Surprising Resilience of Romanian Social-Democrats

EBRD EE outlook on Romania

Read the latest Outlook on Romania 2017 special report


Clara Volintiru

About Clara Volintiru

Clara Volintiru is an associate professor in the Department of International Business and Economics (REI), at the Bucharest University of Economic Studies (ASE). She graduated from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and has been involved in various international research projects in the field of behavioural studies, good governance, informal exchanges and political economy. She has been a consultant for international organisations such as the World Bank, European Commission, Eurofound, Committee of Regions, and Partnership for Research in International Affairs and Development (PRIAD), or Romanian think tanks such as CAESAR Foundation, Centre for Indochina Studies or Strategikon.

In the current European context, not many European leftist parties are successful in elections. From Western Europe to the new democracies, either populism or anti-establishment parties are seizing the moment. On the other hand, the Romanian Social-Democrats (PSD) held a steady grip on their electoral share, with a sweeping 45 per cent in the national elections, less than a year ago.

As one of the major parties in power, during the entire post-communist period, PSD has managed to survive and adapt to larger EU trends, as well as grass-roots’ realities. Even though it is a successor party, and often tainted by corruption, PSD has placed Romania on the path to EU integration and has ensured its NATO membership.

Still, neither its governmental failures nor its successes explain its steady grip on political power. Rather, its recipe for success is something that few other parties manage to have today: roots in society!

Many parties in Europe have grown increasingly reliant on the state, and PSD is no exception. Much like their Western counterparts, the main Romanian parties have developed a cartel that mobilises state resources to suit their own interest. Central and Eastern European cartel parties fuel their organisations and supporters partly through public subsidies but mostly through state capture, thus transforming public goods into club goods. PSD‘s vast territorial network ensures an additional advantage, of distributing the captured resources through the consolidated informal networks of client exchanges.

Since the very beginning of the Grindeanu cabinet, they have made their goal rather clear: of seizing discretionary control over public resources. But, the cabinet also has the major task of easing the anti-corruption legislation. With various scandals having affected the National Anti-corruption Agency (DNA) over the course of this year, such changes would have been possible with large public consultations and inclusive deliberations. However, they were done hastily, last winter, in order to officially bring the party leader, Liviu Dragnea, to the head of the government and they were extremely contentious.

The largest protests since the 1989 Revolution reflected the high public sensitivity and awareness. The protests also showed the limits of PSD’s popular support from younger urban professionals.

Numerous MPs from both the PSD ruling party and the opposition (PNL) are in specialty commissions, supporting the initiative to amend the criminal and criminal procedure codes. While the public justification for this exists in a certain level of ambiguity regarding criminal offences in public office (e.g. influence peddling), the motivation for both of the largest parties in Romania, to support such amendments, is to safeguard their elite from pending investigations or court decisions. Given this personal motivation, it is highly likely that some form of revision will take place in the months following the summer break of parliamentary sessions.

One of the latest developments suggests that an alternative way of implementing discretionary control over public institutions in Romania is the latest legislative provision to suspend Corporate Governance procedures (i.e. L111/2016) for various SOEs, which de facto increases the governing coalition’s control over them. It is amplified by critical delays in management recruitment and questionable political intermediary appointments.

Given Romania’s upcoming presidency of the Council of EU in 2019, the vast majority of political leaders in Romania are having frequent dialogues with EU representatives. Additionally, as foreign pressure to uphold the RoL has worked very efficiently in the past, it is likely to work just as well in the near future.

Nevertheless, with the recent impeachment of the Grindeanu cabinet, on the grounds of poor governmental performance, the policy and institutional predictability is very low. PSD had a comfortable majority to allow it to change its own government, but the reasons for doing so remain indiscernible, as it was not entirely clear what its policy or administrative failures were. The domestic and international press has focused on the personal conflict between party leader, Liviu Dragnea, and former Prime Minister Grindeanu. It is, however, much more important to discern what will prevent such intra-party divisions with the incumbent prime minister, Mihai Tudose. As Liviu Dragnea can no longer hope to become prime minister given a constitutional court ruling, its objectives with Tudose cabinet will be targeting the general control of key decision-making positions as gatekeepers of state resources.

The current cabinet will face significant pressure concerning issues such as the fiscal deficit or the preparation of Romania’s presidency, in 2019. Another contentious issue is the announced Sovereign Fund whose purpose or structure is not clearly described. OECD membership would have been the ace on any current government’s sleeve, but the efforts in this regard are weak if at all present. On top of these harsh issues, a lack of specialised units and experts in relevant positions makes for a poor overall administrative capacity.

