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Bucharest's Arrogant Disdain

A commentator says it’s not just the cuts and pay freezes that have brought angry Romanians into the street.

by BBC Monitoring 20 January 2012

[Editorial by Gabriel Bejan: "Street Violence, Basescu's Violence"]


Hundreds of civilized adults … and hundreds of educated young people shouted and displayed exaggerated, obscene, or offending slogans and protest boards against [President] Traian Basescu and the government members in University Square last Saturday and Sunday [ 14-15 January]. The verbal violence and the profound hatred were not displayed by the hooligans who came to the protest only for the disorder and the brawl with the gendarmes, but by persons of good faith who exerted their constitutional right to protest. This shows the level attained by the social and political debate in Romania. Is Traian Basescu to blame for the street violence?


Traian Basescu
If we remove from the picture the tens of brawlers who pelted the gendarmes with stones and fire bottles, and set on fire and devastated everything in their way, as well as the Bucharest residents who came to University Square out of curiosity, we obtain a large number of protesters who shouted anti-government slogans hours on end for three straight days. Many of these slogans were at least inappropriate. "Get out, miserable cur!" and "Basescu and the Dwarf should leave by the hearse!" are the gentlest of them. The protesters referred to the Ceausescu period, talked about dictatorship, said obscene things about Basescu's family, or mocked [Prime Minister Emil] Boc's height. Such behavior can be considered [inappropriate] despite the fact that living standards have significantly dropped as a result of the drastic austerity measures adopted by the government. It is obvious that we are not living in a dictatorial regime and that any comparison between Ceausescu and Basescu is inappropriate, regardless of how annoyed at the latter we may be. The aggressiveness of the protesters in University Square, however, has simple explanations.


The main person to blame for these reactions is Basescu himself. In recent years, the president has cultivated an aggressive attitude toward both his political opponents and, paradoxically, a large segment of the population. For example, almost every time that he discussed the pension and wage cuts or the layoffs in the public sector, the president seemed to wish to convey the following message to state employees: "You deserve everything that’s happening because you are responsible for the crisis affecting the country's budget." How difficult would it have been for him at least to look worried about the fate of the people whom he was compelled by the international context to sacrifice, despite all efforts? The example of Elsa Fornero, Italy's minister of social affairs, who burst into tears when she announced the pension freeze and tougher retirement conditions, might be considered exaggerated, but such a message is much better received by the population than the tone used by Basescu.


The president's aggressiveness has been manifest in almost all directions lately: from whole social categories, such as the "shameless pensioners" and professional categories, such as the "DNA [National Anticorruption Department] prosecutors whose professionalism is questionable," to personalities with a much higher popularity, such as King Mihai, "who was the Russians' servant," or Raed Arafat [founder of medical emergency system], "the enemy of the private health system." We are not discussing here whether Basescu's attacks were justified or not (in some cases they were, in others not), but the arrogant and aggressive manner of ruling the country, which has irritated a large number of people. Today, the president is suffering the effects of his own attitude.


The protesters' aggressiveness has an additional direct cause, namely the unreasonable behavior of many political analysts and journalists invited to TV programs. "Basescu's dictatorship" was not invented during the protests but in the TV studios. A famous journalist told the citizens in such a studio that Traian Basescu is "the Great Masturbator" who "masturbates in a mirror with the Power." If the "great people" talk like this, what can we expect from the people on the street?


What happened last weekend is only the beginning. We are in an important election year and such clashes will be frequent. What level will they reach if no one seems determined to take at least one step back?

BBC Monitoring provides in-depth news and comment from around the world, 24 hours a day, to help governments, businesses, policy makers, and analysts keep abreast of political, security, and defense-related developments worldwide.



Source: Romania Libera website, Bucharest, in Romanian 17 January 2012

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