The Consequences of the Romanian Expats’ Protest
Strategic Analysis based on Media Intelligence
(Please note that this document includes multiple links to news stories, which you can access should you require extended information.)
· In 2017 and the first half of 2018, the political analyses were showing that only a major unforeseen event could bring transformational changes to the political landscape in Romania.
· Now, the moves coming from ALL stakeholders (local and international) which have transpired in the media shortly before and after the protests on the 10thand 11thof August 2018 conclude that this Autumn is expected to bring an exponential increase in the fight for political power in Romania with key consequences over the results of 2019 and 2020 elections.
· Romanian journalists, editorialists as well as political analysts that we have spoken with told us that the manner in which the current Government has managed these protests may have given various Opposition forces the impulse to finally unite and be able to consolidate enough to become an alternative to the PSD-ALDE-UMDR Coalition in the next elections.
· The most recent opinion poll (Sociopol) published last week shows an incredible rise for former Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos’ party Romania Together Movement (13%). PSD – 35%, PNL – 19%, ALDE – 10%, USR – 8%, UDMR – 4%. Former Prime Minister Victor Ponta’s newly established party Pro Romania has 3%, according to the same poll.
· Fight between various wings within PSD has intensified, fuelled by what happened at the protests, with well-respected veteran Ecaterina Andronescu sending an open letter to all party members asking for Liviu Dragnea’s resignation as party head and for the Prime Minister’s resignation.
· UDMR risks not to enter the Parliament in the next elections, ALDE is making strong efforts to convince PNL members to join them, whereas PSD continues to remain strong around Liviu Dragnea, for now, until a final court decision is made in one of his files.
· President Klaus Iohannis, concerned about Romania’s image abroad in a context where the country will take over EU’s leadership for 6 months next year, has informally encouraged PNL members to stop the internal fight and fully support current leader Ludovic Orban, told them to start having a balanced relationship with USR as they have very good chances to govern together and to already start working on their governing programme.
Events that took place over the summer and which have generated discontent amongst local and expat Romanians:
· The dismissal of the chief prosecutor of the National Anti-corruption Department, Laura Codruta Kovesi;
· The “MXXX PSD” (Fuck PSD) car license plate of a Romanian working in Sweden and who got into trouble with the Romanian car traffic police;
Key new stories before and after the protests:
4th of August– News stories about 10 kilometre long queues at Romania’s western border where Romanians working abroad are coming back home to visit their relatives and participate at the protest.
In the meantime, 100,000s of Facebook posts were being published with Romanians talking about these protests, inviting each other at the protests, criticizing the protests.
6th of August– Two days later, we observe an attempt to stop the protest after a so-called key organiser of this protest (with PSD connections and who originates from Teleorman, Liviu Dragnea’s county) stating that he cannot assume responsibility over this activity because he could not obtain protest authorisation from Bucharest City Hall.
On the same day, Ovidiu Grosu, “the self-entitled true organiser of the Protests on the 10th of August” states on Antena 3 (TV station 100% supporting the governing coalition): “I am talking about a revolution, not a protest… This is an alarm signal to the security forces: anyone who will try to shut down this protest will be judged at the International Criminal Court, because we have the right to also kill in such conditions…meaning if a gendarme would hit me with a stick or threaten me with a gun I have the right to take his life.”
7th of August– DIICOT, the department investigating organized crime and terrorism actions, has started a criminal investigation against Ovidiu Grosu.
9th & 10th of August– News stories all over media and Facebook messages were saying that groups of Romanians are travelling by car and train from all over Romania to participate in the protest and that gendarmes and other security forces are blocking some of these Romanians to reach Bucharest and participate in the protest.
10th of August – Several aspects require consideration:
· The 100,000+ protesters seemed highly frustrated because of the problems that local and government authorities seemed to have created to stop the protest.
· On top of this, the very high number of gendarmes present in the Victoriei Square added to the peaceful protesters’ state of mind. Protesters felt for the first time since they were peacefully protesting against PSD + ALDE (early 2017) that the governing coalition might actually be afraid of them and, therefore, they actually have the power to change things in Romania.
· Small groups of people could be seen as becoming violent against the gendarmes, the latter would respond with force and CS gas and then run away, determining the peaceful protesters to ‘continue’ the fight with the gendarmes and creating similar problems in other areas of the Victoriei Square. The President supports this theory.
· Large majority of TV stations presented the protest in an extremely biased manner either against or for the governing coalition, with one exception – Digi24.
11th of August– Another protest took place on the following day, there were around 50,000 people participating in Bucharest, this time peacefully. They wanted to thank the Romanians living abroad who came to help their fellow countrymen by protesting on the 10thof August and continue to ask for Dragnea’s and his inner circle’s resignation.
Consequences of the protests:
· Austrian and Romanian journalists and Israeli tourists have been attacked during the confrontations which added to the 400+ Romanians and around 25 gendarmes who needed medical attention during and after the protest.
· In total 700+ complaints have been submitted to the prosecutors who are investigating what happened at the protest.
· Government authoritiesfailed to fully assume responsibility for the violence which led to massive outrage in the social media amongst those who participated in the protest.
· An older man, protester coming from Teleorman county and who inhaled CS gas in Victoriei Square, died. There were allegations according to which the CS gas may have caused his death. Raed Arafat, head of the SMURD ambulance service, denied allegations.
· Prime Minister Viorica Dancila who was on holiday during protests sent a letter to EU leadership stating that the protests have been an attempt to oust her government from power.
· Liviu Dragneasaid in an interview last week that Romanian secrete services have not pro-actively provided any information with regard to possible violence that may emerge at the protests. Thus, he asked a parliamentary commission to start investigations in this matter.
· In his turn, Eduard Hellvig (a Liberal of Germanic origin), the director of the Romanian Secret Servicesorganised a press conference on Friday evening at 8pmthat he “will fight until his last day in office against all abuse”.
· In the meantime, a Government councillor Darius Valcov (who last June was sentenced to 8 years in prison for corruption – the court decision is not final), supported by Liviu Dragnea’s statement started public attacks against the General Prosecutor, Augustin Lazar. This culminated last Saturday with Minister of Justice Tudorel Toader declaring on Facebook that he will start an investigation against Augustin Lazar.
· In the same interview at Antena 3 TV station, Liviu Dragnea seemed worried and even paranoid at times, according to right-wing media, considering the allegations he made according to which there was an assassination attempt against him last year (the third most important man in the Romanian state, after President Iohannis and Senate President Calin Popescu Tariceanu). No public authorities admitted of being aware of such an assassination attempt.
· There are allegations in the media according to which the last battle against democracy in Romania is taking place at the moment. Liviu Dragnea’s and his inner circle has high chances to win the war if they succeed to control the secret services and the general prosecutor’s office.
· International lobby at the highest level (conducted by former New York Mayor and US President’s Trump personal lawyer, a well-known lobbyist) is now made in favour of the politicians and business people investigated by the Nation al Anti-corruption Department and condemned by local courts, due to ‘excesses made by DNA’ prosecutors in their activity.
· In the meantime, the PSD leader is waiting for a first final court decision in his cases earliest in the Spring of 2019.