Romania has a prime minister. What now?

Romania's would-be prime minister, Dacian Ciolos. Click for source
Romania’s would-be prime minister, Dacian Ciolos. Click for source

Heavens did not fall, the world was not turned upside down, but anyone who fails to see the past ten days in Romania as anything other than a paradigm shift must have a very strange view of the world. The fire at a live music club, Colectiv, on October 30th, which as we write has cost 50 lives, will in future be a reference point for historians of modern Romania every bit as important as the earthquake of 1977 or the revolution of 1989.

For the first time in decades, public anger at entrenched, institutionalised and endemic corruption was fierce enough to get tens of thousands of people onto the streets of Romania’s major cities. At the peak of the protests last Wednesday evening, as many as 75,000 people were on the streets of cities and towns around Romania. That kind of general mobilisation, independent of party structures (the PSD can always get tens of thousands on the streets or into a stadium for Victor Ponta’s birthday party when it wants to), had not been seen in Romania since 1990. It was a wonderful sight.

That by Monday evening the demonstrations had fizzled out without the kind of genuinely radical, anarchic outcome some of us might have hoped for is of little importance. Small, yet important victories had been won. And this time every politician in the country is well aware of the fact that if they do not deliver, then there are more than enough people ready to come out and protest to make a difference.

So what was won?

1. Victor Ponta was finally forced to resign

Having refused to resign when it was revealed that he had plagiarised large parts of his doctoral thesis, or after he lost the presidential election, or after he was sent for trial on 19 counts of corruption and money laundering, Romania’s hated prime minister Victor Ponta – who led the most corrupt government in Romanian history – had, given the scale of the street protests directed at him, little choice but to resign. His government went with him.

2. The PNL was told that it was equally culpable

That the biggest street demonstrations came on Wednesday night – after Ponta had resigned – was a clear signal to the entire Romanian political class that public confidence in them was at an all time low. If the opposition PNL had thought for one moment that the vacuum created by the resignation of Ponta could be filled by one of their own (be it Alina Gorghiu or Catalin Predoiu) then they quickly had to think again. Indeed, add in the general rage against the more jihadist elements of the Romanian Orthodox Church (parts of which suggested that those killed in the fire had brought it on themselves for listening to satanic verses) and there are few sections of the Romanian establishment which have not emerged from the past ten days without getting a seriously bloody nose.

3. Civil society gets its shout

It may well be that Romanian President Klaus Iohannis was doing little more than going through the motions when he brought in a dozen or so representatives of what is known as civil society last Friday to consult them on what to do next. Equally true is the fact that there were no more than a couple of thousand of protesters in Piata Universitatii to greet Iohannis when he finally joined them – as he promised he would – on Sunday night. Yet both points are irrelevant. What’s important is that for the first time ever, civil society has its foot in the door of the presidential palace. In a country in which all political parties are morally bankrupt and no longer able to command public trust, it’s clear that Romanian civil society has an important role to play in the coming months, perhaps years. That Iohannis is prepared to give them his ear is a huge step in the right direction.

4. Romania has a new prime minister

Iohannis yesterday handed former European Commissioner Dacian Ciolos the opportunity to form a government. Non-political (at home at least: in Brussels he is a member of the centre-right PPE group), Ciolos – who is 46 – has an outstanding CV and will almost certainly see his government (likely to be made of equally non-political names) approved by parliament. Even the PSD is unlikely to vote against it at this stage. Ciolos certainly fulfills the first and most important criteria required of Romania’s new prime minister – to be squeaky clean – and as a capable administrator who successfully held one of the most politically difficult EU portfolios (agriculture) he has as good a chance of anyone as making a go of it. He will not be helped by a parliament which remains dominated by the PSD, but as long as he can retain the support of the streets, he will be more powerful than most commentators expect.

So what should he do first to keep the mob onside?

Well, he could start by tackling the list civil society put forward last week. This list includes:

– Handing more power to the Romanian anti-corrpution unit, the DNA
– Creating an agency to recover money stolen from the state by convicted criminals (including politicians). There is a vote on this matter in parliament today. The result will show which way the wind is blowing
– Sack managers of under-performing and corrupt government-owned businesses
– Introduce a lower threshold for parties wanting to enter parliament (or do away with the threshold entirely)
– Reintroduce two-round elections for mayor
– Sack all mayors and local councillors who have changed party since election (there are more than 6000)

We wish him luck, and – for the time being – he has our support. For what it’s worth.

