The ongoing political crisis in Romania is “the most bizarre power struggle in Eastern Europe since the fall of communism”, according to the Tuesday edition of The Times.
and “oligarchic” rivals is threatening not only the interests of the country, but also those of the EU.
The report focuses on Traian Basescu, “The phone-in president who needs people power to get his palace back” as the headline says. It describes how his fight to remain in power as a majority of the political stage, in a country still rife with corruption, is raising politics “to dizzying heights of absurdity”.
The paper, interviewing the suspended head of state, notes that “Mr Basescu and the formidable Justice Minister, Monica Macovei, had been transforming the state prosecution service into an energetic anticorruption force to answer EU criticism that Romania is too open to sleaze.
But Ms Macovei was elbowed out of the Government on April 12 and a week later parliamentarians voted by 322 votes to 108 to impeach the President. The Romanian media - some of them under the spell of oligarchs who see him as a threat - is hostile to him.”
Basescu is presented as a former “captain of Romania’s largest oil tanker and his language is still salty. As Mayor of Bucharest, between 2000 and 2004, he garnered local popularity by ordering the slaughter of stray dogs that were terrorising dimly lit streets.”
And according to the paper he is denied full media access, so he is holding rallies across the country and abroad. “Fellow EU states seem to be batting for Mr Basescu. He is pro-EU, pro-Nato, in favour of keeping Romanian troops in Iraq, is deeply sceptical about the creeping influence of Russia - and wants to tackle corruption head-on”, the paper writes.
And it quotes him as saying that the whole referendum issue “is about making an EU state more governable. We will have another Romania after the referendum… It is the first time that Romanians have the opportunity to challenge a decision taken by the political class.”
The comment, headlined Balkan Brawl, writes that “Less than five months after Romania joined the European Union, the drive to defeat corruption has all but ground to a halt.”
It argues that “neither Italy, nor indeed Brussels itself, shines as a beacon of transparency, but never in the Union’s history have there been accepted, as full members, countries so weakened by systemic corruption, organised crime, fragile judiciaries and ‘oligarchic’ control of both print and broadcast media.”
And the paper notes that Basescu “deserves the chance to fulfil that promise” of having “another Romania after the referendum”. It urges the EU to help, “but only by adhering strictly to the postaccession reform benchmarks it has imposed on the principle that reform is better late than never.”
“It is time for tough love towards Bucharest”, according to the The Times.