seejps-1-3

Coordinated by Gheorghe STOICA

 Post-Accession Backsliding: Non-ideological Populism and Democratic Setbacks in Romania

Dragoş DRAGOMAN

“Lucian Blaga” University of Sibiu

           

Abstract: The recent political transformations implemented by political elites in Romania, following the accession to the EU, may represent more than serious concerns for political efficiency and accountability. Despite their initial claims to reshape state institutions and to increase the economic performance and despite a number of legitimate transformations already in place, power elites seemed rather interested in having gotten rid of any ideological burden, and looked to favourable mechanisms of consolidating their power. This article highlights elites’ willingness to control the political system and their subsequent shift from legitimate political changes to more personal attempts to bend rules in order to consolidate their power. With no vigorous civil society, a weakened mass-media due to regional economic crisis, and still inchoate political parties, this article shows how democratic institutions and neutral and independent bodies in Romania found themselves under political elites’ siege for tight political control. This political behaviour, recently labelled as “political hooliganism”, may undermine democratic consolidation and help paving the way for more radical and authoritarian political movements.

Keywords: democratic setbacks, populism, European integration, patterns of democracy, Romania.

 

1. INTRODUCTION

In a recent research article, Venelin Ganev (2013) accurately mapped significant and novel changes that occurred in Bulgaria and Romania following their accession to the European Union back in 2007.[1] His empirical findings concern several key issues in post-communist politics that are various types of corrupt activities, legislative and behavioural changes which undermined previously stable normative frameworks and, finally, a reversal of a general tendency towards the institutional stability known as “state building”. Far from being a collection of disparate empirical findings, the new data configures a new strategy for linking post-accession changes in local elite behaviour to the EU’s (in)ability to keep on its conditionality that effectively worked during the pre-accession period. The new data enable Ganev to propose a novel concept that could more accurately unravel the profound change in local elites’ behaviour – the concept of “post accession hooliganism”.

“[This concept] might be used as a device for the systematisation of disparate empirical data and thus enable us to order familiar analytical tropes and images – the corrupt official, the self-interested legislator, or the local leader who covets Brussels’s approval – around a general theme: how the sticks and carrots of the EU affected the behaviour of democratically elected elites in Eastern Europe”.[2]

The juxtaposition of the pre-accession and post-accession periods raises the question of the EU effective conditionality. Does it really induce to local elites to consciously embrace and internalise the set of normative principles of a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous Europe, asks Ganev, or it just motivates those elites temporarily and superficially to refrain their selfish impulses for overwhelming political domination and quick material gain? In answering this, Ganev focuses more on Bulgaria and much less on Romania. Although some political issues from 2007 and early 2008 have been taken into account, namely the saga of Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) and the National Integrity Agency (ANI) and some corruption issues related to Social Democratic and Democratic Liberal party members with spotted political records were presented, the analysis suddenly ends with the 2008 general elections. There is nothing about further attempts to alter European values like the rule of law, constitutional stability, and good governance. The aim of the present article is to continue and deepen the analysis of how “political hooliganism” shaped the political behaviour of elites in power between 2008 and 2012, with serious effects on the quality of democracy. Fully aware of the severe economic and social conditions of the period, the article highlights the elites’ willingness to control the political system and their subsequent shift from legitimate political changes to more personal attempts to bend rules in order to consolidate their power. With no vigorous civil society, a weakened mass-media due to regional economic crisis, and still inchoate political parties, the article shows how democratic institutions and neutral and independent bodies in Romania found themselves under political hooligans’ siege for tight political control. The democratic setbacks under scrutiny in the Romanian case could be taken both for a valuable experience for democratic consolidation, and a serious warning for post-communist unconsolidated democracies which face or will face the pre- and post-accession EU conditionality. Finally, the article sheds light on a new issue in Eastern European politics, namely the consolidation in power of a non-ideological populism that completely changes the perspective on ideology consolidation within the political arena.

 

2. THE RISING POPULISM AS “POST-ACCESSION HOOLIGANISM”

As expressed by Ganev, despite its theoretical imperfections, the concept of post-accession hooliganism has a considerable heuristic potential. As it is difficult to fully use it, since it was construed by the author as a Weberian ideal type, we decided to empirically approximate one of its subtypes with illiberal populism, noticing ‘hooligans’’ reluctance to comply with EU conditionality, namely the rule of law, constitutional stability and good governance. In fact, transition in Central and Eastern Europe was generally defined by a liberal consensus, especially with respect to the common objective of NATO and EU integration, namely the supremacy of the constitutional order and the effort for economic liberalization.[3]

The death of this elite consensus could be seen not only as the ending point of the transition from communist rule, but as the end of more general external constraint, which is the European integration. For many years, EU worked as a powerful constraint tool for political parties and leaders or, to phrase it more symbolically, as an anaesthetic.[4] Now, as it cannot really work anymore for most of the countries, excepting Romania and Bulgaria which are still partially under the EU’s mechanism of post-integration control, consensus can be removed and internal politics be reshaped by resurgent post-accession hooliganism.[5] Post-accession hooligans now refuse to comply with the separation of powers and to acknowledge the existence of politically neutral institutions, as courts of justice and especially constitutional courts, central banks, supervising and ruling institutions of mass-media. They claim to speak for the real sovereign people and therefore despise all intermediate liberal democratic institutions that mediate representation.[6] They persistently arrogate to themselves direct democracy and support charismatic leaders who channel social discontent against elites who oppose them and whom they depict as rigged against ordinary people.[7] They don’t hesitate to limit media freedom, to alter the professionalism of civil servants and to replace them with obedient and helpful, yet unqualified, new public servants. Therefore, current political regimes in the region witnessed the unrestricted use of executive power in the logic of the revival of political arbitrary, alongside partisanship and abuse, in areas where consensus was brutally brought down following the EU accession.[8] Their political action, emphasise some scholars, could fuel the irrationalism and anti-intellectualism of the economically frustrated middle-class and finally help the resurgence of social conservatism and authoritarianism.[9]

At this point, Schmitter argues that we have to take into account both vices and virtues of populism.[10] On the one hand, populists dissolve partisan loyalties and rational choices among various political programmes without replacing them with something of their own, they recruit uniformed persons with no clear political preferences and who look for emotional rather than programmatic political satisfactions, they make promises and raise expectations that generally cannot be fulfilled, they identify aliens and alien powers as scapegoats for their own political failures and, most important of all, may undermine democracy by the support provided them by the army or security forces, which make their democratic removal from office unlikely. On the other hand, populist politicians and parties help dismantle sclerotic party loyalties and dissolve party coalitions that are based on secret agreements, and they recruit and mobilise previously apathetic persons. By focusing on disparate and hidden political issues, they help articulate previously neglected cleavages and demands; they replace political immobilism and widen the range of possible political solutions to collective problems. All in all, when electorally defeated, populism leaves behind a reinvigorated party system. From this perspective, it is more like a symptom of democracy, rather than a defect of democracy.[11]

