To recap: a government decree last week shifted responsibility for monitoring the activity of the ICR from the president (Traian Basescu) to the senate. The boss of the ICR, Horia Roman Patapievici, is expected to be removed from his position this week. All of this has not gone down well in the world of privileged Romanian middle class liberals, who see it as ‘politicisation’. As we said yesterday, this is nonsense: the ICR has always been political. Patapievici has for years been one of Romanian president Traian Basescu’s most vocal supporters.
One prominent local blogger (whose ‘caps’ key, apropos of nothing, appears to be broken) has suggested that people get out on the streets to protest; in much the same way perhaps that people protested in January against the sacking of Raed Arafat, boss of the emergency service SMURD.
Much of the so-called ‘civil society’ (read: comfortably well-off intellectuals) is also up in arms. Where was civil society when pensions were being cut? Has civil society ever issued a statement demanding something be done about the fact that 42 per cent of homes in Romania do not have indoor plumbing?
Honestly, some of these people have a bizarre sense of priorities.
Well, we can tell you now – in exclusivitate as they say in these parts – that people will not be out on the streets protesting the sacking of Patapievici.
The protests in January were in opposition to the removal by the then government of a popular, even iconic leader of a service Romanians rely on every day (one of few services which delivers decent results). It was an action viewed as the epitome of all that was wrong with a morally bankrupt government. It was only natural that the protests quickly became overtly political.
It is difficult to see ordinary people becoming quite so emotional about Patapievici and the ICR, an institution that matters only to a very small elite. Is the scandal at the ICR the main topic of conversation this morning amongst workers in Romania’s factories or on its farms? We doubt it.
We also therefore doubt that there will be thousands of disenchanted people on the streets later today shouting:
‘What do we want?’
‘More publicly subsidised contemporary art exhibitions!’
‘When do we want them?’
It’s not going to happen, is it?
No, if the privileged classes want to find a popular cause to beat the new government with, then they need to find something that more than a miniscule percentage of the population actually gives a shit about.
This – an infamous 2008 exhibition at the Romanian Consulate in New York, which besides being crap does not appear to have anything to do with Romania – isn’t it:
Do not misunderstand us: we would rather the government did not meddle in the affairs of the ICR. It should be as independent an organisation as a publicly-funded body can be. We also object to sacking people for their political beliefs. But this is not the case here. Public servants must be apolitical. Patapievici wasn’t. (It goes without saying that we doubt his replacement will be apolitical either).
Yet what we probably object to the most is the complete and utter over-reaction of Romanian civil society which – not for the first time – has its knickers in a twist over a bagatelle.