If the first two weeks of campaigning ahead of Romania’s parliamentary election on December 11th have proven anything, it is that the country is heading towards utter disaster. Unless there is a far higher turnout than currently expected, then the country is about to vote itself into an abyss in which reason, critical thinking and objectivity do not exist.
Last night on national television the Mayor of Bucharest, Gabriela Firea, said that any future prime minister of Romania should be somebody who has ‘not been paid, sponsored or financed by foreign organisations.’ (She made no mention of those who have made millions stealing from the state, nor those who have rigged elections, such as the leader of her party. So we assume she is fine with them, as long as they didn’t study abroad).
That’s the level of debate ahead of this election.
Earlier today the disgraced former prime minister of Romania Victor Ponta (who loves Romania so much that he flies to Turkey for medical treatment) posted this on Facebook:
That’s the level of debate ahead of this election. Poverty, homelessness, corruption, a health system in meltdown and creaking infrastructure are not getting a look in. Nope: it’s all about George Soros and his attempt to turn Romania into a colony.
Ponta’s post (and note that Ponta spelt Soros incorrectly: there is no umlaut) came in response to the leader of the USR, Nicusor Dan, suing the former PM for libel. Dan wants 500,000 lei in damages for Ponta’s ‘repeated claims that the USR is financed by George Soros.’
We find it disappointing that Dan has taken this step. He should ignore Ponta or – even better – simply shrug it off and say that people can believe what they like. After all, what exactly is so awful about George Soros? Can any of those lunatics who blame him for everything that goes wrong in Romania actually point to one thing he has done to the detriment of this country? (No. In fact, by offering thousands of young people the chance to study abroad – amongst much else – Soros has done far more for Romania than just about every Romanian who curses the day he was born. How many scholarships to elite universities has the PSD offered underprivileged Romanians?)
We have no idea exactly when it happened, but it is now not exaggerating to state that total Soros hysteria has swept Romania. Spurred on by the nationalist gutter press (which is most of it, not least the television channels Antena 3, RTV and Realitatea) politicians from across the spectrum have adopted an anti-foreigner discourse that threatens to drag the country backwards.
Soros, Baron Rothschild, the Illuminati, the Masons, global corporations, the EU, zombies, migrants and even the Devil himself have all got their greedy eyes on Romania. These people want to turn Romania into a colony in which millions of slaves work for their foreign (and probably gay) masters, grateful for any scraps that might be thrown back at them. Indeed, according to some, this state of affairs already exists. Only the PSD (and its ilk: ALDE, PRU, ANR) can save the country from evil foreigners and make Romania great again. (It also needs to be said that both the PMP and PNL have of late not been shy in playing the nationalist card).
What’s most depressing of course is that this kind of rhetoric has an audience. There are people who genuinely take this kind of thing seriously. A look at the comments under a Victor Ponta Facebook post is evidence enough of that.
So who exactly are these people who have lost all touch with reason?
Lazily, the usual description of the PSD’s electorate is reduced to being ‘pensioners and those on benefits.’ This is far from true, else the PSD would be polling at 20 per cent, not 40 per cent.
No, besides the elderly (and it would be wrong to tar all of Romania’s pensioners with the same brush. There are many with a capacity for reason in this country) the PSD draws its support from three other of sectors of society.
1. Civil Servants
Tens of thousands of Romanian civil servants occupy what could be described as ‘non-jobs’. Think of the post office, the tax office, council offices: these are full of people who do very, very little in exchange for salaries guaranteed every month by the Romanian state. They are not unemployed, but they are certainly under-employed. Fearful of any real reform which would do away with their jobs at a stroke, they vote (quite naturally) with the party that will best serve their interests: that is the PSD, which remains as uninterested in reform today as it did 25 years ago.
2. The Functionally Illiterate
More than 40 per cent of Romanians are what is known as ‘functionally illiterate.’ They can read, write and carry out every day tasks but very often do not understand what they are reading. These are the kind of people far too easily swayed by conspiracy theories that do the rounds on Facebook, and by the populist talk of politicians. It was the UK’s equivalent of this group that swung the EU referendum in June: people who simply didn’t realise (until it was too late) exactly what they were voting for.
3. The Far-Right
We have often been told that there are no far-right political parties in Romania. This is total rubbish. Of those contesting the forthcoming election at least two warrant the label ‘far-right’: PRU and ANR. These two extremist parties are competing for the electorate that once voted for the Greater Romania Party (PRM) of Corneliu Vadim Tudor, who died last year. The most deluded group in Romanian society these are people who will tell you that Dacians built the pyramids and/or discovered America. They will tell you that they are Christians and convinced anti-communists shortly before proposing many of the same policies as, ahem, the communists (such as preventing foreigners from buying property). The PSD is not (yet) part of this nasty little group, but it is not a million miles away, and it is actively courting the PRM’s voters with its anti-foreigner message.
Like it or not the PSD, supported by pensioners and by the three groups we described, will win this election. What remains to be seen is the margin of victory. The latest opinion poll shows the PSD and ALDE dangerously close to a majority.
Will Soros still be to blame when they fail to lead us all into the land of milk and honey?
Meantime, those of us with foreign names (and we have both English and Hungarian surnames: the labour camps await!) might do well to batten down the hatches.