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Romania`s parallel states

Published at: 04-03-2018

Posted on: March 4th, 2018 by RaduC

I spent quite a while hesitating between two title versions. The other version would have asked „Is Romania a torn country?”. The “torn country” concept was coined by Samuel P. Huntington in his celebrated book The Clash of Civilizations, where he explained that with the ideological fault lines feeding the cold war gone, conflicts will be driven by large civilizations, among which the Western, Orthodox, Islamic or Sinic (Chinese), to name but a few.

Though much has been written about the fact that Huntington saw the fault line between the Western and Orthodox worlds along the Carpathian Arch, I believe that the identity issues facing Romania have nothing to do with internal geographical or historical borders. The reason is that the fault line lies rather within the Romanian state, between various institutions. Would that make Romania a “torn country”?

Huntington had reached the conclusion that the landscape of civilizations cannot be painted just in white and black as he identified the so-called “torn countries. The countries that he saw being reasonably culturally homogeneous, but split in terms of their attachment to one or the other civilization. He considered that in order to fit this category the country needs to meet the following criteria: their leaders, the elite, should try and integrate their country into a civilization which is not theirs that the majority does not resonate with and does not wish for. The attempt of incorporating Turkey into the Western civilization as of the mid-20th century is a vivid example.

I think that we should note that the fault line dividing the society within a “torn country” cut rather horizontally through the social pyramid: the elite versus the bulk of the population. It is not so in Romania. A study of the Romanian society does not reveal horizontal divides. We do not see an intellectual and political elite the majority of whom wishing to lead the masses in a direction the people are resisting.

I believe that what we notice are divergent and relatively equal forces which act rather vertically: government structures enjoying the support of a significant portion of the population, but which promote different social models. This is why I do not believe that Romania is a “torn country”, but rather a country where two states run in parallel, states with completely opposite orientations.

A first state encouraging the civilizations that Huntington called „Orthodox”, but which I prefer to deem post-soviet. Economic, social and political models exhibited by countries such as Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan and other former soviet republics. These are systems of rather autocratic government, where the separation of powers does not exist, where the social divide is extreme, and wealth lies in the hands of a few. Countries where the middle class is thin and the economic and political lines are very blurry. Countries with a nationalistic rhetoric and policies, where political leaders try and rally the masses by ranting about the endless foreign threats. And yes, some Romanians continue to wish for a strong leader, the “father figure” that such societies tend to create. Just as there are local institutions willing to provide that figure.

The second state is drawn towards and wants to integrate into the Western civilization. It is a state that flourished after it joined the EU and NATO, but which now may seem to lose steam. It, too, is backed by a part of the population which sees the integration into the Western civilization as a chance of a faster modernization of the country that brings even more prosperity. States which encourage meritocracy, the separation of powers, political and press diversity, competition on the market. States which, at the end of the day, favor the educated, the more entrepreneurial, the higher skilled more because it is founded first and foremost on a strong middle class. Hence the ensuing losers. Countries without the tranquility and predictability of the post-soviet governments as the public scene is more vibrant, louder and more unpredictable. Not all Romanians like that, but many consider that benefits exceed the drawbacks.

What are the institutions making up the two states? I do not intend to name them. But they are easily identifiable. Suffice it to listen to the statements of their leaders, to see what foreign politician inspires them, the institutional managers they visit or receive or whom they label to be “unfriendly”.

The two states are obviously incompatible and whether a coincidence or not, the rise in the geopolitical tensions in the region has made tensions between the two parallel states within Romania worse. Stakes are not to be dismissed, and Romanians` choice is extremely important for many stakeholders.

Is Romania alone in this situation? No. Similar splits can be seen in Hungary and even in Poland, where it seems that it is the rather autocratic government system, a reminder of the post-soviet regimes that came to power. Which goes to show that Huntington`s fault lines between the Western and Orthodox civilizations look nowadays  obsolete. The partial failure of the pro-Western elite seems to have passed the ball into the court of politicians with opposing views of which they take full advantage as they are helped by the IT revolution. And not only in Romania.

Is one state more legitimate than the other? With such a low voter turnout as seen in the latest elections, hardly can anyone claim legitimacy or representativeness. A low turnout may help some, but does not sanction them…

This is why only the next elections will be able to sanction or not one of the two directions that the two states are putting now on the table. We can only hope that it will not be too late…

Have a nice weekend!

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