The Social Democratic Party, the dominant party in the ruling coalition in Bucharest, is preparing for the extraordinary congress scheduled for Saturday.
After one year of technocratic government, in December 2016, the Social Democratic Party - PSD obtained a landslide victory in the parliamentary elections, and together with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats took over power again. But they faced obstacles much harder to overcome than they or their adversaries expected.
Last summer, the Social Democrats achieved something unheard of in Romanian politics: they toppled, through a censure motion, their own government headed by Sorin Grindeanu who became a persona non grata for the PSD leader, Liviu Dragnea. In January 2018, the Social Democratic leaders withdrew the political support for PM Mihai Tudose and appointed to the prime ministerial position an MEP, Viorica Dăncilă, considered Dragnea’s political apprentice and loyal supporter. Meanwhile, the party president, who already received a suspended sentence for attempted electoral fraud, was prosecuted by the National Anti-Corruption Directorate prosecutors in another two corruption cases.
For having dared to virulently criticize Dragnea, formerly high-ranking members of the Social Democratic Party, such as the former PM Victor Ponta, MEP Cătălin Ivan and the mayor of Iasi (northeast) Mihai Chirică were ousted from the party. Perceived as an attempt to subordinate magistrates and to stop the anti-corruption fight, the ruling coalition’s insistence to modify the justice laws prompted hundreds of thousands of people to take to the streets in protest.
All in all, commentators argue that, after so many serious turbulences in such a short while, the Social Democrats did need a political re-start, which they hope to achieve during Saturday’s extraordinary congress, which was preceded by a meeting of the party’s executive committee. The PSD leaders decided to replace at least 27 secretaries of state, a measure they deem useful for streamlining the ministerial teams.
The ministers themselves will be re-evaluated quite soon. Inside the party, changes will also affect the structure of the Permanent Bureau. Thus the body will have 16 regional vice-presidents, 8 women and 8 men. The executive president Nicolae Bădălău and the secretary general Codrin Stefănescu might be dismissed at the congress, given that elections will be held to occupy the positions they currently hold.
According to media speculation, the congress would be the best opportunity for Liviu Dragnea to hit at the heart of the group supporting the general mayor of Bucharest Gabriela Firea who, according to recent opinion surveys, is the most popular Social Democrat. Mrs. Firea has recently said that the whole party is to blame for having appointed unprofessional people in the government and labeled the party’s internal fighting as suicidal.
As to Liviu Dragnea, he seems to have no worries about the upcoming congress, given that he renounced the idea of a vote meant to reconfirm him as party president, an idea that he had previously considered necessary.