By Luciana Grosu
The financial crisis, weakness of political leadership, taxes and unemployment drives Romanians to boiling point, while immigration to EU countries become young people’s dream.
Last week the Romanian capital Bucharest witnessed protests by tens of thousands of angry citizens in Victoria Square, in front of the Government’s headquarters, to ask for PM’s Emil Boc and President’s Traian Basescu resignation.
People gradually lost confidence in the political class, they re-elected president Basescu in 2009, Same president that was suspended in 2007, during his first mandate, because of repeated violations of the Constitution.
“No option, that is, same option”, explained a young student who is one of so many people who refused to mention their names to avoid abuse by authorities.
Since the 1989 Revolution, when Romania abolished the communist dictatorship of President Ceausescu, the country has struggled with economical problems and corruption.
No single political party proved capable of respecting promises. Although political power changed color and emblem several times, the country’s problems continued.
Some 125,000 public sector jobs need to be cut in 2011 to ease pressure on the state budget as the country remains mired in a deep recession, said Andreea Paul-Vass, economic counselor to the prime minister said late Thursday.
Attack on dignity
Many of people protesting in Victoria square did vote for Basescu.
“I never thought our political leaders will dare to go this far. I didn’t imagine they will attack our dignity as human beings and our right to live in this country”, said regretfully a 40 year-old woman, high school teacher.
The protests reunited leaders of trade unions and more than 50000 public employees: doctors and health staff, teachers, academic staff, students, pensioners, the public institutions and administration sector, workers from the power sector, the national railway company CFR and the subway company Metrorex, social services workers, policemen, the mining sector and national defense employees.
People cried, sang and shouted to show their discontent regarding the new to-be-adopted measures for “pulling out” Romania from the economical crisis.
On the “anti-crisis solutions“ list the “best of the worse” proposals were: reducing all salaries by 25 percent, minimizing pensions by 15 percent, cutting unemployment help by 15 percent, diminishing child allowance and single parent child allowance, restraining maternal vacation from 2 years to 1 year.
“If this law will be applied this can mean only one thing for us: a sentence to death. We’ll not afford anymore the costs of living in Romania, nor medical care”, said an 80 year-old retired man whose pension is only 700 Ron (about 160euros), if cut, he will be forced to live only with 120euros per month.
The special law package proposed by the Romanian Government prevents Parliament from subjecting it to debate. If these measures will be implemented, many people will see themselves condemned to extreme poverty.
There are public employees’ salaries that are already extremely small, like the health sector, where people earn around 1100 (260euros) Ron a month. These rates do include doctors’ salaries.
“If these salaries will be reduced by 25 percents, people won’t be able to survive. It is now that the real crisis begins”, explained a trade-union leader.
Romania is already facing a huge wave of immigration: thousands of people leave the country for living and working in another EU state, especially young, educated ones.
“Yes, of course I’ll leave Romania. There’s nothing here for me. I will not wait for another 10 years here to see how things go from bad to worse”, affirmed a 21-year-old female Law student.
The aim of the protests was to show politicians the real face of Romania: poor and despaired. People were loud and angry, but remained peaceful and polite during the whole manifestation.
“We are making noise in front of the Government’s building , maybe they will be forced to listen to us! We even prepared a song for PM Emil Boc.”, said a middle-aged man wearing a cap with “Down the government “written on it.
However, people’s energetic response may fail to convince leaders. During the protest action, the Government held an untroubled meeting inside the building of Victoria Square.
Apart from elections time, when people are asked to put the stamp on one of the “well-known” “already-been-there” candidates, there is not too much “citizens” can do, even in a democratic country.
“Today, we are out on the street. But what shall we do tomorrow? We are pretty much powerless. Nobody asks us whenever decisions are made. Democracy is only seen on TV “, expressed a 35 year-old man working in the public transport sector.
“Our political leaders have been elected for a four-year mandate, now they know they can’t be made responsible for any of their actions. Of course, we can shout and cry, but they won’t listen, because they don’t care”, voiced angrily a middle-aged female social worker.
Trade union strike
Trade union leaders announced their intention to unleash general strike. Yet, people’ passivity may return. Those people who went to the elections knowing they have no real choice to make may decide now to stay at work, knowing there is no real victory to achieve by going out on the streets.
So, has “Romanian democracy” become nonsense?
Have your say and tell us: does your country suffers from the same problems as Romania and what solution can help if democracy doesn’t?