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Like rats from a sinking ship...

With the elections knocking on Romania’s door, the ruling party is taking all the aces it has been keeping up its sleeve and putting them on the table with a flourish

May 2012 - From the Print Edition

More than once, increases in public sector salaries have been trumpeted. President Traian Basescu, after meeting with the European Council president, Herman van Rompuy, said recently that it was the government’s intention to put the salaries of state employees back up to where they were before the 25 percent reduction that formed one plank of the state’s austerity measures. This will be done, he said, by mid-year, in order to put some extra money into people’s wallets and stimulate consumption.
Despite the frequently rehearsed arguments that Romania cannot afford its public sector wage bill, the lawsuits, the public discontent and the protests, Basescu told van Rompuy that, anyway, the salary reductions were a “temporary measure”.
After having their pay slashed by a quarter in July 2010, state employees were given a 15 percent salary hike last year, and their pay packets would have to swell by about 16 percent for them to be back where they were to start with. Which invites the question: was it worth it?
And yet the promises made by the Democrat Liberal Party (PDL) and the president do not seem credible – even to members of the party itself. Let us not forget that in April, one of the most prominent figures in the PDL, Florin Frunzaverde, announced that he was defecting to the opposition.
Not only did Frunzaverde turn his back on the party in which he had been active for the past 22 years, but he now occupies a leading position in the National Liberal Party (PNL), namely vice-president. He was elected to the post at the PNL congress by a large majority, with just four votes against and nine abstentions. He explained his decision by saying, “One cannot continue with the PDL.”
The departure of Frunzaverde sparked further flight from the PDL. Several senators and deputies subsequently announced that they were leaving the ship. In response to the exodus, top party officials said that the Democrat Liberals and the electorate will only benefit from the departures of traitors.
Recently, the Social Democrat Party leader, Victor Ponta, announced that the Social Liberal Union (USL) currently has 224 MPs enrolled in its parliamentary groups, and added that all of them will vote in favor of the motion of censure put forward by the opposition.
This current state of the Romanian political scene raises several questions. Is it fair that the USL should welcome into its fold politicians that were blamed by the public for not fighting for their rights, and who now, with new elections pending, are searching for an easy way out like rats deserting a sinking ship?
Does this stance belie the promises made to the USL’s supporters? And does any of this politicking help Romania deal with the economic worries – job insecurity, euro zone uncertainty and rising prices – that face its citizens every day?

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