Friday, 14 November 2014

Corruption in Romania - is the PSD more corrupt than the other parties?

A numbers man and an American long settled in Bucharest, Peter Frank has produced a very interesting statistical analysis of the party affiliations of men and women (it is mostly men) indicted for corruption in Romania. The data he has collected goes back over many years. He tells us that
What is clear, though, is that much of the country’s political foundation is being ruptured, leading some to allege it is a conspiracy against certain political parties while others plainly claim it is a much-needed cleansing of systemic corruption that is destroying this country.
While an analysis of the available data cannot support either side’s claim with any certainty, it is clear from an extensive review of public data that one political party consistently accounts for the preponderance of corruption cases: the PSD.
In fact, in the first 10 months of this year, 45 percent of individuals who could be identified with clear political affiliations and were named by the Direcţia Naţională Anticorupţie (DNA) as subjects of accusation, indictment, arrest or conviction were affiliated with the PSD. In all, through October, 106 of the 237 individuals in this category were associated with the PSD. And its representation among those suspected, accused or arrested is increasing as the cases grow in complexity and scope. The PDL and PNL represented 20 percent and 18 percent, respectively.

Interestingly, in 2013, the percentage of PSD people who were named in DNA press releases was 26% of the total, while 18% were PNL and 14% PDL. This year PSD accounted for 45%. largely because of a few large cases involving PSD figures, in particular the Microsoft bribery scandal - an investigation which originated in the USA and was therefore certainly not politically motivated. It should be added that the PSD is the largest party. 

Why did Romanian journalists not do this kind of statistical analysis?

There is pretty much no doubt that the people convicted of corruption are guilty and they include some of the most famous and powerful men in the land including former PSD Prime Minister Adrian Nastase. There is no doubt too that it is outgoing President Traian Băsescu who is responsible for this very great achievement. He inspired the setting up of the  DNA and appointed its three top officers, in particular its redoubtable young head, Laura Codruța Kövesi. There is no doubt that Romanian politics is still very corrupt but no doubt either that people in the political world are very afraid of the DNA.

What is disputed is whether, as the PSD allege, the DNA goes easy on the President's friends. Since they arrested his brother for influence peddling that argument carries less force, but it is still made. Certainly Prime Minister Victor Ponta and the PSD think so and have repeatedly said so. In December Victor Ponta's government tried to pass a series of laws granting immunity to elected officials, though these were ultimately blocked
. If Mr. 

I doubt it is true that the prosecutors working in the DNA are partisan but I think it is true that, despite the people in the centre-right parties who have been prosecuted, some powerful people in the centre-right parties are protected.  For example, gurile rele (bad mouths) mention a well-known female politician close to President Basescu. 

If Mr. Ponta is elected president tomorrow, as is expected, the torrent of arrests and convictions may slow to a trickle. Mrs. Kövesi said in her interview with the New York Times this week,
“It is important that the new president support the anticorruption fight....But there are reasons to worry if the president does not support our fight.”
She could hardly be clearer.

Most Romanian politicians go into politics partly or wholly to enrich themselves in some way. However the way in which the PSD, under other names, governed from 1990 until the end of 1996 and from 2000 to 2004 have indelibly associated the party in the minds of most informed people with corruption on a very large scale. I remember talking to a grande horizontale closely connected in the Adrian Nastase period to a number of leading PSD figures and saying that the PSD was an organised crime gang. She replied, with some truth,
No, you're wrong - they're very disorganised.
Even so, they were said to be much more organised about corruption than the centre-right politicians who had been in power from 1996 to 2000 and who were mostly amateurs at it.

Some of the old school PSD members, the ones close to former President Ion Iliescu, had genuine socialist principles and were less rapacious than the others, especially pro-Western modernisers who came to prominence after 2000, but the reason why the PSD is identified with corruption is because the PSD is the continuation of the Communist Party. The Communist Party constantly fought corruption and had Spartan ideals, yet was itself, by definition, corrupt, in that it monopolised all power and all money. 

Some say that Ceaușescu was killed because he would not let the servants steal, but that is not true or is a gross simplification. What happened after Ceaușescu was overthrown was what happened throughout Eastern Europe. It was a management buyout by well-placed Communist apparatchiks, who in 1989 and 1990 came to realise that the end of Communism would not be the end for them but an opportunity for advancement and enrichment.

The PSD exists to wins votes from and look after the interests of the poor and less well-educated, which is a lot of people, but it has very few or no ideas or ideals. The other parties do not have many either - right and left mean little here. But though Ideas do not mean very much they do mean something. They are the main reason why centre-right voters are mobilised. The important centre-right idea is anti-communism and its corollary, anti-corruption.

However, whatever ideals they may embrace, the so-called centre-right parties, PDL, PNL and all the other frequently changing acronyms, are also thoroughly corrupt. It is 25 years since the PNL was made up of old men who were emigres or former political prisoners. All of the parties have long been part of 'the structure of power' as it's called, the deep state which runs things here, linked to the former secret police. As the daughter of a leading political figure told me
Paul, you must realise that PSD, PDL and PNL are exactly, exactly the same thing.


  1. Paul, this is one of your best posts.


  2. Paul, I love your writings.

  3. Being governed by the PSD is like having cancer and by the PDL and PNL like having a very strong cold. I prefer the cold, as it gives me the option to search for a treatment that works.

  4. Something I find frustrating and stimulating in Romania: the lack of English-language history books and contemporary journalism on the country. Much more for a journalist to piece together on his own, which is great. On the other hand, how much I would love to read a warts-and-all biography of the PSD, or Nastase, or Iliescu.

    1. There may well be some in Romanian - in 2001 I bought

      I recommend Robert Levi on Ana Pauker and Nagy-Talavera on Nicolae Iorga - and Lucian Boia of course. You should read this book, though royal biography bores me terribly and it is very much a woman's book.

      SLIGHTLY reminiscent of 'Heir of Sorrows' but it covers her period well.

  5. Paul
    One of your better thoughtful and insightful posts. On your conversation with the grand horizontale, I would opinion that they are less disorganized, as amateur in their endeavours often with the left hand not knowing which mouth the left foot is aiming for because it's too busy trying to find out how much the right hand has pilfered so it can match it.
    That aside I too indulged in a little gloating today collecting my 10ron from a bewildered PSD stalwart on our long standing bet that KI would succeed Mr Basescu. Much as you dislike television his reply was almost paraphrased from a scene in Blackadder which parodied the rotten state of British 18th century political life

    We bribed officials, mobilized armies of helpers, called in every favour and loyalty, strong armed businesses for contributions and still we lost, what do you have to do to win an election in this corrupt country? I just don't understand .

    There in lies the problem of course I don't suppose he does.

  6. That's very impressive post.