Articles by Florin Poenaru

The putsch that never was: Romanian PSD in turmoil

Note from the LeftEast editors: this article has been published in collaboration with the Balkan web-portal The original publication can be found here. Liviu Dragnea, the head of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), recently survived a small rebellion. A few of his colleagues asked him to resign his positions as head of the party and head of the Lower House in Parliament. However, Dragnea, whose nickname Daddy evokes the patriarchal atmosphere of a famous Tennessee Williams play, managed to win this battle. Or at least this is what is visible publicly: the internal vote went heavily in favor for Dragne ..

Romania: The Demise of Reason

Romania came into worldwide attention again recently. On August 10, an 80,000-strong protest against the current ruling coalition and its perceived policies to curb anti-corruption turned violent. The police intervened brutally, using tear gas, water canons and truncheons against demonstrators. Close to 500 people requested medical assistance and hundreds more filed complaints against the gendarmes after the protest. Videos and photos of the police brutality did the rounds of the international press and legitimately sparked outcry at home. To condemn the violence of the police is easy. To pierce the narratives pr ..

On the March: Romania and its Road to Militarization

On December 1st Romania celebrated its national day: 99 years ago, parts of the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires were stitched together with the old country under the banner of Great Romania. In its essence, 1918 is a military event. Without the decisive intervention of the army there would be no Great Romania. Therefore, it might seem only natural that the peak of the national day is usually the military parade. The biggest one takes place in Bucharest, but most big cities have one, with hundreds of people attending. Typically, the national television broadcasts the live the parade in Bucharest: it is a genr ..

Friends and Foes. Traditional and Alt-Right in Romania

This article is published in collaboration with Bilten: a regional online portal.  The proposal for a referendum to amend the constitution in order to inscribe the definition of family as the union between a woman and a man is dividing opinion in Romania and it represents a platform for the affirmation of a Romanian version of Trumpism and alt-right. It also offers, inadvertently, the occasion of an unlikely conjunction. The following details might seem too arcane for a foreign public but they are worth the patience in order to grasp the larger picture. The point is significant because it shows the impossible mi ..

Between Self-Hatred and Geopolitics: Romania and the Republic of Moldova

The following article was originally published in Serbo-Croatian on the online platform Bilten. It is republished here with that site’s kind permission. A recent minor event sums up eloquently the current relationship between Romania and the Republic of Moldova and, more than that, allows us to understand the complex historical, geopolitical and psychological relationship between the two countries. On January 3rd the current Moldovan president Igor Dodon revoked the Moldovian citizenship of the former Romanian President Traian Basescu. Basescu was sworn in as Moldovan citizen just few days prior to Dodon’s ..

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 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, ..