Traian Basescu – end of the presidential story. The balance sheet

This is a short balance sheet of President Traian Basescu’s two terms in office, as on Sunday, December 21, 2014 Klaus Iohannis is to take over the office of President of Romania.

Traian Basescu was born November 4, 1951. He was the fourth President of Romania, serving since December 2004. His second and final term in office ends on December 21, 2014. Having formerly served as Mayor of Bucharest from 2000 to 2004, he was elected president in 2004, suspended from office in 2007 but reconfirmed a month later in a referendum. He was narrowly re-elected president for a second 5-year term in 2009, amidst allegations of electoral fraud that were ultimately dismissed by the Constitutional Court of Romania. On July 6, 2012 he was again suspended from office. In the subsequent referendum, held on July 29, a large majority voted for his dismissal, but the plebiscite was declared invalid by the Constitutional Court due to insufficient turnout. He re-assumed office on 27 August 2012.

Traian Basescu intends to join the People’s Movement Party (PMP) led by Elena Udrea, after leaving the post of president on December 21, 2014. Udrea doesn’t exclude the hypothesis according to that Basescu could become president of PMP in the spring of 2015. (Wikipedia)

Ten years have passed. Is Romania better than a decade ago? How much has it improved during this interval? Let’s read a short review on Basescu’s mandates.