  • Mr Rearguard
  • Mr Rearguard
  • FV

    So the DNA needs more power. I hope they get it. This way, they will be robbed (pun intended) of any credible excuses if they don’t start going after the corrupt bigwigs in PNL /PDL just as vigorously as they did with those in PSD.

    • CommonSense-Less

      Agreed that they should go after all corruption, not just one party. But, do you have any evidence that they are targeting just PSD? Genuine question, I’ve not looked into it.

      • There is no anti-PSD bias. Plenty of non PSD bigwigs have gone down (Fenechiu, Copos, Becali, Voiculescu). Patriciu would have too had he not died first. Udrea will go away soon, so will Oprescu. No, the only reason it looks as though the PSD is being targeted is simply because there are more crooks in the PSD than the other parties.

        • CommonSense-Less

          Thought that may be the case.

      • FV

        I haven’t said that they are targeting just the PSD. What I’m saying is that they are not targeting the corrupt politicians of the former PDL. In other words, my concern is that the DNA is politicized. How else would you explain that Blaga, Băsescu etc, have not been arrested yet? What’s the DNA’s excuse? Not enough manpower or funding? Let them have it and let them do their job. And they should do it impartially.

  • They could privatise most state owned companies and use the money to improve infrastructure.

  • Root-of-Vexation

    So Romania has installed a former EUssr commissioner as the Prime Minister – but there’s no democratic vote for this process I assume?

    You couldn’t make it up !!!

    I’m sure Brussels is very happy one of their own is now in charge – the economic prison of the euro currency here Romania comes !!!

    • I’d say he was the most democratically appointed PM in recent Romanian history. Your attachment to elections as the be all and end all of the democratic process is baffling.

      • CommonSense-less

        Roger again showing he has no understanding of the things he talks about.
        He has been selected by the democratically elected president to try and form a government. Once he’s proposed his ministers, the democratically elected parliament will vote on behalf of the people who elected them on whether or not to accept the proposed appointments.
        This is how a representative democracy works.

      • Root-of-Vexation

        Well done Craig for actually spotting my question mark and the obvious fact I was asking if it was a democratic process – because I’ve been raised to “ask” using a question mark “?” If you don’t know … Looks like the stalker didn’t notice that, but I’ve ignored his angry rant 🙂

        Anyway thanks for informing me in a mature manner Craig, and actually to answer your point – NO I don’t think elections are the be all and end all of the perfect democratic process!

        I actually agree with you, in the sense that the UK has a flawed process of elections in a democratic sense – as it’s not proportional representation, hence your party (the greens) and UKIP – although having millions of voters, are only represented by 2 MP’s between them!!! I’m sure we agree on that …

        You’re obviously well up on Romanian politics – much more than I am, so thanks again for answering my query.

        As much as you’ll not like my last point, I’m quite sure the big wigs of Brusells will be over the moon they’ve got a spy in the camp in the form of a previous commissioner – how very convenient !

        • CommonSense-Less

          Maybe if you didn’t revel in ignorance Roger, then you may actually learn something about the world in which you live instead of looking like the village idiot.
          The UK had a democratic referendum to decided whether or not to change the electoral system, and the public chose to keep FPTP. Crying about the hilarious UKIP defeat is simply you deciding that UKIP are unable to compete on the same playing field as everyone else.
          I look forward to your excuses when the UK vote to remain in the EU.

          • Root-of-Vexation

            Oh dear, I’ve already stated numerous times I fully expect the outcome of the referendum to be the UK staying in the EUssr – so you’re wrong on that.

            The first part of your rant doesn’t even make sense? I’ve not ‘cried’ about a UKIP defeat, as I don’t even know what defeat you’re even ranting on about – so you’re wrong once again.

            I do raise a smile when you keep hurling abuse at me and call me a village idiot, you’re quite clearly not the brightest yourself 🙂

            Now, is this angry and abusive staking going to continue ?

