IBNA/interview: Romania’s next president has to sincerely play by democratic rules

IBNA/interview: Romania’s next president has to sincerely play by democratic rules


By Daniel Stroe – Bucharest

Speaking to IBNA, Silviu Sergiu, Romanian political analyst and TV anchor, analyzes the results of the Euro-elections and puts them into the perspective of the presidential polls this fall, while sketching the portrait-robot of the future head of state.

What are the main conclusions after the Euro-elections? None of the parties reached the desired target so who lost and who won in the end and what are the main signals in the perspective of the presidential elections this fall?

It is true none of the parties reached the target they had set. PSD (the ruling social-democratic party led by PM Victor Ponta) scored below the expectations, namely 37%, which translates into 2 million votes. Even if it won the elections, PSD is the main loser because the 2 million votes are insufficient for Victor Ponta to join the presidential race with real chances. Past experiences show us one can become Romania’s president if he gets 5 million votes. The difference in this is case is therefore pretty significant.

On the other hand, even if they are low, the results the rightist parties got have been an impetus for the coagulation process which PNL (the liberals) and PDL (the democrat-liberals) have already initiated. Moreover, the Right has also several credible names for the presidential elections, among which Klaus Johannis who is credited by polls as standing the largest chances of defeating Victor Ponta.

The Right is trying to close the ranks. PNL and PDL have already started this process… but is it enough that the two parties agree on a common candidate in order to defeat PSD this fall or does it also take president Basescu’s endorsement and his party’s (PMP – the Popular Movement) for the Right to maximize its chances of victory this fall?

You hit the nail on the head. I believe marginalizing president Basescu, which the PDL leader Vasile Blaga seems to be seeking, would be a mistake. PDL counts on the act that the 6% PMP got at the Euro-elections represent the whole electoral capital Basescu is left with and therefore it is easy to channel towards PNL or PDL after the first round of presidential elections. The math is wrong though, because Traian Basescu is very credible in the confrontation against Victor Ponta and has the capacity to raise more than 6%. Plus, the president is influential enough to diminish the Right’s chances in the presidential elections, which both PNL and PDL should heed. Unfortunately, as concerns Blaga, resentments are more important than the general interest of defeating PSD.

Is Klaus Johannis in this moment the ace in the sleeve of the rightist parties or are there any other names on the short list that also bear the victory potential?

I think there are several other variants. I think the Right will have two candidates: Johannis running for PNL-PDL and, very likely, Cristian Diaconescu (former minister of Foreign Affairs), representing PMP. But a communication channel has to be left open so that Johannis, who is credited with the first chance of reaching the finals with Ponta, can attract all the votes from the Right before the second round.

What is your portrait-robot of the next president of Romania? Which should his priorities be?

Things are simple. The future president’s objectives have to be consolidating the strategic partnership with USA, tightening relations within the EU and a more robust integration of the country in the communitarian structures, the anti-corruption fight, de-politicization of the public administration, an energetic strategy meant to ensure independence from Russia (shale gas, resources in the Black Sea etc), consolidation of the rule of law by strengthening democratic institutions, support for the Republic of Moldova in its European integration process, tighter relations with the neighboring countries, especially with Ukraine. In a nutshell, the next Romanian president has to sincerely play by democratic rules and stick to Romania’s long term interests.

PM Victor Ponta has not proven, at least so far, real qualities to become a president. He has not proven he trusts the Euro-Atlantic project and we couldn’t help noticing his penchants for closer ties with China and Russia and the tolerance and implicit support for politicians in his entourage to stem the anti-corruption fight. Can he be a president entirely cut off from the local barons that now seem to be pulling the strings in his party and government?

Very difficult. Almost impossible. Victor Ponta is largely dependent on the vote raising machinery that the social-democrats barons control. Basically, a possible victory of his in the presidential elections widely depends on these barons and if he wins he will be indebted to them. And the most important demand the barons currently have is to annihilate the justice system and to block the anti-corruption fight.

Could the ascension to the presidential seat of a rightist candidate lead to a subsequent reconfiguration of the political scene and I am talking about internal movement in PSD and even the possibility of a new government being installed?

The victory of the Right’s candidate will lead to a new government supported by a new parliamentary majority built around PNL and PDL. In PSD, Victor Ponta’s career will be seriously shaken. He will be probably replaced by Liviu Dragnea, a politician under criminal investigation for corruption, namely theft of votes in the 2012 referendum. I do not foresee a major rift in PSD, but a mere reconfiguration of forces among the internal camps.