Last Friday's deadly fire was the straw that broke the camel's back. But the resignation of Victor Ponta's government must be the start of a fundamental transformation in Romania, says Robert Schwartz.
Why did it take a catastrophic fire leaving dozens dead before an utterly irresponsible prime minister finally packed his things and left? Why did tens of thousands of people feel the need to take to the streets and hold up a mirror to the deeply discredited prime minister's face? The answer is simple: The self-preservation instincts of a corrupt political system are much more powerful than any sense of political or moral responsibility.
That will change now. What we are currently experiencing in Romania is the velvet revolution of a young generation against an ossified establishment. A fortress-like establishment that was built up by ex-communists and former members of the dreaded intelligence service, Securitate, after the fall of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu a quarter century ago. Since then, a mesh of corruption, nepotism and political dependency has had control of the country. Until today!
A catastrophe rocks the political establishment
Last Friday's (30.10) tragedy in a Bucharest nightclub took on enormous political dimensions just a few days after it occurred. Social Democrat Victor Ponta and the members of his now resigned government can, and must, be the beginning of a tidal wave that will wash away the entirety of the political scum that has settled over the country, renew Romanian society and finally afford law to the much abused constitutional state.
Ponta's resignation was long overdue. Not just because of the proven plagiarism of his doctoral thesis, or the charges of corruption leveled against him. No - soon after he took office in the summer of 2012, he began undermining the laws of the state in order to drive his most hated rival, President Traian Basescu, out of office and to take control of the justice system. Luckily for Romania, his attempt failed miserably - however, he remained in office.
Now, chances are good that the young and well-educated generation that took to the streets this time, will take responsibility. Liberal President Klaus Iohannis (PNL) would be well advised to do more than just listen to these new voices. His "step by step" policies have been criticized by many as being too tentative: nevertheless, his repeated calls for Ponta's resignation were not ineffectual. They increased political pressure on the prime minister and his cabinet, which, according to the constitution, the president is allowed to do. That is something that the Social Democratic Party (PSD) and their coalition partners, the so-called Progressives (UNPR), who have been in control thus far, only seem to have partially understood. After Ponta's resignation, they announced their desire to form a new government. A fatal sign!
The country needs reforms
The time for such political maneuvering must now be over. The country desperately needs reforms if it is ever to rise out of the swamp that has been the playground of political flip-floppers and amateurs for decades. The Romanian people deeply desire the long overdue jolt of their society - they proved it overwhelmingly in last November's presidential elections. The time seems ripe. It is tragic, however, that it took a deadly catastrophe to start the wave.
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