            Or are you going to calm down and stop ruining the forum – your obsession borders on perhaps having some form of mental disorder or a mid life crisis perhaps ?

            I think people like you who keep getting angry with strangers and spelling on the internet is a definite sign you’re not happy in your life.

            Get help mate, there’s more to life than this …

            You’d make a cracking ambassador for your beloved undemocratic EUssr 🙂

            Thanks for reading, and don’t let an idiot like me anger you so much – or you’re in danger of being an angry hypocrite whose hooked on the every word of someone whose as thick as me!

            Why would a man who claims to be so intelligent, successful, rich etc etc …. Waste a second of your time on an idiot like me LOL 🙂

            #ontheendofmyrod

            • CommonSense-Less

              Ahh the whole ‘huh I can’t read past a couple of posts and have no idea what you were talking about; honest gov! But I can post a whole bunch of ad hominem instead!’ part of your cycle.

              Remember when you were impersonating Geronimo and Craig had to purge your posts after UKIP got a kicking in the general election? You were stating the same bullshit FPTP/PR back then. That was hilarious.

            • Root-of-Vexation

              Never impersonated Geronimo – so you’re wrong again.

              And as everyone can see, it’s you whose so obsessed that you have been impersonating or mocking fellow forum users for years now – you’re latest username is an attempt to mock and mimic me!

              Anyway – I’ll do my very best to ignore the majority of your childish attacks and worryingly weird stalking … I mean why would a man who boasts and claims all you do – waste a second of your time on me ? (Genuine question) You come across as an unpleasant troll, whose clearly rattled by people on the Internet … I thought Davina was your latest obsession anyway ? Why are you back ruining the forum stalking me – I’d have thought you’re too intelligent for that ?

              But alas I’m being sarcastic, as you, I and I suspect quite a few others know what type of man you are 😉

              I’ll keep doing my best to ignore you – for the good of the forum, but I’ll be humble enough to concede … I find it hard to resist pointing out your anger strewn lies in your posts.

              Are you going to apologise for lying, impersonating posters, stalking, posting abuse and bullying a women?

              Of course you’re not, you’re too much of a tragic middle aged troll 🙂

              Av a gud nite an dont let me get 2 u wiv my posts – remember ur better then that cos ur intellegent and proper sucessfull and never wrong LOL

            • Root-of-Meltdowns

              That’s a lot of words Roger. You always seem to go on the defensive whenever someone points out you’ve made an idiotic statement again.

            • Root-of-Vexation

              I knew I’d make you mad, but not mad enough to implode and mimic my username yet again 🙂

              You’re one weird obsessed individual – I knew I’d touched a nerve when I guessed you prey on Eastern European vulnerable and impressionable girls … Is that why you attack Davina so much, along with your homophobic abuse, bullying of women and mocking of poorer Romanians?

              I hope Craig can see your latest childish antics and bans your IP address … You bring nothing but abuse and a weird brand of stalking to the forum.

              I don’t know why you allow me to upset you to these lengths ?

              It’s only words from a stranger on the Internet … It’s not my fault you’re unhappy with your life. I just point out some home truths 😉

              I’ve come across your types before though – you accuse everyone else of the same stuff you do yourself lol … Hardly a solid standing to claim superior intelligence over !

              It was only a few hours ago you were ranting on about me impersonating people and here you are doing just that lol

              Clearly by your own actions, you’re not the brightest – or is it because I literally make you so angry inside … You react like this PMSL :))))

            • Root-of-long drawn out ‘you mad?’ posts

              Haha caught a big one 🙂

            • Root-of-Vexation
  • radu

    Most of the things on your list are acts of Parliament, as you are well aware. Nevertheless, he is an incredible breath of fresh air. 🙂 I, for one, cannot wait for the ‘proud Romanians’ to show themselves and start the bullshit factory about how he is… I don’t know, anything.

    • He was yesterday being labelled by one commentator on Antena 3 (quelle surprise) as a ‘taran’ (he is from Zalau). If that’s the worst they can come up with…

      My guess is that they will find some stick to beat him with, probably something he did while a commissioner, probably an initiative that they will claim was not in Romania’s best interests (ignoring the fact that commissioners are legally bound to act in Europe’s best interests, not merely their home country’s).