Having its back against the wall, the power in Bucharest is trying to find ways to survive.
The Social Democratic Party (PSD), the main party of the ruling coalition in Bucharest, is treating its wounds and redistributes positions. The party is traumatized following two heavy blows it has received in only 48 hours. The Social Democrats came out second at Sunday’s European elections, with only 23% of the votes, behind the National Liberal Party (PNL) and slightly ahead the third ranked, the USR-PLUS Alliance.
The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE), a junior partner in the ruling coalition, did not reach the 5% electoral threshold. Moreover, called by President Klaus Iohannis, a declared enemy of the left, and held at the same time with the European elections, the referendum on justice has confirmed the will of most of the people for the anti corruption battle to continue. On Monday, the former heavyweight of the ruling coalition, Liviu Dragnea, was sent to prison for corruption. He will spend three and a half years behind bars, for instigation to abuse of office while he was head of the Teleorman County Council. Dragnea had previously received a two-year suspended prison sentence for electoral fraud.
Let’s not forget that in 2016 Liviu Dragnea had led PSD to a historic victory in the legislative elections, when his party won around 45% of the votes. After only two years and a half in power, a period often seen as populist, discretionary and chaotic, the same man lost half of the electorate’s support in the elections. Promoted by Dragnea himself and seen as one of his most faithful allies, PM Viorica Dancila has taken over PSD’s interim leadership, until an extraordinary congress is held. The first decisions taken by the new Social Democratic leadership rather indicate an attempt to break away with the Dragnea era. The highly vocal and unpopular general secretary of the party, Codrin Stefanescu, has been replaced. Some of the party members that fell from Dragnea’s favor have been brought back. Thus, the former deputy PM Paul Stanescu is the new executive president while the Bucharest mayor, Gabriela Firea, has been reinstated as vice-president and interim leader of the Bucharest branch of the PSD. Firea has sent a message of conciliation to the former Social Democratic dissidents, rallied around Pro Romania party, headed by the former PM Victor Ponta.
In her turn, Dancila pleaded for unity within the party, for dialogue and for openness towards anyone who wants to join the Social Democrats. The PSD leadership decided not to leave power. It is not clear yet if the party plans to abandon the policies promoted by Dragnea and seen by the opposition, media and civil society as an attempt to subordinate magistrates and put an end to the fight against corruption. The new leader of the Social Democrats has also said she would go to Brussels for talks with the European leaders and also to other European capitals, to meet with leaders of leftist parties, in an attempt to mend the highly damaged image of her party, which had prompted the Party of European Socialists to freeze relations with PSD.
(Translated by Elena Enache)