The President’s mistake. Populism has no place at Cotroceni
„We perceive Iohannis as Romania’s stability anchor, safeguarding the country against ideological and macroeconomic slippages.” That I was told by the representative of one of the world’s largest investment funds visiting Bucharest to feel the political and economic pulse. Within a few hours, Iohannis made one of the most unwise statements in his presidential mandate, by tossing a question to the government that challenges the credibility of the state.
„The second question for the Government is the following: Do you still have money for pensions and wages by year end? Thank you! I wish you a good night! ”
This is how President Iohannis concluded the press statement on Tuesday, held formally at the Cotroceni Palace, surrounded by the symbolic elements of the presidential office. The statement had been a fair criticism against the catastrophic performance of the PSD government in attracting European funds. In the same statement, Iohannis correctly pinpointed the chaos PSD created around the second-pillar pension scheme.
The final question is, however, a clear positioning error for the President. To cast doubt over the capacity of the country you are leading to honor its payment obligations is unprecedented. This could be at most allowed to an opposition leader forced to exaggerate during political struggle, who, in extremis, could hit under the belt.
We know that the president is on collision course with PSD. After one year of quiet performance, Iohannis opened war against Liviu Dragnea and his puppets when PSD began to cut his responsibilities one by one: magistrates’ appointments and dismissals, secret services, foreign policy. Forced by PSD itself to react, Iohannis switched gears and now fires from all positions. Given PSD’s governing, he has plenty of ammunition.
But questioning the credibility of your own state is a communication red line. And the president is not the opposition leader. He is the head of state and has no right to cross this line unless he has 120 percent confidence that the Executive has real difficulties in paying salaries and pensions. From my information, such a possibility is out of the question. But could be the president has other information, hopefully other than that circulated online by various amateurs. But if things are serious, then the solution is different: invite the government to discuss, convene the Supreme Defense Council, seek solutions. And it is only when all institutional tools to solve the problem have been exhausted, the last resort is the public statement.
Statements by the president of a country move markets and alert investors. Even more statements by a president considered the only anchor of stability on an immature political scene. Especially that Iohannis himself has raised the standard of public statements – extremely balanced, argued, cold, rational. Populism was Traian Basescu’s domain, but Iohannis positioned himself in contrast to his predecessor.
Dăncilă government is „an accident waiting to happen,” as characterized by another economic analyst. But presidential populism is not the right solution, however fierce the political war is. The audience expects from Cotroceni cold analyses and ways out from the predicament PSD pushed Romania. Populism is the domain of weak or deceitful leaders holding no cards, but eager to gain points easily.
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