What a tumultuous few weeks it has been in Bucharest and throughout the country. The PSD (Social Democrat Party) won the majority of votes in the Election in December 2016. There were little or no allegations of voting irregularities. The only issue was that the leader of the PSD then acted as though he was president of Romania and Prime Minister as well as the leader of the Party.
These actions produced some resentment amongst the populace but nothing that caused any great concern. Then rumors started to spread that the Prime Minister at the behest of the Leader of the Party was about to pass an Emergency Ordinance which would allow a number of persons who had been convicted of corruption, but who had in the past supported the PSD to be released and pardon and their fines revoked. Further the conviction of the Leader for vote rigging would also be cancelled.
The people heard about this and started to demonstrate but the Government decided to pass the ordinance in the middle of the night. All very Stalinesque. Then there was uproar.
When I say uproar, I do not mean violent clashes with the Police, rather demonstrations outside the Government Building each night until one night over 150,000 people were in the street. The Government had by then cancelled the Ordinance.
I have found the whole experience very interesting and in a way similar to what happened in 1990 when I first came to Romania. There was a feeling of hope in the air; there was a feeling of “we can do”; there was a feeling that Romania was on its way.
Personally, I feel the same in the air at the moment. All the demonstrations have been peaceful except one when a number of people after a football match between two local teams decided to fight with the Gendarmes. The Gendarmes were however ready in the square in front of the Government building and riot Gendarmes were on hand. The next night nearly 100,000 people demonstrated but no violence.
It is very interesting to be part of the process whereas in 1990 we were on-lookers. I have been in the square with the protestors and felt no fear or anxiety. There is a good atmosphere.
Where will this all take Romania over the next few months? The Government has backed down and I personally do not see the Prime Minister lasting too long.
As to the leader of the PSD; despite his assurances to the Press and on television that there is no split in the party, no one really believes him. He knows he is not welcome in the capitals of Europe as he has a conviction against him for vote rigging although even now he proclaims his innocence. Vice presidents of the PDS have called for a re-organisation of the Party. Will he go? If he did and was replaced by a “clean ‘politician it would do a lot for the PSD.
No-one I have spoken to disputes the right of the PSD to form a government. People just want the Government to implements the manifesto that they used to win the elections and to run a clean transparent effective Government. Romania can do this, but first they need to turn the page and move away from the corruption and attitudes of the past and have leaders who are respected by the people.