Much consternation in the easily consternated world of the Romanian media this week after it was revealed that President Klaus Iohannis was enjoying a week’s holiday in Madeira.
Cue outrage of the ‘How dare he go on holiday, he has a country to run’ kind.
Yes, perhaps he does have a country to run (read on for our thoughts on that) but he is also entitled to a certain amount of annual leave. Besides, hardly anyone will be at work in Romania next week (Orthodox Easter), so there’s a fair amount of hypocrisy on display here too. Iohannis is Lutheran, and celebrated Easter last weekend. Why shouldn’t he have this week off?
As for running the country, that’s not the president’s job in Romania, it’s the government’s. Certainly, when the president and the government share a vision the head of state can influence policy. We ate not there yet, however. We need patience, much like that the German himself clearly has.
For with the bluster of early January – when Iohannis was openly discussing creating a new parliamentary majority – now forgotten, the president is doing precisely what he should: stay out of the way and let the DNA and its allies in the justice and security services continue their purge of Romania’s corrupt politicians. With nobody safe, Iohannis appears to have realised that it would be foolish to replace one criminally corrupt government – dominated by the PSD – with another, led by the PNL.
Far wiser to let the DNA arrest, try and convict as many corrupt politicians as possible ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections. Of course, that the parliament elected next year will still contain corrupt politicians is alas a given: every parliament in the world has its shits. All we (and no doubt Iohannis) can hope is that parliament will contain at least enough clean MPs and senators to form a ‘majority of the vaguely honest.’
(Perhaps we are feeling rather naive today).
As such, when it comes to December and we begin to try gauging whether or not the German’s first year has been a success, just one thing – and one thing alone – will be relevant: the number of politicians convicted of high-level corruption.
We read this morning that the number for 2014 was an impressive 1,138. A good start, but more needs to be done, and all Iohannis needs to do is let it happen.
After all, it is worth remembering this: if Victor Ponta had won last November’s presidential election, the DNA would by now have had its wings well and truly clipped. It would not have been disbanded – that would have been politically impossible – but the amazing Laura Codruta Kovesi would have been shoved aside, and the DNA would be working out of a shed in a village in Teleorman with no electricity, staffed by the village idiot. The idea that Radu Mazare, erstwhile Mayor of Constanta, or Darius Valcov, the art collecting former finance minister would be behind bars would be the stuff of fantasy.
What’s more, there is not a corrupt politician or businessman in Romania who is not currently having sleepness nights, wracked with deep fear of a knock on the door. At every level of Romanian society people are thinking twice about offering or taking bribes – no matter how small. Every public tender is being scrutinised intensely, to the point that some are being delayed so as to ensure everything is done transparently and with the highest standards of propriety. The delays – temporary – are a price worth paying for honesty.
Romania is not yet corruption free. No country ever will be. But there is a real sense that a corner has been turned. The arrests go on. Fear stalks the land. That is in part to the German’s credit, wherever he may be sunning himself. Give him a break and judge him (and Romania) at a later date.