Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Coalition of the Unwilling

I missed the election, being in a country which doesn’t really believe in such things, but as I understand it the results turned out more or less as expected including a record low turnout (which I expect wasn’t the supposed point of the new uninominal voting system). The PSD got a very slightly greater proportion of the votes than the others, but the PD-L got slightly more seats due to the new system. The PNL got the third most, and the UDMR were the only other party to break 5% and therefore get representation. This means that the good news is that both the PRM and the PNG, the two extremist right wing parties, aren’t in the parliament at all, which is nice.

Because of the slight disparity between popular vote and most seats, there seems to have been major difficulties in working out who gets to have first stab at forming a workable coalition, which has meant that everybody kind of milled around for a while partly attempting to seduce each other and partly trying to act strong and tough. Metaphorically waving a leg clad in a stocking and a hob-nailed boot.

The seeming upshot of all of this is that the PSD and the PDL are going to try and come up with a coalition government, with maybe the UDMR in too, though this seems debatable (I’m not sure why they would need the UDMR as they’d have close to 70% of the seats between them even without the UDMR, so why they would need an extra partner is beyond me, but I guess the UDMR made some kind of deal with Basescu or someone else in the PDL) [Note:Technically Basescu is no longer in the PDL because as President he had to resign his party affiliation, but I assume no-one really believes that he has no pro-PDL sympathies].

I can’t really see this (or any other potential coalition) lasting that long to be honest, since the three parties seem to hate each other massively, so I think the upshot is that Romania will trundle along with its leaders bickering incessantly until the global financial crisis really reaches Romania (which it sort of is about to do – I think it hasn’t yet, because we’re a bit behind), and then there’ll be no-one prepared to do anything about it. Still at least we have some palinka to tide us over.


Anonymous said...

Yes, this is the most absurd coalition we've had in Romania since 1989. I understand the need for grand coalitions in places like Germany and Austria, where any other arrangements are either impossible or unpalatable. However, in Romania there is simply no need for such a grand coalition. The PNL plus either the PDL or the PSD could have made a feasible government (with or without the UDMR).

Now, the country is stuck with two diametrically opposed parties who are roughly equal parties in coalition. It would be like Labour and the Tories forming a government in Britain.

The big loser here won't be the PSD, but rather the PDL. The PDL's electorate tends to be quite hostile to the PSD and its perceived corruption during the Nastase government. Indeed, I'd say that the PDL survives through its very opposition to the PSD. Since the PDL and PNL are similar ideologically, I predict that PNL will gain substantially in the next four years as it becomes the new "anti-PSD" reformist force in Romania.

On the other hand, this government could end up being successful. The PDL ministers are probably going to be reformists, while, judging from the media, the PSD ministers will also be the more modern, reformist wing of the party, rather than the ex-communist old guard.

Andy said...

Thanks Mihai. Good to get a more informed perspective than my own.

Anonymous said...

My experience about the voters is this:

* PSD voters are conservatives, who, in Romania, want the things as they were back in the old days of the communist regime.

* PDL voters are economically left-wing, but they don't want to admit it, because they'll be branded communists, so they vote a party which labels itself "right wing". Also, they hate PSD and want a more authoritarian rule.

* PNL voters are economically right-wing.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Thanks guys, this is really helpful information for a foreigner like me living in Romania. I hope that Mihai's last prediction turns out to be the most accurate one.

Anonymous said...

"Simply no need for such a grand coalition?" No? Political consensus might be useful perhaps in the face of the oncoming global recession: Romania having possibly the weakest and most ineffectively reformed economy in the EU27 and being rather vulnerable? On the other hand, perhaps the two "diametrically opposed parties" are simply fessing up the fact that they are no real ideological differences between them in the first place (so they're not really "diametrically opposed" just political clans with different origins) and it's all about pork barrel politics. The more interesting question may be is whether such a grand coalition will open up a political space for some new (or indeed old) populist or nationalist party.

Anyway I wish you well in Romania. Whenever, I read about politics in your country, I always feel our Czech politicians aren't too bad and we've nothing to moan about, although, of course, we do.