EU elections in Romania : local politics on trial

EU elections in Romania : local politics on trial

More than ever, Liviu Dragnea’s political fate depends on the EU elections’s outcome and on the PSD-ALDE, which its numbers will convey to the system. 30 percent is a psychological threshold. Anything extra PSD wins means a good or a very good result, depending on the margin. In this scenario, Dragnea not only survives as PSD leader, but consolidates power within the party. Within the Romanian power ecosystem, he would become the true master.

If a good election result is complemented by an eventual failure of the referendum on justice, Dragnea will say that the public has handed the parallel state a negative vote and condemns the abuses of justice, refusing to answer the questions proposed by President Klaus Iohannis. In the case of a very good result with a failed referendum, it is likely that Dragnea will shortly announce his candidacy for presidential elections in order to obstruct justice even further.

Anything below 30 percent means a disaster with certain consequences. The first to ask for his head will be the barons of his own party. A very poor election score will trigger an internal struggle for power. Without a presidential candidate, the party will implode. If a poor PSD result is associated with a success for the referendum and with more than 20 percent for USR and PNL, then the pressure for Dragnea’s resignation at the top of the party increases exponentially, with every extra percentage taken by the opposition.

Let us not forget that, just two and a half years ago, PSD won the elections by over 45% of the votes. A fall to 30 % or below in such a short period, without major economic crises and shocks, and amid an increase in wages in the public sector, would be even more dramatic for the party.

The 26 May vote is therefore crucial. A PSD success means more than a reconfirmation for its leader through popular vote. All anti-Western, sovereign and nationalist rhetoric will be validated and endorsed by the electorate. At its worst, it will be an anti – EU vote. In other words, on Sunday, voters will decide on Romania’s path for years to come. It is not just a pro or anti-Dragnea vote, but rather pro- or anti- EU, pro- or anti- justice.

The PSD leader has already experienced a small defeat at the final trial term on May 20 in the fictitious employment case. The fact that his lawyers were unable to obtain further delays and that the judges announced that they would rule on May 27, the day after the elections, showed a weakened position. The CCR’s repeated delays on the three-judge panels, which were contested by Dragnea in the hope that he could escape condemnation, have also shown PSD members that something is wrong and that the great leader is failing.

In wolfpacks, the weaker members of the pack very quickly realise when the alpha male is bleeding. This explains, for example, why some PSD mayors have already begun playing other political hands, promising their votes to others. However, in every elections, PSD counts on the mayors’ exemplary mobilization. Any failure can cost the party important votes.

There are also many opinion polls, at loggerheads with each other. Some estimate PSD at well over 30%, others far below this psychological threshold, at just over 20%. Some analysts believe that although Dragnea and the party have managed to exasperate the audience with the continuous assault on justice and the rule of law, started the very first month after elections, the party can not lose more than ten percent given the high electoral mobilization in the territory, because of a well-controlled propaganda apparatus, plus a strategy based on no-limit populism and aggressive nationalism. In addition, the fall would not be so great, as Victor Ponta’s party, Pro Romania, is reported to have gathered only about ten percent of PSD voters, amid party desertions.

On the contrary, others believe that here has been an unprecedented wave of controversy in recent years. Those who see a failed PSD in the election claim that the party not only lost support among those who voted for it in 2016, but that the poor score would be due to the over-mobilization of the anti-PSD electorate. Indeed, there is a level of radicalization, visible to the naked eye. PSD leaders can no longer go campaigning without being faced with protests, blasphemy, and virulent rejection, reactions that the party is not used to.

Dragnea is campaigning in the fields, or films shows incognito in order to avoid new tense encounters with protesters, met at any rally organized in the country. The PSD gave up on a big rally in Bucharest, most likely due to the radicalization of opposition supporters.

How will the High Court judges behave on May 27, when they will pass the sentence in the fictitious employment case ?Will they take the election outcome into account, or not? It’s difficult to give a straight answer. The mere suggestion that a magistrate could make a decision based on political factors rather than on the merits of the case is insulting. But judges are people, too, and the CSM, the Judicial Inspection and the Special Section have already proven to be totally or partly, politicised.

Consequently, there’s only one way to get the country out of deadlock: voting in the referendum and massive presence in the elections. Any absence will cost all of us dearly.

Traducerea: Ruxandra Stoicescu

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