical of the attending physician’s prognosis: Năstase’s attending physician, Dr. Brădisteanu, will be tried for aiding and abetting a criminal (in this case Năstase). This incident rightfully attracted a high degree of public attention. By imprisoning an important statesman, the Romanian justice system irrefutably demonstrated its progress in the fight against corruption.
The conclusion to draw from these events is that it is crucial to always respect the totality of state institutions, since after 1989 Romania has cast itself as a state abiding by the Rule of Law, and it must certainly not cast aside this precedent.
R. J.|translated by: Alexandra Marinescu
Alexandra Marinescu| translated by: Alexandra Marinescu
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