  • On February 28, 2003 Traian Basescu (leader of the Democratic Party) and Theodor Stolojan (then leader of the National Liberal Party) signed the agreement to set up the Truth and Justice Alliance (D.A. Alliance). Almost in the last minute Stolojan withdrew from the presidential race, his place being taken over by liberal Calin Popescu Tariceanu. During the press conference when Stolojan announced the withdrawal, Traian Basescu addressed him with tears in his eyes: “Dear Stolo!” – an iconic moment for Romanian politics.
  • On December 9, 2004 Traian Basescu won the presidential elections and his first mandate under the slogan “Live well!”
  • Calin Popescu Tariceanu became prime minister. He hinted at possible resignation to call early elections in order for D.A. to win a sound majority in parliament, but later on he gives up the idea. Tariceanu suspected Traian Basescu would not name him as prime minister again. His latter decision upset Basescu. The relations between the two turn to tensions and will stay this way until the general elections in 2008.
  • Basescu’s close friend Elena Udrea revealed at the beginning of 2007 that the president had received from Tariceanu a ‘pink note’ asking him to help businessman Dinu Patriciu with the file in court.
  • Following the PD’s refusal to withdraw Monica Macovei from the government and constant chicanes from PD and the president against liberal ministers, Tariceanu decided to terminate the D.A. alliance, remaining as head of government with the tacit support from social-democrats in parliament.
  • April 2007 – the first attempt to impeach President Traian Basescu. The majority in parliament suspends the head of state. The referendum one month later was a great victory for Traian Basescu – he won 74.48 percent of votes. He re-assumed office at Cotroceni Palace.
  • July 2012 – the second suspension called by PSD and PNL in parliament. More than 7.4 million Romanians voted in favour of suspension. However the referendum was invalidated by the Constitutional Court due to insufficient turnout of 50 percent plus 1.
  • During his ten-year mandates Traian Basescu worked with three prime ministers that led 10 cabinets: Calin Popescu Tariceanu, Emil Boc, Razvan Ungureanu.
  • Presidential elections 2009 – Traian Basescu defeated social-democrat candidate Mircea Geoana, after the latter’s blunder. Basescu has asked him, during the last debate, if he enjoyed the discussions with Sorin Ovidiu Vintu (controversial businessman, Basescu’s long time foe) a night before. Geoana lost his temper and also important points for the runoff as he had no plausible explanation for the meeting.
  • January 2012 – violent protests in Bucharest and other cities to support MD Raed Arafat who was opposing PM Emil Boc’s project to reform the emergency health system.
  • February 9, 2012 – PM Emil Boc submited his mandate and was replaced by Mihai Razvan Ungureanu, former foreign minister and former head of the Romanian Foreign Intelligence Office (SIE). Ungureanu ran the executive only for 78 days, his cabinet being toppled by a non-confidence vote. The next government was to be run by Victor Ponta supported by the USL alliance.
  • After the general elections in 2012, Traian Basescu appointed Victor Ponta again for PM on the basis of a controversial ‘institutional cooperation protocol’.
  • During the presidential campaign in 2014 President Traian Basescu accused PM Victor Ponta he had been an undercover SIE officer during 1997-2001. Ponta did not deny or confirm the accusation.
  • In March 2013, after the Liberal-Democratic Party (PDL) national convention that elected Vasile Blaga as leader instead of Basescu’s favourite Elena Udrea, the president posted on Facebook a video accusing Blaga of fraud and saying ‘goodbye PDL’. On March 23, 2013 Traian Basescu announced the setting up of a new political party People’s Movement (PMP) that was run at the beginning by Eugen Tomac. The PMP congress later on elected Elena Udrea as party president.
  • As far as the reform of the intelligence services is concerned, the process began after the so-called terrorist Omar Hayssam’s break-away. On April 5, 2005 Hayssam was arrested in another file and accused by the presidency of being involved in the kidnapping of journalists Marie Jeanne Ion, Sorin Miscoci and Ovidiu Ohanesian in Baghdad. One year later the court set Hayssam free on medical grounds. On June 30, 2006 Hayssam fled the country to Syria aboard a ship. His escape triggered the calling off from office of the SRI, SIE and DGIPI intelligence services heads Radu Timofte, Gheorghe Fulga and Virgil Ardelean respectively, as well as of prosecutor general Ilie Botos. On October 4, 2006 the president proposed George Maior as head of SRI and Claudiu Saftoiu as head of SIE. Later on Saftoiu was replaced by Teodor Melescanu.
  • The balance sheet of Traian Basescu mandates reveals the GDP per capita tripled, the average salary grew by RON 1,000, the unemployment rate has fallen, loans and population’s deposits in banks have grown exponentially. On the other hand, the Romanian population decreased by 1.7 million in ten years to less than 20 million. Many Romanians work abroad in Spain, Italy, France, the UK, Germany and other EU countries.
  • Statistics show the inflation rate cumulated for 10 years is 61.9 percent, the average salary grew by 146.9 percent. The standard of living fell in 2010 as VAT was raised from 19 to 24 percent and civil servants’ salaries were cut by 25 percent due to the poor shape of the economy and the economic crisis worldwide. The level of salaries was restored by the Ponta government three years later.
  • Number of employees grew by 335,000, the number of unemployed fell by 72,900. The unemployment rate fell from 6.3 to 5.3 percent.
  • The GDP surged by 6 percent in 2007 and by 7.1 in 2008 stimulated by foreign investments and increasing consumption. In 2009 the GDP fell by 7.1 percent, in 2010 by 1.3 percent. Banks restricted crediting conditions, consumption fell.
  • Romania joined the EU on January 1, 2007 – maybe the greatest achievement in latest years. Negotiations with Brussels started in 1995 (during president Ion Iliescu’s mandate). Negotiations were concluded in 2004. On April 13, 2005 the European Parliament ratified the Accession Treaty for Romania. The official ceremony took place on April 25, 2005. The next step would be Romania’s accession to the eurozone, expected no sooner than 2018.
  • Many say the main achievement of the Basescu’s mandates is the support for justice independence and the avalanche of investigations against the corrupt. The fight against corruption is underway at full strength. On the other hand Traian Basescu was often criticised for his language on the wrong side of the tracks, on promoting revenge and political fights at all costs. His relationships with various politicians and other people have, more often than not, become tensioned. None of the presidential advisers who started along with Traian Basescu the first mandate, were in office in 2014. (article edited on the basis of data revealed by a report from ‘Adevarul’ newspaper)
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