… and still only get 25% of the vote.
That, according to provisional results, is all that the ‘Yes’ campaign could muster in its efforts to impeach Romania’s president Traian Basescu.
Whatever else he might be, Basescu is a mighty skillful political operator with a populist touch. A skilled politician in touch with the populace – well blow me if that doesn’t sound like the sort of person a country like Romania might need to run it. But unfortunately in the course of his efforts to change the face of Romanian politics he upset too many vested interests.
Basescu was elected narrowly in 2004 at the head of an alliance between his own Democratic Party (now, sadly, affiliated to the EPP) and the Liberals. A coalition government was formed between the alliance, the Hungarian minority party and the ‘Conservative Party’ (a bunch of chancers who went into the election as ‘The Humanist Party’ in alliance with the Social Democrats – but who jumped ship when the Social Democrats unexpectedly lost).
Having lost the support of all but his own party, it was inevitable that Parliament would vote against him in the impeachment process. But ratification was required by a referendum. In the campaign, the Liberals, Social Democrats (post-Communists), Conservatives, Hungarian Union, and the ultra-nationalist Greater Romania Party ALL campaigned for a yes vote.
As some commentators have pointed out, Basescu’s stunning victory is just the start of the constitutional crisis – he cannot dismiss the Government (which in more established democracies would resign in the face of such a defeat). But with Parliament so united against him, it is hard to see how they can work together. Basescu’s PD and the break-away Liberal Democrats who supported him, must be hugely strengthened as a result of this vote and be chomping at the bit for early Parliamentary elections.
Fascinating times surely are ahead. With a worrying cloud on the horizon. Gica Becali, owner of Steaua Bucharest football club and of his own political party, shrewdly backed Basescu in the referendum campaign. Polls have shown his party consistently hovvering around the limit for winning seats in parliament. Frankly, I don’t trust him. He draws some of his advisers from the (far edge of the) mainstream right. But he seems to draw more of his own views from populist nationalism. If Basescu’s allies win the next Parliamentary elections but fall short of a majority, Becali has positioned himself well as a potential coalition partner and I’m not convinced that would make for a more liberal Romania.