Articles by Florin Poenaru

What is at stake in the Romanian Protests?

A decision of the Social Democrat government to pass an urgent decree, which partly decriminalized the abuse of office and other related misconduct, brought more than half a million Romanian people onto the streets since last week. The government was wrong to pass this decree. There is no doubt that one of the main beneficiaries would have been Liviu Dragnea, the leader of the Social Democrats and Chamber President who is indicted for abuse of office. His case is pending. The argument that the government had to pass this decree in order to respect a previous decision of the Constitutional Court holds no water. Ne ..

Elections in Romania: A Different Story

This article is published in collaboration with the regional portal Bilten.org. On December 11 Romanians voted for a new Parliament. Their option was clear. The Social Democratic party won 45% of the vote and with their allies, the Liberal Democrats who got 6%, will have a narrow majority. Even if in terms of actual votes the Social Democrats did not fare too well (3,2 million votes), this being the parliamentary election with the lowest turnout in post-communist history, they nonetheless got a huge win. It is the first time when the party comes close to the 50% mark. In the past, the Social Democrats, the bigges ..

One year after the fire that sparked an uprising

We are publishing this piece in collaboration with Bilten, where it originally appeared. Romania commemorated one year since the tragedy that took place in Club Colective. Then, a fire during a rock concert killed 64 people and injured another 180. Even today 27 people are still under treatment and 30 survivors need surgical intervention as a result of their wounds. The commemoration brought to the fore again the dramatic moments of the tragedy, the succession of events on that fatidic night and the heartbreaking tales of the survivors and their difficult journey to full recovery. Parents and relatives who los ..

Stones in the dark. The Brexit and the Left

During the Cold War, in the context of escalating tensions between Russia and China, a listener asks Radio Yerevan: “What do you advise: to drink Russian tea or Chinese tea?’ The answer comes in promptly: it’s wiser not to meddle with the business of great powers, better to drink coffee. It is the same now with the leftist options available in relation to Brexit: better just to have a coffee. The British and the European Left, more radical or more moderate, split between different groups and directions that the simple opposition Lexit/Remain cannot possibly cover, has once again surpassed itself, so ..

From hero to zero: The spectacular rise and the immediate decline of the Romanian president

There is nothing quite like it in contemporary European politics. Perhaps there never was. The story of the current Romanian president seems more of a farce, a figment of imagination, than a real story. As with everything Romanian, it would be deeply funny and amusing if it weren’t tragic. President Klaus Iohannis came to power in November 2014 in very contested circumstances. Trailing by 10% his main competitor after the first round –the then Prime Minister Victor Ponta – and pretty much unconvincing during the TV debates before the run-off, Iohannis was all but defeated. In fact, from the very beginning, ..

The Poor Must Die!

Note from the LeftEast editors: this article has been published in collaboration with the Balkan web-portal Bilten.org. The original publication in can be found here. When the newly appointed Romanian Minister of Finance told reporters in an off-the-record meeting that Romanian workers should take a cue from workers in Brazil or India who are ready to work for pennies, she offered one of those rare moments when power speaks the truth. Unintentionally, the minister articulated both the entire trajectory of post-communist transition and also the current strategy for development of the technocratic government, appo ..

On the Fire that Sparked an Uprising

On October 31st during a rock concert in the underground club Colective in Bucharest a fire broke out, killing 27 and injuring another 200. Almost a fortnight after the total number of casualties reached 54, with many more still in critical condition in hospital. This was the biggest tragedy in the recent history of Bucharest and its social effects will still be felt in the foreseeable future. In the short run, this dramatic accident sparked a series of processes that are still underway and whose significance is still uncertain. In this text, I will try to highlight some of the social forces and processes that th ..

Old wounds revealed as Romanian court re-opens miners’ case

Note from the LeftEast editors: this article is published in cooperation with the Serbo-Croatian web portal Bilten.Org  In recent weeks the miners are back again: This time not on the streets, but on the public agenda. The Romanian High Court, following a decision of the European Court of Human Rights reopened the file dealing with the events of 13-15 June 1990 in Bucharest. After 25 years of stalled investigations, the prosecutors decided it is time for a fresh look. Two things are clear. First, this decision cannot be separated from the current wave of arrests shattering the Romanian political class. It contin ..

The National Bourgeoisie vs. the State Apparatus. Reconfiguring the state in Romania

It is perhaps the first time that Romania’s ongoing corruption scandals are more than just a scandal. They offer the possibility for serious theoretical reflection about wider social transformations. However, it is not because recent events dramatically altered the situation in new ways, but the opposite: recent events, precisely by their familiarity, allow us to see the situation anew. First, let me present, very briefly, the facts. Elena Udrea, an MP and former minister, was arrested on February 11 for several charges of corruption, after more than a week of intricate procedural formalities, including a late ..

“More of the same”: Elections without choice in Romania

This article is published in cooperation with the Serbo-Croatian web-portal Bilten.Org It is customary for people to complain that they have no real choice to vote for in electoral contests. No candidate is really much different from the other. They are so similar that it makes no sense to choose since there is no real choice involved. This is exactly the case of the Romanian Presidential Elections due to be held this year on November 2nd. This is so not only because all candidates are neoliberals under various guises, but also because none of them is really offering an alternative to the politics of the incumben ..