Wednesday 4 November 2015

Victor Ponta has resigned


Mr. Ponta said on television a few minutes ago that he was

"handing in my mandate, I'm resigning, and implicitly my government too. I hope the government's resignation will satisfy the people who came out in the streets."
I did not expect this quite so soon.

Nothing in his premiership became him like the leaving it. It was absolutely the right thing for him to do and a victory for the crowds last night. But when the National Liberals were in power there were no more fire escapes in bars than now.

As soon as Victor Ponta unexpectedly lost the presidential election in December by a large margin he became a lame duck, despite his majority in Parliament. Since then he has been indicted for corruption which led him to resign as leader of the Social Democrats (successors to the Communist Party) but not until today the premiership. His successor as Social Democrat leader, Liviu Dragnea, himself previously convicted earlier this year of vote-rigging, has regularly overruled and contemptuously humiliated Mr. Ponta.

Last night the squares of Bucharest were thronged by sombre crowds demanding the politicians be held accountable for the deaths of 32 (at the latest count) young people in a nightclub fire and the government's resignation. From my flat in the old town I could hear the periodic roaring of the crowd in University Square at 1 a.m. 

Today Mr. Dragnea said

"Victor Ponta is giving up his mandate. Someone needs to assume responsibility for what has happened. This a serious matter and we promise a quick resolution of the situation. You probably noticed thousands of people last evening and what they demanded."
Mr. Ponta resigned the party leadership but not the premiership because President Iohannis comes from the National Liberal Party and will try to avoid inviting a Social Democrat to form a new government, despite the party's majority in parliament. A long period of humiliating impotence for Mr. Ponta has come to an end. His position for the last few painful months was the opposite of what British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin called 
"power without responsibility, the prerogative of the harlot down the ages."
Romanian politics is full of harlots, metaphorical and actual, but Mr. Ponta had the much less enjoyable prerogative of responsibility without power.

In keeping with this, Mr Ponta performs a final function as a sacrificial lamb, a sin-eater for the Government, the Social Democratic Party, the (robber) 'barons' who control the party machine in the counties and the entire, ghastly, compromised and incompetent Romanian political class. 

His resignation in itself is not very important. The President, who has been cohabiting with he man he defeated for the presidency 11 months ago, now has the chance to try to choose and create support for a Prime Minister from his own political camp, but even this is not really very important. 

What would be important - more important than who is Prime Minister or which party is in power - would be a change, it if came about, in what Romanian society is prepared to put up with. And I feel, after this victory for the people in the street, after this horrible tragedy and after the two-year-long onslaught of the Anti-Corruption Authority on the politicians, that this might be possible.


  1. After last night I fully expected the sword fall, bet with my colleagues and collected the cash. It was a very different crowd to the Presidential elections or Rosia protests. Dragnea made the calculations that for PSD to stand any chance now was the time to give up Queen and Rook, for Ponta it was the most opportune moment he has had in a year, an almost honorable exit at the people's behest . Without it the coming weekend would have seen 100,000 of a crowd that was supported by police and jandarmes not controlled.

    You know functioning democracies like the UK can tolerate an apolitical non voting class of self interested and survive as such because checks and balances on power and abuse are applied, non functional ones like Romania rely on them remaining out of the picture and what you saw last night was this class in direct engagement , educated, privledged people who tolerated a broken model until it touched them.

    The next few months will be the most interesting politics here for 25years, care to enter the pool for new PM?

    1. "an almost honorable exit at the people's behest" - agreed, the narrowest road to respectable oblivion !

      "the coming weekend would have seen 100,000 of a crowd" - almost regret we'll never get to know either way...

      I never vote

    2. Ana
      I agree I'm a little curious too as to what might have been. With the choices on offer in the last 15 years I can understand why you might not vote or at least vote ' none of the above '. I am half tempted to start a party for Romanian Salvation ( PSR ) has such a nice ring to it. I don't mean a rehash of FSN I mean a truly Democratic Party made of people who just want a normalized life, roads that stay in one piece, taxation that helps those it is meant to not those who help themselves, Romania has such good and robust laws on Safety and environment so a party that would truly enforce them would help everyone, what is lacking is a nucleus of the willing to carry this feeling forward . my friend Andreea posted on FB a very telling cartoon where the tag line was ' Who wants change!?' ( all hands up ) ' who wants to change!?' Well you know the reaction...

  2. It was planned, people in the party already set to kick him out.
    They just replace the image and propagate the same bahaviours.

    The struggle should have beent to change the laws that are not complete or not applicable.

    We did not chage shit

    Cristina Z.

  3. Agreed. The writing has been on the wall for Ponta for a while - it would have been smarter for him to resign after he lost the presidential elections.

    Now maybe he got scared of the rising anger against the politicians and realised that as PM he was the prime target of that anger and that it would not stop until him and Oprea were gone.

    So, it appears to be a smart move now as he leaves with some dignity instead of being fired by his own party.

    But if I were to take a guess, it is not Ponta resigning today - it is Dragnea telling him enough is enough, you are out - you go and resign or I come out and officially withdraw your support.

  4. I’m also very sorry for the Piedone...He was misunderstood, people use emotion instead of brain to blame him for what he declared in the heat of the moment.
    If I had been in his place at the time, with the acuses from the press, I would have done the same thing – Defend myself from a legal perspective.

    It’s a natural behaviour to defend your decision when you are attacked.

    He was also poorly advised to propose statues for the heroes of the tragedy.

    I would have voted him for mayor if I would have been given the chance

    Cristina Z.

  5. Cristian Popescu Piedone shoud have resigned in the first 24 hours after the tragedy, for his moral responsibility. And also taking account of the nmoral responsability of his political boss, mr. Oprea. Did CPP done anything regarding illegal "clubs" in the last 7 years? No. And as administrator he did nothing more than the job, nothing exceptional.

  6. Well, Paul, I have to admit that I was wrong: the dogs barked, and this time, the caravan stopped. It happened more quickly than anyone might have guessed, and I suspect you are right, that Dragnea was pushing Ponta as he jumped ... The big question now is who will succeed Ponta, and I doubt Iohannis' ability to come up with a good solution for the political vacuum that has been created. But perhaps, this time too, I will be proven too cynical.

  7. Well, Paul, I have to admit that I was wrong: the dogs barked, and this time, the caravan stopped. It happened more quickly than anyone might have guessed, and I suspect you are right, that Dragnea was pushing Ponta as he jumped ... The big question now is who will succeed Ponta, and I doubt Iohannis' ability to come up with a good solution for the political vacuum that has been created. But perhaps, this time too, I will be proven too cynical.

  8. Unde dai și unde crapă !

    ... fits the resignation for this happenstance reason rather than the many patiently hewn ones.

    Certainly not looking forward to the next SD PM.

  9. Well said, Paul, well said....I wouldn't be surprised if slowly, but surely we will see leadership coming our of the M10 camp. Sascha,

  10. If I was Iohannis I would want the PSD government to continue as long as possible as they will only reduce their reputation further, thus making it easier for the Liberals to romp to power next time.

  11. I think the mood Rupert is that PNL are just as much a part of the problem as PSD and even the President senses that . It won't matter a jot who the PM is even the supoosedly apolitical stand in, what will matter is the timing of elections. Too soon and yes PNL would probably take power, but I dont think protests would be far behind. If it can be pushed to spring, maybe just maybe a few candidates from within the movement might make it through elections as Deputies.They would be pretty powerless at first but all movements start small. The alternative, well that's going to be new ground, revolutions always are.