Just when you thought the state of the race to become mayor of Bucharest couldn’t get any worse, it gets worse. Much worse.
In a move which will only serve to hasten the death of the PNL, the party yesterday announced that Marian Munteanu would be its new candidate for mayor of the Romanian capital. Munteanu’s nomination follows the withdrawal of Ludovic Orban on Monday after he was charged with corruption.
Who is Munteanu?
Simple: he’s a neo-Legionary, an extremist, a national-communist opposed to Europe, enlightenment values and the modern world in general. Romania, he said recently, is ‘under assault. Romanians are the victims of a psychological war.’
Yep, it’s time to play the victim card and blame us foreigners for everything again.
It was not always thus.
In 1990 Munteanu was the leader of the students who occupied Piata Universitatii for more than a month, protesting against the National Salvation Front (FSN) of Ion Iliescu. Seen as the great white hope of Romanian liberal democracy, Munteanu was nearly killed by the miners who put down the protests, and spent four days in a coma.
Since then, Munteanu has gone one way – right – without ever stopping. So much so that it’s now all but impossible to differentiate between his ideals and those of the fascist Legionary Movement of the 1930s and 40s. We’ve written about the Legionaries twice over the past few weeks. We wish we didn’t keep having to.
In the wake of the miners’ riot Munteanu – who in the late 1980s fell under the spell of fascist Petre Tutea – appears to have succumbed to Stockholm Syndrome, forming an unlikely political alliance with Virgil Magureanu, head of the SRI – successor of the Securitate – from 1990 to 1997. It was Magureanu who facilitated the miners’ riots. And yet by 1991 Munteanu was happy to share a platform with him. (Apropos: In another bizarre twist, former miners’ leader Miron Cozma yesterday endorsed Munteanu’s candidacy).
Munteanu was one of the founding members, in 1992, of a minuscule party called the Movement for Romania. Although it attracted just 12,000 votes in that year’s election and disintegrated soon after, it is worth noting that party members began meetings by praying beneath a portrait of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, the evil leader of the Legionary Movement until he was fortunately killed in 1938. In her 1995 book Social Currents in Eastern Europe, American academic Sabrina Ramet notes how Codreanu’s book, For My Legionaries (Romania’s Mein Kampf) was distributed to new members.
Having been largely anonymous for some time, Munteanu reappeared last year as one of the founders of an organisation calling itself the Group for Romania, a bunch of extremist lunatics who use language that would have appeared outdated in the times of Ceausescu. ‘Trans-national corporations have turned Romania into a colony and made us slaves in our own land.’ It also claims that the European Union is ‘implementing communism at a global level.’ Only by fighting like ‘free Dacians’ can Romania be saved.
Good grief. If it wasn’t so awful it would be funny.
The PNL – now, definitively, a party of the far-right – will split. Already a number of senior members have expressed their disgust at Munteanu’s nomination.
The good news is that Munteanu will not be the next mayor of Bucharest. He will grab some of the PSD’s more nationalist voters, but will finish a distant third. Decent PNL supporters will vote for somebody else, anybody else or – more than likely – stay at home.
The bad news is that the campaign will now get very nasty. Expect much nationalist and anti-foreigner rhetoric: ‘Romania for the Romanians and fuck everybody else.’
Time to batten down the hatches. It will all be over in a couple of months.
PS Read this, by Valentin Mandache, also a student leader in 1990.