The utility value of the far-right AUR party for the Romanian state and for the PSD
The extremist party AUR has been carrying out an aggressive victimization campaign for several days, led by its leader, George Simion, with the aim of projecting the image of a politician hounded by state institutions because the party he leads has come first in the polls.
The victimization campaign is based on lies mixed with truth. For example, Simion burst onto TV the other day after receiving a summons from the General Anti-Corruption Directorate of the Interior Ministry accusing him of alleged political harassment. A few hours later he had to admit that he himself had made the complaint to the DGA.
The latest victimization is the sudden scrutiny triggered by the Permanent Electoral Authority on how AUR spends subsidies received from the budget. Here the AUR has every reason to scream from a snake’s mouth. The PSD and PNL have been spending tens of millions of euros of their budget subsidy on the press for years, in a totally non-transparent way, without even being bothered with a question by the same very vigilant AEP with the opposition.
And why will Simion be martyred? Because the AUR is being checked to see if it is legally spending money on school supplies given free to poor children and free consultations given to patients without access to hospitals.
It’s hard to say whether AEP chief Toni Greblă (PSD) is deliberately playing the AUR victimization game, out of stupidity or on political orders, but the result of his action is certain: it helps Simion validate his victimization theory and gain more public sympathy.
It would be a big mistake to take George Simion’s message to his voters at face value: I am fighting the system, which wants to put me down. It is very likely that the reality is exactly the opposite. Both „the system” and the PSD need an extremist party that is as high as possible in the polls, with its leader perfectly controllable.
AUR has definite use value both externally and internally.
Externally, the extremist party AUR is the perfect scarecrow puppet of the Romanian state. Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu used two strong arguments in negotiations with the European Commission to accept the deficit increase and the set of fiscal budget measures, drafted in a softer version than Brussels expects, without VAT increases and real reforms.
Ciolacu invoked Romania’s spending on the war in Ukraine to justify increasing the deficit by 3-4 percent of GDP and, argument number two, the danger of the rise of extremism in a pre-election year.
Before the Brussels visit, polls in the press had put AUR in first place, ahead of the other parties. Ciolacu reportedly told Ursula von der Leyen: if you want tough reforms, VAT increases and other deeply unpopular measures, then next year you will negotiate in Brussels with an extremist party. A perfectly plausible scenario for someone unfamiliar with the game of mirrors in Romanian politics, where no one is what they appear to be.
The scarecrow has held in Brussels because extremist parties are gaining ground all over Europe, starting with Germany, France, Spain and ending with the Nordic countries. Why shouldn’t Romania also be in danger of falling into the clutches of extremists? The truth is that there is no such real danger. What you are seeing in Romania is a kind of Truman Show, except that Simion knows full well that he is playing in a farce of epic proportions.
Romania is in as much danger as those who invented George Simion and AUR, around whom swarm former officers of the power structures. Romanian right-wing extremism is not genuine. AUR has no articulated ideology and no clear political themes like the anti-migrant parties in Europe, but rehashes neo-Legionary myths mixed with nationalist, orthodox, ultra-conservative, populist, conspiracy, anti-vaccination, anti-Western, anti-Magyar, homophobic narratives in an ideological mish-mash.
Who still doubts that George Simion has always been worthwhile should ask himself what the leader of AUR did in Moldova when he was not involved in politics and how does he explain the discreet support he enjoyed from the Romanian state? Or to wonder how the party emerged from the froth of the sea in 2020 breaking the exact percentages the PSD needed at the time to make a government.
For the Romanian state, it’s not so bad to have a perfectly controllable extremist party at its fingertips, under which to gather all the turbulent currents in society.
Since the 1990s, this is how the „system” has dealt with extremist parties, starting with the PRM and ending with Dan Diaconescu’s PPDD. Better we keep the crazies under control than let them loose, because no one knows whose hands they end up in. Only that almost every time the monster created in the laboratory, the political Frankenstein, gets out of control and tends to go crazy, thinking it exists on its own.
AUR then has definite utility value for those who want to keep the sovereignist discourse alive to temper the ceding of more power to Brussels and thus maintain their influence and control over politics and business in Romania. Here we are talking about groups in the intelligence services, army and police, former officers in the first place, who, once they are dragged to the sidelines, need new vehicles to stay in the game.
By far the most important use of the extremist AUR party is in the domestic political game. The PSD and Marcel Ciolacu have every interest in inflating the AUR in the polls not just to scare the European Commission, but to strike fear into political opponents and voters.
Just as happened with Vadim Tudor’s PRM before the 2000 elections, they are now trying to wash the extremist AUR party of the anti-Semitism of some of its leaders. If the Israeli government itself, through Israel’s ambassador in Bucharest, gets to meet George Simion, then there are only a few steps to be taken before the extremist party can be considered a domestic party.
It would be preferable for the Israeli government not to further turn an extremist party, only the Israeli press has already explained why this will not happen: the Netanyahu government itself is in the hands of extremists.
The PSD has already begun a discreet parliamentary collaboration with the AUR, and Simion’s party is playing the opposition as a front, sparing the main ruling party from frontal attacks despite the major scandals of late. Just one example: total silence following the Crevedia explosion. The only one George Simion asked to resign was Raed Arafat, even though it was a top-down PSD affair. Is this how a real opposition party behaves?
At the start of the parliamentary session, an AUR MP, Ringo Dămureanu, was elected secretary of the Chamber of Deputies, taking over from USR, a move seen as proof that the PSD „continues to cement its alliance with AUR” (Ionuț Moșteanu). There are reports that AUR is also set to receive positions in the Court of Auditors, also on account of its discreet collaboration with the PSD.
Ciolacu is thus signaling to the Liberals that he has solutions if they are thinking of sudden moves, such as leaving the government. A parliamentary collaboration with the AUR completely takes the UDMR out of the game.
The PSD leader said last Saturday that he is not considering an alliance with the AUR for next year’s elections. „I have never planned and we are not considering at this moment (in calculation – editor’s note) and I believe, more than certainly, while I am president of the Social Democratic Party, an alliance with AUR,” Ciolacu said.
The PSD leader does not need an alliance with AUR, but a discreet parliamentary support if needed. For next year’s elections, Ciolacu not only does not want to ally with Simion, but will want to enter the second round with the AUR candidate if he runs for president, following the Iliescu-Vadim model of 2000. The use value of the extremist AUR party will therefore be, in the four rounds of elections next year, for internal use: the scarecrow with which the PSD hopes to convince voters to once again put their stamp on the „lesser evil”.
No one disputes that AUR has a real audience, that under the tricolor flags waved at every opportunity by George Simion dressed in traditional garb, all the frustration, indignation and revolt of entire segments of Romanian society, inside and outside the country, especially in the diaspora, have gathered. This growing revolt is fuelled by the great PNL-PSD coalition, an endless reservoir of incompetence and nobodies put in place to govern the country.
Only that on the discontent of this real public is riding an artificial creation. However, AUR could get out of hand at some point, as has happened with other systemic creations. Nearly all of them turned against the puppeteers when they saw themselves on a high horse.
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