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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

A Divided country - dangerous prospects

Public protest in Romania has won yet another famous victory – forcing the newly-elected PSD government to cancel the emergency decree it had signed (one midnight earlier last week!!).
A decree (rather than a bill which would have been subject to parliamentary and public discussion) to release many imprisoned for corrupt practices - and to stop the prosecution of hundreds of others (including the leader of the PSD).
More than 100,000 people protested outside central government (just 5 minutes walk from our flat) for several days – just as they had 15 months earlier when a series of scandals eventually forced a previous PDS government to resign. On that occasion, the President appointed a non-political figure as Prime Minister whose government was a mix of technocratic and minor political figures.

The lack of scandals and the ongoing work of the anti-corruption agency (DNA) perhaps made people imagine that “rule of law” had eventually arrived in the country. But, amazingly, the PSD party (inheriting its corrupt Ceaucescu traditions) came back, in the parliamentary elections last December, to a landslide victory – if on a turnout which was less than 40% of the electorate. And immediately declared that it would be taking action to release from prison those convicted and those facing criminal prosecution for corrupt actions of less than some 40,000 euros (its government programme was 173 pages long and I;m still trying to find how that bit was phrased)

Bad enough that this was the first thing they announced – even worse that they made it the subject of an immediate emergency decree with the clear intention of avoiding any public let alone parliamentary discussion. Such is the action of totalitarians - treating the public with contempt. Hardly surprising that people resent being treated in this way….
here's an interesting video discussion from Al Jazeera which contains a good take from someone who had been an adviser to a recent PSD Prime Minister. One of his important points is that the old guard was long cleared out of the PSD and that the current issue is simply that of a fight for survival of the younger political class which has received a thoroughly western education - but which now feels under threat from an over-zealous anti-corruption drive. This goes back to the point I made in an earlier post about the American training of this younger generation which I witnessed for myself in the early 90s as the proponents of the Washington Consensus descended on the country.....

It’s clear that the country is split in two on this issue - with very few neutrals. The issues I referred to in the 2 previous posts have unleashed powerful emotions about the very fabric of the nation - with the revanchist rhetoric of Orban in Hungary and Putin’s minions in Moldova and Bessarabia (added to Trump’s ambivalence about NATO) striking fear into many Romanians. It is significant that the government statement about the withdrawal of the Decree recognised the danger of such public divisions.
Political legitimacy is now being denied by each side – that is what makes this such a dangerous issue. Romania’s President Klaus Johannis is hardly a conciliatory figure, making no secret of his determination to bring down the PDS but with his own legitimacy still in question – he was, after all, almost the only one of some 200 mayors being targeted in 2012/13 for corrupt practices whose case was suspended and then forgotten! And the intellectuals (of which Romania has so many!!) have been all too quick to take sides......leaving a dearth in the space for a more honourable scepticism.....

Much of Romania may be celebrating today – but some cool heads are needed. Talk of bringing down the government so soon after its landslide victory is foolhardy. Already there is talk of the country being "ungovernable".
Cooler heads and minds should rather be focused on holding this government to account for the implementation of those parts of its programme which are not divisive and can help unite the country


Updatel This is the best short piece I;ve read so far about the situation 

And Romania Rising seems a good resource....Bucharest Life  is a bit too ex-pat ("the yokels are revolting") but will give you a sense of what's going on.....

The reproductions are from Bucharest's (first ever) post 1989 exhibition of Romanian Socialist Realism - Art for the people 1948-1965 ? – which will run through to the spring….….A nicely-presented Catalogue (of 300 pages) accompanies the exhibition and is, for the first time for the Gallery, bilingual and well-priced (13 euros). These are more than 70 of the reproductions from my flickr album 

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