Anyone who has not been following political events in Romania should read this. Gallagher over-eggs the pudding a bit in suggesting the impeachment of the president could undermine the whole of the EU but the threat to the development of Romanian democracy is real. And the most shocking fact is that the threat is being led by the country’s nominally Liberal Prime Minister.
Now, stories such as this are always murky and confused. Basescu is a former Communist and a shameless populist and he and Tariceanu shared a platform to win the elections of 2004 in dramatic fashion. But his determination to modernise and clean up the nations political structures appears genuine – both from his time as president and as mayor of Bucharest.
Tariceanu’s links to oil barrons might be over-played and there are clearly many committed democrats and modernisers in his party.
But it is evident that President Basescu has upset many in the establishment with his hands-on approach to reform. I was living in Bucharest at the time of his election as mayor in 2000 and witnessed the enthusiasm he was able to generate, especially among young voters, with his determination to sweep away the corruption that was holding back the city.
The Liberals have split with one faction led by respected former Prime Minister Teodor Stolojan alligning with Basescu (again not a simple story – Stolojan was promised a return to the premiership in return for backing Basescu as Presidential candidate but Tariceanu refused to play the game). It’s also intersting how the country’s liberal elite is torn over the issue. Many of them couldn’t quite fathom Basescu: “He’s a sneaky b*stard,” they would imply, “but at least he is our b*stard”. Now, many of them are reacting in horror to recent events and are being pulled further away from the president.
The referendum will be fascinating and complex. I hope that the Romanian people back reform, liberalism and progress.