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New Romanian politics: tarring everyone with the same brush

Once again Romanians are in the spotlight of the foreign media. This time it’s not the usual round of accusations of corruption or criminality, but because thousands of citizens have been protesting in the capital and around the country for more than ten days, angry at the actions of the country’s leaders

February 2012 - From the Print Edition

As is usually the case, the situation is not clear cut. While before we were seen by Western Europeans as one of the most compliant nations when it came to austerity measures, docilely accepting them, the moment has arrived when Romanians are adopting the mantra, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.”
The spark was triggered by the resignation of Doctor Raed Arafat, who is held in high regard by the public, and implicitly by the new health law, one that concerns all Romanians. So what persuaded people to brave the cold, rain and snow was not the wage cuts, pension recalculations or chaotic car tax. It was a law that concerns everyone and that must be well designed and formulated and its text written with utmost responsibility, because we cannot afford to change the law again and again with every change of government.
Why did the authorities rush through this law when even the head of the Government – after the protests had started – admitted that it was unclear on the details and that some aspects included in the new law were misleading? Parts of the new law draft were left open to interpretation. The draft suggested that if the money were to be used and managed by private companies it would be better, as private firms would better track spending, which the State doesn’t currently do, but just settles deficits and budget overruns.
The question is: why do we always have to turn to the private sector to ensure seriousness and professionalism, and why don’t we fix the state structures so that they actually do their job, the very essence of their existence? Why do we always have to choose the more complicated path when the simplest solution could be at our fingertips? Why do we always pass the buck?
To return to the protests, it is interesting to note the demonstrators’ demands. Leave aside the obviously impossible hopes such as wage and pension increases, because, if we are honest with ourselves, this is difficult given the parlous state of the 2012 budget, despite the more optimistic noises coming from International Monetary Fund officials of late.
The protesters are also calling for the Government’s and President Basescu’s resignation and other such things, but overall their demand is just “to live better”, a theme of the president’s previous election campaign. I won’t go into details, but everyone can agree with me when I say that that there is really room for improvement here. I have never understood why we are condemned to be a backwater of Europe, considering that we are a rich country, where, without false modesty, we should have it all.
But what is interesting is that among the protesters are people, apparently objective, who are against the opposition – bringing to mind the famous slogan under which the government and the opposition represent the same mess. I wonder then, why are these people protesting? Against whom, I understand, but surely if someone is protesting in the street they should also have in mind an alternative, a solution to the issue? It is only logical.
But who? Because it seems almost infantile to say you’re against them all and therefore you have no opinion. Such people presumably fall into two camps: the kind who doesn’t vote, because they think all politicians are the same, or the kind who protests against all politicians denouncing them as thieves, but goes to the ballot box anyway and votes without revealing for whom. Tarring every politician with the same brush might help protestors – and the wider public – vent some fury over the predicament in which we find ourselves. But someone has to run the country. If we write off everyone, who will have the mandate to lead us out of these tough times? ■



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