Tough talk in Romanian politics precedes year of electoral all-out war

The closing year stood out as a period of increased political confrontations between the two rival camps of president Traian Basescu and prime minister Victor Ponta, setting the tone for what many expect a genuine political war in 2014 when Romania, other than holding European Parliament elections, votes for a new president who, according to the current Constitution, has strong prerogatives and thus is a major player in the country’s politics.

2013 debuted with a cohabitation pact signed by the two arch rivals amid an increased public hostility shown to each other, reflected in tough-language public statements. The pact called on the two leaders to abstain from attacks against the state institutions and use polite language when addressing the other, “always in the second plural person”.

Despite a period of political respite between the two, the insults kept flying. “A liar”, “I am a better prime minister than he is”, “Victor Ponta is a profoundly corrupt prime-minister,” Basescu said at different times during the year. In turn, Ponta said that “Basescu has reached a superior level of irresponsibility and he lacks discernment” or “he has a Securitate mentality” (a reference to the former communist regime’s repressive apparatus) or “the president has engendered controversies for nine years, I am busy running the country”.

In October, after months of friction, Basescu denounced the cohabitation pact following a controversial removal of a leading prosecutor with the National Anti-corruption Department (DNA), Lucian Papici. Papici was the one coordinating the investigation against Ponta’s deputy, Liviu Dragnea, an influential figure in the social-democratic party (PSD). Dragna was indicted for abuse of office and is accused of setting up a nation-wide network meant to bring people to the polling stations to make sure Basescu’s impeachment referendum in July 2012 reached the legal limit of turn-out so the president could be removed. “Ponta has trampled the judiciary,” Basescu accused the PM then.

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