The Romanian social democrats, the party of the many, like it was once called, with more than half a million members, simply couldn’t convince its traditional voters to participate and get involved at the elections. In the same time, they couldn’t manage to build alliances with the other parties. Isolated, PSD Romania must start rebuilding by learning from its mistakes and listening to its members.
The road towards the painful defeat started after the huge victory of 2016 when PSD Romania got around half of all local elected positions and of the Romanian Parliament. That victory, due to a well-organized campaign, a strong political program and a disappointing government led by the current chair of the Renew Group, Dacian Cioloș, led unfortunately to arrogance.
The defeat is due to consecutive mistakes
Influenced by personal interests, the leadership of the party promoted measures designed to increase the privileges of a political class already mistrusted by citizens. The biggest mistake was that the decisions were not explained. Despite the positive social measures and a strong economic record, the debate on justice reforms was the one that generated a chain reaction hard to contain that culminated in several months of public protests.
In front of this public pressure and the internal political controversies, the party didn’t know how to react, changing prime ministers and dozens of ministers. Some of the conservatives in the party decided that the solution will consist in adopting a Eurosceptic message that was never part of the Romanian social democrats’ genetics. PSD Romania is the party that got Romania in NATO and the European Union, the party of consensus and stability.
“I resigned from my office as Minister for European Affairs in order to call for a return towards a strong pro-European political message based on our left-wing values and our 125 years of party history.”
The new changes isolated the party. PSD Romania started to lose support and was stamped by an aggressive right with an anti-EU branding that was never true. This generated a reaction from the progressives in PSD Romania, that I am happy to be part of. Personally, I resigned from my office as Minister for European Affairs in order to call for a return towards a strong pro-European political message based on our left-wing values and our 125 years of party history.
Despite repeated attempts to push the party back towards its core pro-European message, the legal case against the former leader, the repeated mistakes in public communication of the government, a badly managed political campaign for the European elections, the incapacity to speak to the Romanian diaspora and the lack of support at European level, led to a first time defeat at the European elections.
Without any real ideological debate or analysis of the elections results, the leadership of the party was taken by Viorica Dăncilă, the Romanian Prime-Minister at that time, former MEP and party ally of the former leader. The badly managed communication, the inconsistent political approach and the aggressivity of the right parties pushed the party in a deeper crisis, noticed by everyone but never recognised within the party.
The new leader decided to run for the presidential elections without challenging the problems of the party or managing to change the already formed opinion of most Romanians. Despite a positive PSD record in government which generated one of the biggest economic growth in Europe, the candidate could not convince the traditional party supporters or attract new voters being blocked in routine politics. Therefore, she got less votes that the result of the party in the polls.
The participation of the Prime Minister at the presidential race led to a mobilization of the other political parties in the Parliament making PSD lose the government and with some help from Brussels, the Romanian commissioner. All of this was possible despite the fact the right-wing parties appointed a controversial politician, previously investigated by the anti-corruption department, as Prime Minister.
Without commenting on those visible problems, everyone expected the outcome of the presidential elections. Despite that, the party did its best and most of its members got involved hopping for a miracle that never came.
Immediately after the historical defeat, the leadership of the party was forced to resign, and a new interim team was formed to lead the party. The new interim president is the current president of the Chamber of Deputies, influential deputy Marcel Ciolacu, while the new secretary general is an experienced local leader, senator Paul Stănescu.
Preparing the restart of Romanian social democracy
The time is now for a necessary change. In order to restart, the Romanian social democrats must analyse in detail the mistakes committed and work on rebuilding its credibility. A pro-European, progressive and left wing message is needed more than ever and for that the party must have the courage to make the so much needed reforms.There is little time for all of that. The local and parliamentary elections are planned next year. In the preparation of the PSD Congress taking place at the end of February, the social democrats need fresh blood, a change of attitude and a consistent approach towards citizens. I am personally ready to participate actively together with all the other progressives at this modernization process. It will not be easy. The European Socialists must get involved to protect one of the last left-wing bastions in Eastern Europe.
Credit Photo – Shutterstock – Bucharest, Romania – October 12, 2019: The launch event of the candidacy of Viorica Dancila, at the Romanian Presidency, held in Central pavilion of Romexpo, in Bucharest.