Four full months have yet to pass since Liviu Dragnea, the leader of Romania's governing Social Democrats, took down his own government, and he appears to have triggered the attack on incumbent PM Mihai Tudose, installed in the summer after the fall of his predecessor Sorin Grindeanu. All the information obtained by and confirmed by several sources indicates that conflicts have broken out between the Dragnea and Grindeanu, and the last major reason for the dispute would be the PM’s refusal to sign the Constitutional Court intimation on the conflict between the state powers after National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) started the investigation into Belina case.

Dan TapalagaFoto: Hotnews
  • UPDATE Monday night (original article in Romania was published on Monday afternoon) PM Mihai Tudose admitted in a TV show Monday night that his relationship with Liviu Dragnea has deteriorated and announced an imminent government reshuffle. The first ministers he put his eyes on appear to be those with criminal cases opened against them, who are protected by the PSD leader. The war between Dragnea and Tudose is now developing in open view. Once started, Tudose doesn't have much time. Unless he moves fast, it will hardly take 2-3 days for Dragnea to get back and will remove him instead. Previous PM Grindeanu had fallen because of his hesitation. The same will happen to Tudose unless he plays the game of power to the end. From now on, there is no turn back. He either claims all power - including the party - explicitly and without hesitation, or goes home. It is yet another moment where Dragnea either loses everything, or wins everything.

Dragnea is unhappy with Tudose for the same reason that he dropped Grindeanu: he does not do enough to get rid of justice problems, investigations, prosecutors. Justice Minister Tudorel Toader has postponed the laws of justice, exasperating the party. Only that this time, the PSD leader can no longer force the fall of the government into parliament through a motion of censure.

First, by changing the second prime minister in the first nine months of government, Dragnea and PSD publicly admit that they are unable to rule the country. President Klaus Iohannis will therefore have all the right not to give him a third PM, and the PSD risks losing the government because of the personal interests of a single man, tangled in investigations and trials.

Then, it's hard to believe that the party's barons and his ally in government, ALDE's Calin Popescu Tariceanu, will accept to be laughed at a second time. In the meantime, Tariceanu is making the most of it, his hesitations to make the notification to the CCR say a lot about future negotiations with the PSD leader on the positions and access to resources. Meanwhile, they all saw Dragnea lead the country through recruits recruited from his clan, people from Teleorman, and some loyal ones. No PSD leader up to him has concentrated so much power. Why would he still play the game if he does not win that much?

Speculation on a new conflict between the PSD leader and the head of the government has grown after sociologist Marius Pieleanu publicly released on Friday the data of an opinion poll by Avangarde announcing the collapse of the image of the Government and PM Tudose in the public eye from a month to another. Some voices interpreted the survey as a clear declaration of war made by Dragnea to his disobedient PM. Unclear whether it is so or not, but it is certain that for the PSD leader fits well a survey that can be invoked at any time as a good pretext for replacing the prime minister.

With some wits, however, Mihai Tudose can always turn the poll in his favor. How should the confidence in a government not crush, when it holds in its seats two ministers suspected of prosecutors that they have given two governmental decisions illegally to pass a controversial area, Belina, from the Romanian Waters to the Teleorman County Council, the home turf of Dragnea? In what country in the world are there so many incompetent ministers, who make the press delight with mistakes and nonsence said every day - see the cases of Education minister Pop or Agriculture minister Daea? How can the image of the government not be eroded when Labor minister Olguta Vasilescu manages to make such a bad salaries law that everyone is dissatisfied and the unions go out in the street? Here I have some suspicions about the union protests, but I have no evidence that they were politically instrumented in the Dragnea-Tudose war. How do you keep in the government a Transport minister such as Razvan Cuc, who blocks any major project?

With this in mind, PM Tudose can move on to an extended reshuffle, also changing some of the PSD leader's people in order to slow him down. Only through a symbolic exit from under Dragnea's authority will it be possible gradually to impose himself in the party as a power pole. Otherwise, he will end up exactly like Sorin Grindeanu, executed one day without mercy. His chances of survival are now somewhat higher, as the leader of the PSD can not call too much for an action in force, for the reasons already explained. This reality gives the Prime Minister a much larger margin of movement.

For all these reasons, Liviu Dragnea is expected to change the tactic about Tudose. Even if the party, I understand, is asking to dethrone him, it is likely that the PSD leader will try, after he has shook his seat a little, to take him under his wing. But let's not forget that the relationship between Dragnea and Tudose has cooled down since the first few weeks since the setting, when the PM publicly claimed more autonomy and displayed some more determination in action than Grindeanu. All his calculations to impose as a leader were shattered on the day when the High Court trial restarted all over again after the retirement of a full-time judge.

That moment, he saved Liviu Dragnea from the imminent loss of the party, proof that he immediately dismissed Defense Minister Adrian Tutuianu, suspected of plot. Since then, the PSD leader has somehow managed to exert authority over the government through intermediaries, controlling the party forcefully and colonizing key institutions with loyalists (see the Court of Auditors). Even the image of the High Court with bodyguards around him, though devastating for Dragnea in the long run, shows a leader ready to turn to brutal force at any time to protect his position. It is quite possible that Dragnea now poses in PM Tudose's salvation in an attempt to persuade him to join his party.

But if you take a step back, you will find that we are dealing with a little charlatanry. Meanwhile, Liviu Dragnea exercises his power through intermediaries and must resort to image artifice, to act forcefully against his opponents in order to keep himself at the top of the pack as the alpha male. Most of the time, he succeeds. Those who have direct power, such as Prime Minister Tudose or even President Iohannis, are either afraid to exercise it courageously, do not know how, or can not, or simply do not want to.

While the big picture looks like this, the charlatanry will go on.