By Marco Badea
Come November 24th, Romania won’t look any different than it did before November 24th. The same political disputes, the same bluffing games of quasi-electoral logic, the same flawed visions, artificial emotions and the same lack of discursive clarity will come from the great actors and decision-makers in Bucharest’s political arena.
For the sake of Romania’s democratic health, Viorica Dăncilă, the Social Democrat Party’s candidate, shouldn’t win the second round of the Presidential elections. The way things stand after the first ballot, thinking of our country’s future, both in European politics and beyond, Dăncilă will not be the preferred candidate and she will not be President.
But Viorica Dăncilă’s predictable defeat won’t be a great victory for incumbent president Klaus Iohannis, representing the National Liberal Party. If his campaign strategy would have shown more political fortitude, President Iohannis could have had a glorious win. Instead, he chose not to have a direct debate with the Social Democrats’ candidate, implying she is not an ‘appropriate” counter-candidate.
Instead of facing Dăncilă and truly defeating her in a televised debate while taking, at the same time, responsibility for naming her prime minister, Iohannis let journalists and online media fight his own fight in exposing Dăncilă’s inadequacy for the presidency.
In the end, Klaus Iohannis could have won his votes in a real fight. These votes could have been given to him enthusiastically, based on the promise of “normality” which represented the foundation of his campaign, instead of letting people vote for the lesser evil.
Instead, the President preferred to play out the card of the “battle already won” throughout the campaign, both during the first and second ballots. By avoiding a direct debate with Dăncilă, he opted out of a key democratic custom and moral duty.
Beyond the impenetrable, opaque core of Iohannis voters who will of course stay on track on November 24th, the undecided electorate’s votes will be coming towards him out of fear instead of conviction; fear of ever having to deal with a reality where Viorica Dancila is president and the Social Democrats may get a boost and get their power back.
The campaign will pass with Romanians having voted in possibly the least interesting presidential election thus far. We will stop thinking about the institution of the President for a while and go back to our daily dissatisfaction, remembering that this is the country where a bear lies in agony for 18 hours on the road while the authorities are absent and people take selfies. Remembering that this is a country where Roma students have school breaks at different intervals than the rest of the children in a certain part of Romania. A country where we still vote with our wallets and stomachs instead of our hearts and brains.
Post-November 24, Romania should be the Romania that gives us a clear vision for our children’s futures and our own. If we don’t have a vision, if we don’t have it projected in front of our eyes, then we must roll up our sleeves and build it. And we have to do this where we stand, at the grassroots level.