If you follow Romanian news, you mustn’t have missed how Victor Ponta, the current Romanian prime-minister, leader of the most popular (and also crypto-communist) PSD party and the most likely winner of the upcoming presidential race, launched his candidacy, on his birthday, on a stadium.
I had no idea he was going to do this (de pe marea scena a tarii, pe micul ecran: Oda-Suntem Defecti, B1TV, CanCan, CoolStuff, A3, VladPetri, PSD-1:15h, VictorPonta, Badea), but back on Friday I was writing in an article published on Saturday, on Superwritings and other contests:
we have a plagiarizing prime-minister who has never done anything relevant or of substance. He’s never come up with ideas worth remembering (except for being paranoid) and he wins elections only because disadvantaged, uninformed people have come to recognize his name and the name of his party, despite his lack of positive achievements, and associate them with handouts.
There were 70000 people according to the organizers and 30-40000 according to independent sources. Some people claimed they were brought from outside of Bucharest and paid to show up.
Not long ago, in 1974-the tipping point, I was explaining how Nicolae Ceausescu ejaculated his “July Theses” after having visited Mao’s China and Big Kim’s Korea – Ponta emulates them so well, he even looks Korean. Ceausescu’s out-of-bounds cult of personality started in earnest soon thereafter. Henceforth, Victor Ponta did not even have to travel that far, he now has an example in his forebear, ceasca. Here’s how one expat living in Bucharest sees it (bl-ponta).
Ponta bizarrely said yesterday that comparisons with the old dictator were unfounded, as ‘Ceausescu actually held his party congress at the Sala Palatului.’
So that’s alright then.
Anyway, as the full, appalling spectacle unfolded on Saturday we said that ‘today is the day Ponta loses the presidential election.’ A couple of days on and we think it was a good call. Ponta will not be Romanian president. No matter who faces Ponta in the second round (and the most likely candidate remains Mayor of Sibiu Klaus Iohannis) we simply can’t see the prime minister winning. We refuse to believe that – beyond the medieval PSD heartlands of Teleorman, Olt, Gorj, Dolj and Moldova – anyone will choose Ponta over Iohannis. (Not, we should add, because Iohannis is the ideal candidate: he is far from it).
Ponta’s campaign by the way has been firmly centered on the nationalist slogan Marea Unire, the name given to the unification of Transylvania with Moldova and Wallachia in 1918. Beyond the slogan’s nakedly obvious expansionism there is also another parallel with Nicolae Ceausescu to be drawn: the idea of ‘uniting all Romanians behind one leader’ is very much the same as the Party – Ceausescu – Romania narrative of the 1980s, which made the notions of Ceausescu and Romania inseparable. Ponta is Romania: that’s what we are being told to think. Fortunately, people are refusing to do so.
One way to interpret the Ceausescu’s descent into an increasingly disgusting cult of personality may have had more to do with his humiliation in his youth by the secret police – he had been arrested as a kid in what was obviously a serious abuse of policing that may have actually turned his life into a different direction. The usual interpretation by “historians” is that he was such an angry and radical youngster that police just had to arrest him when he was 14, but is it not possible that he was just a normal, rebellious kid who was radicalized by his unfair and illegal arrest, and who knows what humiliation he endured there? Is it not fair to also assume that Vlad Tepes was a normal person before being thrown in a Turkish jail and abused in ways that make us fidget when we even think about it? Wasn’t Nixon’s paranoia during his presidential term caused by what many consider widespread electoral fraud in JFK’s earlier win against him?
Ponta, for his part, made his war with the president-elect the cornerstone of his leadership (and never managed to win) and only dares to run for president after his arch-nemesis is constitutionally forced to depart. He had to ask Base’s permission to attend European summits. He got to meet Obama only through the highly controversial backdoor called Tony Blair (who knows how much the latter charged him). He did his PhD with the suicidal prime-minister (they alone and maybe NSA know how much anilingus that involved) only to be unmasked - and that wasn’t even his first foray into lobbyist-mediated politics. His overtures were repeatedly rebuffed by his European Socialist colleagues, culminating with their skipping of a Bucharest summit they had previously confirmed (euract-pes). Even in the hour of his triumph, the Parliament nearly voted to censor his government (real-no-conf).
All these cumulative humiliations may have a similar effect on his infantile, fragile psyche. In a way, his conflict with Basescu may have more to do with Crin Antonescu’s arrogance than his own, he was just holding on to the line he learned in school: “my master wasn’t supposed to be you, B, I was not supposed to serve you, why is my master in jail”? Once in power, he may turn out to be a far worse Basescu, Putin, Stalin and Ceausescu combined than any of us could possibly imagine.
Then again, this is not how he appears to a majority of Romanian voters. Most voters are simply worse off than before 1989 and their hopes of any improvement are also gone. Ponta for them represents the past, with its assurance of subsistence, preferable to today’s chaos. As such, similarities with Old Romania can only increase his chances of getting their vote. The fact that the Romanian Government Youtube Channel is publishing “work visits” to economic agents, cathedral inauguration, restaurant inauguration, declaration-09.23 and his presence at the launching of “l’etat c’est moi” is thus not an ugly parallel to an Orwellian past and an unacceptable use of governmental resources for a personal electoral campaign, but rather a reminder how good and simple things used to be.
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