In Romania, although they partially engaged in a profound revision of the whole political system as a response to society’s claims, especially during the first years of president Traian Băsescu’s first term in office,[12] their efforts were less oriented towards widely negotiated and fully legitimate changes and more towards consolidating their power on serious undemocratic costs. This is a common feature in the whole region.[13] In Romania, however, populists largely dissimulated their struggle to control the whole political system under the banner of the popular much awaited state reinvigoration, modernisation and constitutional reform. Similar to their counter-parts in the region, Traian Băsescu, the president of Romania since 2004, and his governing party between 2008 and 2012 (the Democrat-Liberal Party, PDL), after having both won the 2004 elections by promising a bitter fight against endemic corruption and state institutions’ inefficiency, they rapidly turned against liberal democratic institutions: they fiercely attacked parliament as the ultimate expression of unpopular elite domination, they despised judges and the courts of justice for their allegedly undue privileges and immovability, they denied the rule of law and largely criticised hostile mass-media for purportedly continuous hidden arrangements with corrupt politicians and business-men.

President Băsescu and PDL are not the only populists in Romania. Another populist party, Greater Romania Party (PRM), was a constant figure in the Romanian parliament until 2008.[14] Meanwhile another populist party, the People’s Party (PPDD), was born in 2011 and proved to be partially successful during the 2012 campaign. None of them had the chance to rule Romania for years, and the brief PRM experience in the government limited to a four-party coalition for a short period of time in the early 1990’s. None of them succeeded in appointing its candidate as president of Romania or in turning its party-president into prime-minister, as PDL successfully did twice on a row. As Mudde emphasises,[15] politics is also about perceptions. Populist parties, such as PDL and its leaders, are politically relevant if only because they are perceived as such by large parts of both the elites and the masses. In fact, they are not populists only because they, as other populists in the region, use emotional, simplistic, and manipulative discourses directed at the ‘gut feelings’ of the people, or put in place opportunistic policies aimed at ‘buying’ the support of the people.[16] They are not populists only because they appeal to the ‘pure people’ against the ‘corrupt elite’,[17] conceived as rigged against ordinary people in an attempt to deprive the sovereign people of their rights, values, prosperity, identity and voice.[18] They are not populists only because they organise movements rather than parties and get rid of any established ideology. They are also populists because, due to their shared values, motivations, discourses and actions, they are perceived as such by parts of the journalists and of the academics.[19] It is true, other previous ruling parties have also tried to impose their political domination, as the Social Democratic Party (PSD) did during the 2000-2004 period, by controlling the police, channelling the public funding towards the party’s mayors and inhibiting the independent media.[20] What makes president Băsescu and PDL at least as suitable for this title of ‘post-accession hooliganism’, with an additional shade of authoritarianism, is exactly the range of opinions, attitudes and discourses, and the scope of their political actions aimed at transforming the political system, with an emphasis on strict political control and overwhelming domination, a worrisome combination of disproportionate executive power and denial of the rule of law, as underlined below.

 

2.1. From the early consensus politics to the new logic of domination

The new Romanian constitution of 1991, after several months of ardent debates, intended to provide the Romanian post-communist society with a new, democratic framework that engulfed the logic of negotiation and compromise in an extremely conflicting political environment.[21] Like in other post-communist countries in the region, the constitutional arrangement discussions were often overshadowed by more vivid contestations regarding transitional justice and ethnic relations that seriously polarised societies.[22] Nevertheless, Romania’s constitution and the ensuing basic laws were specially designed as to support a reasonable compromise. All in all, the early Romanian democratic political system reflects a rather consensual than majoritarian logic, when referring to the framework for analysis proposed by Lijphart in his seminal book Patterns of Democracy.[23] Thus, the legislators intended back in the early 1990’s to provide Romania with an executive power-sharing in broad, multiparty coalitions and a multiparty system, deriving from a favourable proportional representation, alongside a legislative-executive balance of power. Moreover, those early legislators have opted for a bicameral legislature, conceived as a fair counterweight for an executive power which encompasses a president directly elected by the citizens. Additionally, they decided for a rigid, super-majority-amended constitution and for the judicial review of constitutionality by an independent Constitutional Court.

For almost two decades, Romania struggled to consolidate this rather consensual political framework in a very unstable context, marked by ethnic tensions,[24] overt contestation, protest and even street violence, as it was the case with the coal miners overthrowing the Romanian government in September 1991. With one notable exception (2000-2004), Romania was ruled by multiparty coalitions. Even during this short period, a minority government was strongly backed up by a supporting allied party in parliament. Moreover, the logic of party coalitions in parliament is visible in the legislative-executive balance of power. Though they are rare, non-confidence votes actually may remove governments from office, as it happened in 2008. Multiparty coalitions in Romania are mainly the result of the multiparty system. Influenced by the proportional representation, Romania’s party system varied from a multiparty system with a dominant party to a multiparty system without a dominant party if we stick to Blondel’s definition of party-systems,[25] or could range between a predominant party system and a limited pluralism and even extreme pluralism in Sartori’s terms.[26] The emergence and institutionalisation of political parties during the democratisation period,[27] accompanied by increasingly disproportionate effects of the electoral formula when the PR threshold increased from 3% to 5% in 2000, helped to slowly reduce the effective number of parliamentary parties[28] in the lower chamber from 4.9 in 1992 to 3.3 in 2008. In fact, the electoral formula adopted by the Electoral Law back in 1991 is a proportional representation with Hare quota allocation at the constituency level, combined with a secondary compensatory adjustment-seat allocation of unused votes from the constituency at the national level using the d’Hondt method of divisors.[29]

Although the Romanian political system had only a couple of decades to consolidate, numerous critiques targeted several of its aspects. And populists are among the most impassioned critics. They repeatedly claimed for substantial revisions of the electoral law, of the legislative-executive balance of power and of the legislature size and structure. Taken separately, they might sound like efficiency proposals, but taken together with various attempts to attack the fragile power-sharing and to control the remaining politically independent bodies like the constitutional court and the audio-visual regulating body, they might tell another story. Though PDL and Traian Băsescu initially tried to answer the legitimate claims for political system reinvigoration, fairness, transparency and accountability, later on they focused rather on consolidating their power at all costs, with no rule of law, fair balance and equity. Whereas at first he had laid stress on truth and justice slogans, promising the access to the former communist political police files and to morally clean the Romanian society,[30] president Traian Băsescu only verbally condemned the communist system. Though the President endorsed a report issued by the Presidential Commission for the Analysis of Communist Dictatorship in Romania (otherwise known as the Truth Commission), his governing party (PDL) did not promote any policy of transitional justice.[31] Despite the fact that they promised a bitter fight against pervasive corruption, independent Romanian media and experts kept on pinpointing numerous cases of corruption affecting high government officials, including the head of the Fiscal National Agency and the youth minister in the PDL government.[32] Due to serious financial misconducts, the European Commission decided in 2012 to suspend payments for a great number of projects supervised by the Ministry of Regional Development and Tourism. Due to those salient cases, Romanian citizens and even EU member states perceived corruption in Romania as widespread as they have done years before. This was the case of France and Netherlands, which strongly opposed in 2011 to Romania’s entry to the Schengen area of free circulation of citizens within the EU. The Transparency International Corruption Perception Index for Romania indicates even a minor setback in 2010 in comparison with 2009 and 2008.

When populists began to talk in 2009 about strengthening the presidential powers, abandon the proportional representation and adopt plurality or majoritarian electoral systems at national and even local level (‘first-past-the-post’, FPTP or ‘two-round’ runoff elections, TR) and to put in place a weaker, reduced unicameral legislature instead of a strong bicameral assembly, they seemed to be talking rather about giving away the previous logic of consensus and minority representation and favouring a majoritarian-style of political domination. In fact, as discussed below, each of those changes has profound consequences for the overall functioning of the political system. For example, according to many scholars, the electoral system change generally affects the party system, the parliamentary competition, the cabinet formation and the government stability.[33] Moreover, the ‘presidentialisation’ of the political system might undermine not only the legislative-executive balance of power and the consolidation of parliamentarism,[34] but even the quality of democracy.[35]

 

2.2. Changing for winning? The use and misuse of the electoral law

In the aftermath of the 1989 anti-communist revolution, the Romanian parliament decided to use proportional representation (PR) for the election of representatives in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. For almost two post-communist decades, the electoral system was under violent criticism not only for its results, but for its mechanism of candidate selection as well. Despite the benefits of proportionality for minority anti-communist parties supported by the intellectual elites who were opposing post-communist successor parties in the early ’90s,[36] PR was quickly designated by many intellectuals and politicians as a significant obstacle in reinvigorating political parties’ offers in terms of programmes and especially candidates. The inertia of power-elites and their unwillingness to make significant changes were soon associated by the public discourse with the severe lack of government efficiency and pervasive corruption. Focusing on candidate selection mechanisms, which were not free of corruption and served many times to appoint inefficient politicians, and largely neglecting the benefits of proportionality, many critics of PR considered that ordinary citizens could more effectively select the candidates during the electoral campaign, instead of trusting political parties’ selection mechanisms. Many NGOs and the public opinion largely entrusted electoral reform and the passage from PR to a single-member district majoritarian system as a clear means of enhancing transparency and responsibility, fostering electoral competition, and compelling improvements in the quality of representative government.[37]

During the 2007-2008 disputes regarding the electoral models adopted for change, PDL clearly emphasised the majority-rule arrangements. They preferred the first-past-the-post system (FPTP), and their only second option was a French type majoritarian two-round runoff system (TR). The Liberal Party (PNL),[38] in government at that time, issued a legislative proposal based on the German mixed-member model that carefully balances legitimacy through district-based elected MPs with overall proportional fair political representation, and its proposal was adopted by the parliament. President Băsescu, former PDL leader, contested the voted law before the Constitutional Court and succeeded in invalidating it in November 2007. Moreover, using his constitutional right to appoint national referendums, he decided to accompany the election of Romania’s European deputies in November 2007 by a popular referendum on the topic of the uninominal voting system. Though the ‘uninominal voting system’ syntagm may cover multiple meanings and pertain in fact to numerous voting systems,[39] the referendum only worded the president’s preference for a TR system, akin to the French model of the double ballot. Only the low turnout disabled the president’s proposal to be validated, despite that four-fifths of the voters voted ‘yes’. Finally, the electoral law adopted by the parliament in 2008 was a compromise between the government’s, the president’s and NGO’s proposals, ending in a very complicated single-member district uninominal voting system. The new law turned the electoral system from a very difficult to understand and complicated to operate system to a more convoluted and obscure one. Whereas its effects on the political representation are almost the same, because it maintains national politics centred on the same nationally institutionalised parties, it adds another tier of complication, uncertainty and confusion in the allocation of parliamentary seats. It is only another step forward in order to achieve district-based representation, with no effects on the selection of candidates and on the ‘purifying’ of the political class.[40]

Though PDL members overtly criticised the new Romanian voting system for the parliament during the 2008 campaign, they managed to fully use it in order to secure the first place. They won the elections by a narrow margin of only one seat in the lower chamber of the parliament ahead of their political rivals, PSD and PNL. Yet their practices did not match with the arguments they have pointed out when campaigning for the uninominal voting system. Instead of a candidate-centred campaign, PDL members used a nation-wide unified giant electoral campaign supported by the president’s popularity. They did not increase the legitimacy of the elected representatives by appointing candidates that lived in the county constituency and local districts or that felt eager to establish connections with local settings, electors or even with their own party’s local organisations. Unfortunately, because candidates were nominated by parties, it only increased loyalty and preserved clientele networks.[41] After the elections, they did not help consolidate the linkage between electors and MPs, as they encouraged MPs from other parties in parliament to despise their responsibility towards districts of origin, to break with their initial party ranks and join PDL in order to secure a ‘fabricated’ majority.[42] Despite this behaviour, they officially continued to ask for a more profound progress towards pure majoritarianism, expressed by the FPTP system, or at least towards TR, as underlined by president Băsescu in several public discourses, as a means of enforcing transparency and responsiveness.[43]

The willingness to change the electoral system in order to consolidate the power and to undermine the opposition’s political resources was the key issue in 2011. In fact, PDL used citizens’ discontent with the quality of political elites to overtly attack PR (which is by no means a faulty electoral system and it is still used in many consolidated democracies like Switzerland, Belgium or the Netherlands) and to replace it with more favourable electoral systems in terms of disproportionality, looking, in other words, for more mandates with fewer votes. As a clear type of self-interested legislators, post-accession hooligans were in favour of the change as long as they expected to gain sufficient political advantages. Acknowledging that changing the electoral system will impact on other elements of the political system, PDL used its majority in parliament to enforce the majoritarian effects of the electoral law, starting with essential changes at local level. The special linkage between local and national elections and politics is broadly underlined below. Though TR was already in place in Romania since 1992 and was used for the election of mayors, PDL managed to change the Electoral Law and to impose the FPTP system in local elections beginning with 2012. This was for the first time that mayors in Romania were elected not by a majority, but by a plurality (which can also be a minority) of voters, trading the democratic legitimacy of the mayors for the benefits of a low-cost electoral mobilisation in 2012.

This preference for the FPTP system suddenly ended in May 2012, following the parliament’s no confidence vote and the dismissal of the PDL-UDMR government. The new majority formed by PNL, PSD and former PDL MPs passed a new electoral law for the next parliamentary elections. This was essentially based on pure majoritarianism, namely on the FPTP system. Facing a severe electoral defeat, PDL contested the law to the Constitutional Court and the court overruled the law, keeping in place the electoral provisions of 2008. Those provisions that proportionally distribute mandates finally enabled PDL candidates to be represented in parliament after PDL’s disastrous electoral defeat in the 2012 elections. Of course, the incentive to change the rules of the game in order to consolidate one’s power is by no means a monopoly of the PDL. But the readiness to misuse legal provisions in order to undermine the opposition’s political resources was a convenient precedent and a suitable incentive for the next PSD-PNL government, largely accused in the summer of 2012 of engaging in the same practices.

 

2.3. Altering the rules of the game: postponing local elections

Evoking budgetary cuts of almost 20 million euros,[44] PDL decided in December 2011 to postpone the local elections that had to be democratically held in June 2012 and to hold them at the same time with the parliamentary elections in December 2012 or in spring 2013 at the latest. Moreover, the method used for passing the law in parliament is relevant to the political domination model endorsed, which tends to exclude any legitimate contestation. In order to avoid any parliamentary debate on the issue, the government run by PDL’s president, Prime-Minister Emil Boc, decided to endorse the law by engaging its responsibility. This constitutional procedure enables, in fact, the government to automatically turn any proposal into effective law if the opposition in parliament does not demand a confidence vote or if such a vote is rejected by the majority. On the contrary, a vote of confidence that fails automatically implies the fall of the government and the rejection of the proposal. Despite the supporting majority in parliament, PM Emil Boc used 13 times this procedure in order to turn proposals into effective laws, generally pertaining to essential domains such as education, health care, public administration and budgetary and fiscal actions. Although this is not at all illegal, this propensity for automatic law enacting only adds to the features of post-accession hooliganism that avoids free and democratic debate on parliamentary proposals, by turning peculiar acts of will into effective laws.

Why would a governing party intend to alter the rules of the game six months before the elections? In fact, local elections are critical for parties in Romania. On the one hand, as they generally have place six months before parliamentary elections, their results act as benchmarks for the performance of political parties. In a Romanian context marked by a deep distrust regarding pre-electoral surveys, local election results clearly indicate the strength of the parties and almost accurately anticipate parliamentary election results. And this is especially the case of the elections for county councillors and for the presidents of county councils, which are by far the most ‘political’ elections. Unlike county elections, the local elections for commune and town councils and especially those for the mayor’s office are to be considered as the most ‘utilitarian’, in Downsian terms, since voters’ actions are rational in pursuing utility, i.e. each citizen casts his vote for the mayoral candidate he believes will provide him with more benefits than any other.[45] The comparison between county and parliamentary elections would have given the opposition a clue about the ruling party’s strength and would have helped the opposition in running the general campaign.

On the other hand, local elected officials in Romania can often work as electoral agents for their parties. By controlling local resources, especially in poorer rural areas, they usually discriminatorily provide citizens with various resources and facilities, from crop aids and timber supply to aids in cash, forcing them to electorally behave appropriately. Since half of the Romanian peasants are engaged in subsistence farming, they have been almost entirely ‘captured’ by local predatory elites who control resources and therefore local politics.[46] This kind of ‘patronage’ or new ‘latifundism’ are also to be found in other rural and less developed countries in Eastern Europe.[47] Yet this strict dependency is strengthened in Romania by the governmental redistribution mechanisms. Designed to help local authorities to overcome unexpected difficulties and, more generally, to bridge development disparities,[48] central government disposable funds and fiscal equalisation funds were never void of political purposes. Whereas the central government may transfer equalization funds to counties, by taking for example into account their fiscal capacity to collect personal income tax or their stringent development needs, county councils may in turn distribute equalisation funds to local communities inside counties. Controlling the central government and controlling as many county councils may provide the suitable tool to control the very local politics and influence voting, especially in backward rural communities confronted with harsh economic difficulties. Mixing local and parliamentary elections would make impossible a rebellion of local elected officials who might find an incentive to migrate towards the ranks of the most probable winning party in the subsequent parliamentary elections. By doing so, PDL expected to more tightly control its own local elected officials and to more effectively spend local resources for electoral purposes. Contested by the opposition, the law was in the end overruled by the Constitutional Court. When finally held in June 2012, the local elections were largely won by the opposition and clearly anticipated the severe defeat of the ruling party in December 2012.

Although postponing local elections would have saved 20 million euros and most probably offered PDL a mere electoral advantage, this measure would have seriously undermined democracy in terms of mechanism and resources. In order to keep the rationality of both political system and political actors within, Downs emphasises the key condition of fair and limited action of those in power and in opposition, i.e. the liberty of the government of disposing of economic resources for various policies that bring popular electoral support, yet limiting the power of the government in restricting the opposition’s access to politically meaningful resources, including elections.[49] Suspending or postponing elections actually prevent unsatisfied citizens to freely express political choices and baulk the citizens’ support. This may explain the outburst of public criticism, street protests and the urban violence of January 2012, when the government decided to pass a controversial new law on public health by assuming its responsibility for the 14th time on a row. Moreover, PDL’s intention to postpone local elections in order to alter the rules of the game and gain political advantages, especially by exploring unorthodox means to reduce its expected electoral losses, was clearly underlined by the 2012 Freedom House Nations in Transit Report as a very concerning issue, fully motivating its decision to downgrade Romania’s score reflecting the electoral process held in 2011.[50]

 

2.4. Redefining institutional balance and design: weakening the legislature

The post-accession hooliganism is also marked by a reversal of a general tendency towards the institutional stability known as ‘state building’.[51] This is what Bugaric would label as an attack against liberal democratic institutions,[52] especially when the main specific target is parliament, seen by political hooligans as futile and ineffective. It is true, the Romanian parliament has a bad image as a collective body that merely responds to citizens’ needs. This is partially due to its incapacity or unwillingness to limit the legal impunity of the MPs who are under prosecutors’ investigation. Consequently, during post-communism, parliament benefited of the lowest citizens’ trust rate among Romanian institutions. At the same time, in order to consolidate, democracy needs citizens’ confidence that political institutions do not abuse their privileged position of power.[53] This is exactly the case in Romania, where the parliament was pinpointed by populists as the ultimate expression of irresponsiveness and abuse. Moreover, populists claimed that its allegedly privileged position has to be challenged through a new institutional design. Back in 2007, the parliament impeached and suspended president Băsescu, only to see him back in office following a substantial vote in the required national referendum.[54] Launching his counteroffensive by putting his personal popularity against the low esteem for the parliament,[55] and according to his constitutional right to initiate referendums, the restored president called for a serious change in the composition of the parliament. A new referendum was once again established to accompany regular elections in 2009, this time exactly that of the President himself, and strengthening thereby the conflict between populists and the sclerotic political class embodied by the parliament. The wording of the referendum included the populists’ proposal of reducing the number of MPs from 471 to no more than 300, and the passage to a unicameral representative body. The majority of the electors (50.16%) voted in favour of the referendum. Since the referendum was consultative and not legally binding, the parliament was finally called to decide upon the change.

The conflict of 2007 between president Băsescu and the parliamentary coalition led by then prime-minister Tăriceanu and PNL leader clearly expressed the institutional purpose of the populists. The restoration of the president in office only boosted populists’ claims to weaken what they called the abusive power of the parliament. Backed by the president himself, they therefore proposed that a failed attempt at impeachment should automatically trigger the dissolution of the parliament. In the president’s words, “if the referendum confirms the president, then the Parliament is dissolved”.[56] In fact, the parliament was several times menaced by the president with its dissolution – the last time it happened during the presidential election campaign in 2009, when he declared he would dissolve the parliament if his favourite appointed candidate for prime-minister was not supported by the parliament.[57] Those claims and menaces point at the seemingly uncomfortable feelings of the populists about the current constitutional arrangements that make Romania a weak semi-presidential regime or even a parliamentary regime. When it comes to define the Romanian semi-presidentialism, one could limit one’s analysis to the constitutional text itself. Thus the Romanian parliamentary system makes an effort to create an enough powerful president, but not too powerful to change its parliamentary features, despite the popular election of the president. According to Sartori, those features derive from several constitutional provisions.[58] In theory, the president works as ‘mediator’ between state institutions, which really make him a president from a typical parliamentary system. Additionally, the president does not hold strong powers as he always has to consult parliamentary parties when he appoints a new prime-minister, the parliament when he intends to dissolve the parliament or to initiate a referendum. Sartori concludes that the Romanian president is not powerful enough in order to label the Romanian system as a semi-presidential one, i.e. he has not strong powers (as the veto power) and all significant legislative powers appertain to the government. In practice, however, the current president very quickly abandoned his mediator status and acted much more like a de facto party leader, negotiating with parties for securing PDL a safe majority into parliament, openly attacking opposition parties and overtly supporting his favourite candidate for the presidency of PDL in March 2013. His practice of frequently heading PDL meetings was even acknowledged as ‘customary’ by PDL leaders.[59] When the president was impeached and suspended for the second time, in 2012, the Constitutional Court clearly acknowledged and stated the president’s lack of neutrality and sanctioned his decision to abandon his mediator status. Moreover, the president also abandoned his constitutional obligation of consulting parliamentary parties and taking their positions into account when appointing a new candidate for prime-minister. Back in October 2009, he refused to appoint the prime-minister candidate supported by opposition parties, the mayor of Sibiu city, Klaus Johannis, though the previous PDL cabinet collapsed with the no-confidence vote of the same majority in parliament, making prime-minister Emil Boc the first PM dismissed by the parliament since 1989.[60] The president ignored the parliamentary majority formed then by PSD, PNL and UDMR and surprisingly demanded that such an ad-hoc majority be sanctioned by a court decision.[61] His main argument was that he only had to consult with the party holding a parliamentary majority and wished to have it his way by renaming the same prime-minister, Emil Boc, the PDL leader dismissed only a few weeks before. His appointment was possible only after president Băsescu won his second term in office by regrouping PDL, UDMR and fugitive MPs from other parties, who managed to gather a slim majority in parliament.

Another visible de facto predominance of the government over the parliament is not only the great number of laws passed by engaging the government’s responsibility,[62] but the mechanism of government emergency ordinances. Though emergency ordinances are acknowledged by the Constitution as legitimate means of responding to urgent issues (catastrophes, natural disasters, large scale accidents), the populists in the government turned the exception into a rule and issued a great number of such decrees that inflated the parliamentary activity. Though the emergency ordinances are to be finally voted by the parliament, they are effective from the moment when they are issued by the government and their consequences hardly can be erased by subsequent contrary decisions of the parliament. Though PDL was not the first party to have abused of the government’s prerogatives of fighting (relevant or irrelevant) emergency issues with emergency ordinances, during the electoral campaign PDL made a solemn and emotional plea to the previous PSD government to drop off this undemocratic practice. As emphasised by the Freedom House report for 2010,[63] the issuing of an inordinately high number of emergency ordinances was a severe government abuse of power. PDL government also abused of its right to issue such ordinances the previous year, when it issued no less than 86 emergency ordinances in the first 6 months of 2009, in cases when the government’s emergency intervention was not needed.[64] The matters concerned by those ordinances rarely displayed their emergency justification, as they generally pertained to public spending, acquisitions and commercial agreements unrelated to emergency situations as severe natural disasters or large scale catastrophes or accidents.

The parliament was finally undermined by an unprecedented move of the parliamentary majority. Although the Constitutional Court was always asked to decide on the parliament’s procedural issues, the court never attacked political issues decided by the parliament. Fearing an increasing instability of its majority in parliament, the PDL government passed in 2010 a law requesting the Constitutional Court to decide on political matters any time the Court is notified. Now that the Court was empowered by the free will of the parliament itself, it would be impossible for the parliament to redraw this prerogative. When in 2012 the parliament tried indeed to recover its full powers by the means of a new law restricting the Court’s prerogatives to the extent of power the Court enjoyed before 2010, the Court simply overruled the law and kept its ability to decide on political matters.

The unprecedented overwhelming power of the Constitutional Court could explain why PDL was not only interested in securing its power through favourable electoral mechanisms and institutional engineering, but also tried to control channels otherwise free of political control, including the Constitutional Court. Despite the fact that its independent status is questionable, since its members are selected by political bodies and many times those members happened to be former ministers or deputies, the Constitutional Court of Romania was set up by the 1991 Constitution to impartially put in place the judicial review of constitutionality in the framework of a centralised system of judicial review, as it works in Austria, Germany or Italy. Its members are appointed by the President and by the two Chambers of the parliament. Thus the process of appointing a new judge is not at all indifferent to the parties in power. The question becomes even more acute when the parliamentary majority is fragile or when the balance inside the Court itself is uncertain. This was obvious in June 2010, with the election of a replacing judge appointed by the Chamber of Deputies, when the opposition speculated the lack of attention by the governing coalition deputies and managed to get elected its own candidate. Noticing the blunder, the President of the Chamber, a PDL deputy, invalidated the vote and forced a new vote at 2 A.M., when opposition deputies got tired and left the plenary session.[65] This move proved to be decisive, as many controversial laws initiated by the government were afterwards declared fully constitutional by the Constitutional Court. The suspicion of limited independence of the Court’s judges is even stronger today, when the Court can easily censure the parliament. This final move of controlling the parliament’s acts by the means of successive Constitutional Court’s decisions is, in fact, defining for post-accession hooliganism, namely a willingness to support legislative and behavioural changes that undermine previously stable normative frameworks.[66]

 

3. NON-IDEOLOGIC POPULISM AND DEMOCRATIC SETBACKS: A CONCLUSION           

Post-accession to the European Union has witnessed in Romania, as mentioned earlier, a strong willingness to support essential legislative and behavioural changes undermining previously coherent normative frameworks that led to a reversal of the general tendency towards stabilisation of interactive patterns and administrative routines, namely the state building.[67] These changes have been labelled by Ganev as “post-accession hooliganism” in order to catch the new reality where legal procedures and institutions are baffled and disdained when they oppose to the pure will of those in power. Despite previously stated intentions to reform the state institutional mechanisms and improve the economic performance,[68] post-accession hooligans seem rather to have looked for favourable mechanisms of consolidating the power, silence critics, destruct democratic institutions and undermine opposition parties. These new populist elites address the citizens with no emphasis on ideology, which they disdain as obsolete, organise movements rather than parties and search the pure power, disregarding the constitutional frameworks or patterns of democracy.

The democratic setbacks in Romania are also visible in the Freedom House democracy scores. In the Nations in Transit Report (2012), Romania’s democracy score[69] worsened from its best rating in 2007 of 3.29, to the 2010 rating of 3.46, with a slight improvement in 2011 and 2012 to the score of 3.43, due to the increasing performance of the judicial framework and independence in the context of the enforcement of a new civil code.[70] Thus Romania is currently labelled by Freedom House, alongside Bulgaria, as a semi-consolidated democracy, the only semi-consolidated democracies among the former communist countries that are now members of the European Union, with scores closer to those of Croatia and Serbia than to those of Slovakia, Hungary or Poland. The FH scores uncover recent serious setbacks in democratic standards in Romania, especially regarding the electoral process, the national governance and the independent media. The intention to postpone local elections in 2011 aimed at altering the electoral rules to achieve political advantage. The PDL government abused its power by issuing an inordinately high number of emergency ordinances in 2009 and 2010. The PDL-UDMR majority in parliament abused the government’s prerogative of turning proposals into laws (13 times between 2009 and 2012) and finally mandated the Constitutional Court to decide on political matters and to overrule the parliament’s acts. According to the Supreme Council for National Defence run by president Băsescu himself, the mass-media has been officially acknowledged in 2010 as a weakness of the national defence system, due to allegedly persistent press campaigns against politicians and state institutions.[71] Moreover, PDL’s struggle in parliament, in 2010, to impose its representative as director of the national broadcasting television, at the recommendation of the president himself, raised suspicions about political control of the national television, in the context of the overt political conflict between president Băsescu and private mass-media institutions and publishers.[72]

The way post-accession populists currently despise representative democracy, parliamentarism and the rule of law, their continual attacks against neutral and independent bodies may help paving the way for more radical political movements. It can be the case of radical populist movements and radical extremists or even for authoritarian regimes,[73] who might attempt to take political control, often in the very name of direct democracy and people’s genuine will. But it also can be the case of the former opposition to the PDL, who might continue to use the logic of the altered political game to consolidate its power by even more serious attacks against the independence of the judicial framework, including the Constitutional Court, and by means of unfair electoral, governmental and parliamentary procedures. Only if successfully contained, post-accession hooliganism is to be acknowledged as a worthy experience for the future democratic consolidation in Romania. At the same time, the populists’ road to power questions furthermore the relevance and accuracy of ideologies within a political framework dominated by the struggle for the pure power. Getting rid of the ideological burden, Romanian populists have shown that speaking for the abstract individual might be enough for ruling, even if it were done sometimes against the real people.


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[1] Venelin Ganev, “Post-Accession Hooliganism: Democratic Governance in Bulgaria and Romania after 2007”, East European Politics and Societies, Vol. 27, No. 1, 2013, pp. 26-44.

[2] Ibidem, p. 27.

[3] Jacques Rupnik, “From Democracy Fatigue to Populist Backlash”, Journal of Democracy, Vol. 18, No. 4, 2007, pp. 17-25; Jan Zielonka, “The Quality of Democracy after Joining the European Union”, East European Politics and Societies, Vol. 21, No. 1, 2007, pp. 162-180.

[4] Grigore Pop-Eleches, “Between Historical Legacies and the Promise of Western Integration: Democratic Conditionality after Communism”, East European Politics and Societies, Vol. 21, No. 1, 2007, pp. 142-161; Frank Schimmelfennig, “European Regional Organizations, Political Conditionality, and Democratic Transformation in Eastern Europe”, East European Politics and Societies, Vol. 21, No. 1, 2007, pp. 126-141.

[5] Paul Levitz, Grigore Pop-Eleches, “Why No Backsliding? The European Union’s Impact on Democracy and Governance before and after Accession”, Comparative Political Studies, Vol. 43, No. 4, 2010, pp. 457-485.

[6] Bojan Bugaric, “Populism, Liberal Democracy, and the Rule of Law in Central and Eastern Europe”, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, Vol. 41, No. 2, 2008, pp. 191-203.

[7] Ivan Krastev, “The Strange Death of the Liberal Consensus”, Journal of Democracy, Vol. 18, No. 4, 2007, pp. 56-63; Eric Jones, “Populism in Europe”, SAIS Review, Vol. XXVII, No. 1, pp. 37-47.

[8] Jacques Rupnik, “From Democracy Fatigue…cit.”.

[9] Steven M. Eke, Taras Kuzio, “Sultanism in Eastern Europe: The Socio-Political Roots of Authoritarian Populism in Belarus”, Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 52, No. 3, 2000, pp. 523-547; Takis S. Pappas, “Political Leadership and the Emergence of Radical Mass Movements in Democracy”, Comparative Political Studies, Vol. 41, No. 8, 2008, pp. 1117-1140; Mihai Varga, “How Political Opportunities Strengthen the Far Right: Understanding the Rise in Far-Right Militancy in Russia”, Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 60, No. 4, 2008, pp. 561-579; Sarah L. de Lange, Simona Guerra, “The League of Polish Families between East and West, Past and Present”, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, Vol. 42, No. 4, 2009, pp. 527-549.

[10] Philippe C. Schmitter, “A Balance Sheet of the Vices and Virtues of ‘Populisms’”, Romanian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 7, No. 2, pp. 5-11.

[11] Jean-Michel De Waele, Anna Pacześniak (eds.), Populism in Europe – Defect or Symptom of Democracy, Oficyna Naukowa, Warsaw, 2010.

[12] Robert F. King, Paul E. Sum (eds.), Romania under Basescu: Aspirations, Achievements, and Frustrations during His First Presidential Term, Lexington Books, Lanham, 2011.

[13] Ilya Prizel, “Populism as a Political Force in Post-communist Russia and Ukraine”, East European Politics and Societies, Vol. 15, No. 1, 2000, pp. 54-63; András Bozóki, “Consolidation or Second Revolution? The Emergence of the New Right in Hungary”, Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics, Vol. 24, No. 2, 2008, pp. 191-231; Krzysztof Jasiewicz, “The New Populism in Poland: The Usual Suspects?”, Problems of Post-Communism, Vol. 55, No. 3, pp. 7-25.

[14] Grigore Pop-Eleches, “Romania’s Politics of Dejection” Journal of Democracy, Vol. 12, No. 3, 2001, pp. 156-169; Paul E. Sum, “The Radical Right in Romania: Political Party Evolution and the Distancing of Romania from Europe”, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, Vol. 43, No. 1, 2010, pp. 19-29.

[15] Cas Mudde, Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2007.

[16] Ivan Krastev, “The Strange Death…cit.”, p. 59.

[17] Cas Mudde, “The Populist Zeitgeist”, Government and Opposition, Vol. 32, No. 3, 2004, pp. 541-563.

[18] Daniele Albertazzi, Duncan McDonnell (eds.), Twenty-First Century Populism: The Spectre of Western European Democracy, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 2007, p. 3.

[19] Sergiu Gherghina, Sergiu Mişcoiu (eds.), Partide şi personalităţi populiste în România postcomunistă, Institutul European, Iaşi, 2010; Sergiu Gherghina, George Jiglău, “Who Votes for Populists in Central and Eastern Europe? A Comparative Perspective from Five EU Member States”, paper presented at the European Consortium for Political Research General Conference, Reykjavik, Iceland, 2011; Mihaela Miroiu, “What Is Left from Democracy? Electoralism and Populism in Romania”, paper presented at the European Consortium for Political Research General Conference, Reykjavik, Iceland, 2011.

[20] Monica Ciobanu, “Romania’s Travails with Democracy and Accession to the European Union”, Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 59, No. 8, 2007, pp. 1429-1450.

[21] Henry F. Carey (ed.), Romania since 1989: Politics, Economics and Society, Rowman and Littlefield, Lanham, 2004.

[22] Taras Kuzio, “Transition in Post-communist States: Triple or Quadruple”, Politics, Vol. 21, No. 3, 2001, pp. 168-177; Lavinia Stan (ed.), Transitional Justice in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union, Routledge, London, 2009.

[23] Arend Lijphart, Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1999.

[24] Mihaela Mihailescu, “The Politics of Minimal “Consensus”: Interethnic Opposition Coalitions in Post-Communist Romania (1990-1996) and Slovakia (1990-1998)”, East European Politics and Societies, Vol. 22, No. 3, 2008, pp. 553-594.

[25] Jean Blondel, “Party Systems and Patterns of Government in Western Democracies”, Canadian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 1, No. 2, 1968, pp. 180-203.

[26] Giovanni Sartori, Parties and Party Systems: A Framework for Analysis, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1976, p. 125.

[27] Liliana Mihut, “The Emergence of Political Pluralism in Romania”, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, Vol. 27, No. 4, 1994, pp. 411-422.

[28] Markku Laakso, Rein Taagepera, “Effective’ Number of Parties: A Measure with Application to West Europe”, Comparative Political Studies, Vol. 12, No. 1, 1979, pp. 3-27.

[29] Jean-Benoit Pilet, Jean-Michel De Waele, “Electoral Reforms in Romania. Towards a Majoritarian Electoral System?”, European Electoral Studies, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2007, pp. 63-79; Cosmin G. Marian, Ronald F. King, “Plus ça change: Electoral law reform and the 2008 Romanian parliamentary elections”, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, Vol. 43, No. 1, 2010, pp. 7-18.

[30] Lavinia Stan, “Moral Cleansing Romanian Style”, Problems of Post-Communism, Vol. 49, No. 4, 2002, pp. 52-62; idem, “Spies, files and lies: explaining the failure of access to Securitate files”, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, Vol. 37, No. 3, 2004, pp. 341-359.

[31] Monica Ciobanu, “Criminalising the Past and Reconstructing Collective Memory: The Romanian Truth Commission”, Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 61, No. 2, 2009, pp. 313-336.

[32] Laura Ştefan, Dan Tapalagă, Sorin Ioniţă, “Romania”, in Freedom House, Nations in Transit 2010: Democratization from Central Europe to Eurasia, Washington DC, 2010, pp. 413-431.

[33] Maurice Duverger, Political Parties: Their Organization and Activity in the Modern World, Wiley, New York, 1963; Arend Lijphart, “The Political Consequences of Electoral Laws, 1945-1985”, American Political Science Review, Vol. 84, No. 2, 1990, pp. 481-496; Douglas W. Rae, The Political Consequences of Electoral Laws, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1971; Giovanni Sartori, Comparative Constitutional Engineering: An Inquiry into Structures, Incentives and Outcomes, Macmillan, Basingstoke, 1997.

[34] Terry D. Clark, Jill N. Wittrock, “Presidentialism and the Effect of Electoral Law in Post-communist Systems”, Comparative Political Studies, Vol. 38, No. 2, 2005, pp. 171-188.

[35] Juan J. Linz, “The Perils of Presidentialism”, Journal of Democracy, Vol. 1, No. 1, 1990, pp. 51-69.

[36] Grigore Pop-Eleches, “Separated at Birth or Separated by Birth? The Communist Successor Parties in Romania and Hungary”, East European Politics and Societies, Vol. 13, No. 1, 1998, pp. 117-147; Cosmina Tănăsoiu, “Intellectuals and Post-Communist Politics in Romania: An Analysis of Public Discourse, 1990-2000”, East European Politics and Societies, Vol. 22, No. 1, 2008, pp. 80-113; Vladimir Tismaneanu, “The Quasi-revolution and its Discontents: Emerging Political Pluralism in Post-Ceauşescu Romania”, East European Politics and Societies, Vol. 7, No. 2, 1993, pp. 309-348.

[37] Cosmin G. Marian, Ronald F. King, “Plus ça change…cit.”, p. 10.

[38] PNL and PD (former name of PDL) formed in 2004 the ‘Justice and Truth’ alliance that managed to electorally defeat PSD in the 2004 elections. They consequently formed the bulk of the cabinet between 2004 and 2007, when PDL decided to withdraw from the ruling coalition and to support the incumbent President Băsescu for the 2009 presidential elections.

[39] Arend Lijphart, “The Political Consequences of Electoral Laws…cit.”

[40] Cosmin G. Marian, Ronald F. King, “Plus ça change…cit.”

[41] Ibidem, p. 17.

[42] From December 2009 to April 2012, the government coalition was formed by PDL, the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) and a smaller group of ‘fugitive’ MPs from the opposition parties, who decided to join the government coalition ranks.

[44] This figure has to be compared with the consolidated budget for 2012, estimated at 45 billion euros.

[45] Anthony Downs, An Economic Theory of Democracy, Addison-Wesley, New York, 1957.

[46] Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, “Reinventing the Peasants. Local State Capture in Post-Communist Europe”, Romanian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 3, No. 2, 2003, pp. 23-38.

[47] Jan Lubecki, “Echoes of Latifundism? Electoral Constituencies of Successor Parties in Post-Communist Countries”, East European Politics and Societies, Vol. 18, No. 1, 2004, pp. 10-44.

[48] Dragoș Dragoman, “Regional Inequalities, Decentralization and the Performance of Local Governments in Post-communist Romania”, Local Government Studies, Vol. 37, No. 6, 2011, pp. 647-669.

[49] Anthony Downs, An Economic Theory of Democracy…cit.

[50] Laura Ştefan, Sorin Ioniţă, “Romania”, in Freedom House, Nations in Transit 2012, Washington DC, 2012, pp. 431-450.

[51] Venelin Ganev, “Post-Accession Hooliganism…cit.”

[52] Bojan Bugaric, “Populism, Liberal Democracy, and the Rule of Law…cit.”

[53] Kari Lühiste, “Explaining Trust in Institutions: Some Illustrations from the Baltic States”, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, Vol. 39, No. 1, 2006, pp. 475-496.

[54] Lavinia Stan, Răzvan Zaharia, “Romania”, European Journal of Political Research, Vol. 47, Nos. 7-8, 2008, pp.1115-1126.

[55] Cosmin G. Marian, Ronald F. King, “Plus ça change…cit.”

[56] ‘Băsescu pleads for President’s impeachment procedure change’, Nine O’Clock, 10 January 2011, http://www.nineoclock.ro/index.php?issue=4856&page=detalii&categorie=politics&id=20110110-512799, accessed on 01 February 2011.

[58] Giovanni Sartori, “Despre sistemul constituţional românesc”, appendix to the Romanian edition of Comparative Constitutional Engineering: An Inquiry into Structures, Incentives and Outcomes (Ingineria constituţională comparată. Structuri, stimulente şi rezultate), Institutul European, Iaşi, 2008, pp. 313-319.

[59] ‘Top-level meeting between Băsescu, Boc and PDL MPs, Nine O’Clock, 28 January 2011, http://www.nineoclock.ro/index.php?issue=4856&page=detalii&categorie=politics&id=20110128-512855, accessed on 01 February 2011.

[60] Victor LUPU, “Many Things Hard to understand”, Nine O’Clock, 21 October 2009, http://www.nineoclock.ro/index.php?issue=4856&page=detalii&categorie=frontpage&id=20091021-501531, accessed on 01 February 2011.

[61] Preparing for the 2012 elections, the opposition parties (PNL and PSD) formed in 2011 a legally binding political alliance, and not a simple parliamentary majority, called the Social-Liberal Union (USL). This Union will finally largely impose in the 2012 local and general elections and form the government in December 2012.

[62] Another symbolic subordination of the parliament was the way the government faced the confidence vote in parliament demanded by opposition parties, when the government decided to engage its responsibility for a law proposal. In order to avoid unpleasant situations that sometimes occurred during the confidence vote, while a very limited number of PDL MPs overtly voted against their government, beginning with 2010, PDL MPs were not allowed by their party leaders to stand up, express their views or vote in parliament. They were forced to be seated and wait for the end of the plenary session, which 13 times ended with the defeat of the opposition and the confirmation of the PDL government in place.

[63] Laura Ştefan, Dan Tapalagă, Sorin Ioniţă, “Romania…cit.”, p. 414.

[64] Ibidem, p. 418.

[65] http://www.adevarul.ro/actualitate/eveniment/Alesii_PDL_au_luat_cu_asalt_Curtea_

Constituţională_0_280772470.html, accessed on 02 February 2011.

[66] Venelin Ganev, “Post-Accession Hooliganism…cit.”

[67] Ibidem, p. 27.

[68] Robert F. King, Paul E. Sum (eds.), Romania under Basescu…cit.

[69] The ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 representing the highest level of democratic progress and 7 the lowest.

[70] Laura Ştefan, Sorin Ioniţă, “Romania…cit.”

[71] Alina MUNGIU-PIPPIDI, “Prostia la vârf, vulnerabilitate naţională”, România Liberă, 1st of July 2010.

[72] Laura Ştefan, Dan Tapalagă, Sorin Ioniţă, “Romania…cit.”, p. 415.

[73] Ovidiu C. Norocel, “Romania is a family and it needs a strict father: conceptual metaphors at work in radical-right populist discourses”, Nationalities Papers, Vol. 38, No. 5, 2010, pp. 705-721.