On the upside, the fight against corruption is likely to extend more and more towards prevention, promoting public ethics and increasing institutional capacity at a local level. On the downside, the quality of the governmental process, especially as concerns public funds is likely to decrease, because of poor management and a lack of evidence based policy-making, as well as opacity, lack of transparency and no clear chain of accountability.

Is the party-state inter-penetration helping or hindering PSD? More likely than not its support base will diminish, if governance objectives remain oriented towards the benefit of a few select central office elite. Its roots in society will then wither, much like everywhere else.

The views expressed in this opinion editorial are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Emerging Europe’s editorial policy.


Romania’s Economic Outlook Is Bright

Different Romanian Lei Banknotes on the table

Romania Works to Cement its Position in the EU

european union

Merging and Growing Romania’s Outstanding Broadband and Other Infrastructures

electrogrup emerging europe

Romania Could Catch Up in Innovation

innovation emerging europe

Romanian Banks Must Use Lessons Learned

romania emerging europe banks

Romania in 2017 in Brief

romania emerging europe

Romania Can Foster German Partnership

frankfurt emerging europe

Romanian Market Moving Towards Rebalancing

Romania’s Short-Term Prospects Remain Solid

romania economist

Romgaz and GE Partner in a New Power Project

romania GE

Alexandru Petrescu: Romania Is Working to Solidify the Highest Growth Rate in Europe

BUCHAREST ROMANIA - MAY 1: Unidentified people relax and socialize in the green area of the Promenada Mall on May 1 2014 in Bucharest Romania. The mall has a gross floor area of approx. 110000 m.

Netherlands and Romania’s Love-Match Continues

romania netherlands emerging europe

Romania’s 140 Years of UK Cooperation

A Family Between Britain and Romania

london emerging europe

Political In-fighting Must Be Resolved

Sorin Grindeanu

Can Romania’s success last longer?

brasov adecco emerging europe

People Power Reminds the Government of the Rule of Law

Romanian Upgrade to Emerging Market is on the Cards

Romania capital market

Romania Needs to Follow its EU Membership With Some Sweeping Reforms to Avoid Stagnation

Bucharest Romania - March 07 2016: Bucharest Sky Tower Business Center. Bucharest urban landscape.

Robust First-Quarter Growth in Romania

emerging europe romania brasov

Romania’s European Values Are Changing Public Misinformed Opinions

world bank emerging europe

Nurturing a Needed Knowledge and Innovation Culture

It cluster cluj

Seven Reasons for Optimism in Romania

gazelle emerging europe romania

It’s Time for Romania to Roar

outsourcing romania emerging europe global sourcing association

Romanian Wine: A Growing Opportunity

halewood wine

Changing Perspectives and Showing That True Romania is a Vibrant Innovative Country

Romania Will Be a Hot Topic in Europe

Princess Marina Sturdza: Things Are Bound to Improve for Romania

Central square in Iasi town Moldavia Romania

Romanian IT Business Statistics Are Promising

ANIS romanian ICT

Romania To Stay Close After Brexit

Greg Hands

Building on CEE’s Established Reputation for Quality and Value

Poland and Romania: Almost 100 Years of Friendship That Is Still Growing

warsaw poland emerging europe

The Competitive Edge in Central and Eastern Europe

SOFIA BULGARIA - MAY 5: View of the Ivan Vazov National Theatre in Sofia on May 5 2016. Sofia is the largest city and capital of Bulgaria.

A Country of Beauty and Warmth That Will Reward Those Who Visit With an Open Mind

Cityscape Brasov

Romania’s Infrastructure Development Is Slow

roads romania

Romania — Decades After Two Milestones

View of Palace of Parliament in Bucharest Romania

Romania Says No to Corruption

Corruption romania

Privatisation, Past and Present in Romania

energy privatisation romania emerging europe

20 Years of Romanian-US Cooperation

usa romania emerging europe

Risky (but Rewarding) Business

risky business

What Was First on the Romanian Table?

food romania dragut emerging europe

Romania’s EU Membership Was Slow to Be Appreciated But Now the Tide Is Turning

Romanian Palace Of Parliament

The Goal for Romania — the Positives Outweigh the Negatives

ebrd emerging europe romania

Romanian Wine Is Making a Comeback

Juncker’s “More, Together” Offers Romania a Better Future

aspen institute romania emerging europe

The Bucharest Stock Exchange Has Started the Year on a Promising Note

stock exchange bucharest

Romania’s Government Plans to Grow the Country’s Already High ICT Reputation

romania ICT emerging europe

Office Real-Estate Is Burgeoning in Romania

romania office space emerging europe

Driving the Romanian Automotive Industry

opel romania

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *