OPINION The hardest moment of Romanian President Iohannis's career: The "Dancila test"
Any move made by Romania's President Klaus Iohannis must be judged by two filters: 1) public interest; 2) his political interest in being re-elected in 2019. Faced with the test put up by the governing Social Democrats led by House speaker Liviu Dragnea, after their nomination of MEP Viorica Dancila for the seat of prime minister, Iohannis knows perfectly well that the public interest is for him to refuse the proposal. Electorally speaking, however, the interests of the president are different: he wants the PSD not to give a prime minister that can become a strong counter-candidate in 2019 and, moreover, he wants the PSD to settle the critical situation in public finances.
Why is the rejection of Viorica Dancila's proposal of public interest? Because the PSD's proposal for prime minister is obviously underqualified for this job: misunderstanding of politics, zero electoral legitimacy (she has even lost the elections for a town hall in her home, small town of Videle once), zero ties with the economy, lack of knowledge of any foreign language, plus total antithesis to the anti-corruption fight.
Klaus Iohannis himself left room for a maneuver last October when he said, "If this government falls too (the government of Tudose), then I will have to ask a question, very seriously, if the PSD still has the capacity to govern." Parents of the Constitution have taken care to give the president the prerogative of appointing the prime minister to prevent this kind of slippage.
In the case of Sevil Shhaideh's proposal by PSD as premier a year ago, Ioahnnis used the opportunity to reject the candidate, but for security reasons. In the case of Viorica Dancila, I believe that he can apply the same reasoning: the PSD member's position on justice issues in the past shows a major vulnerability. Faithful to Liviu Dragnea up to her toes, Viorica Dancila will play the role of the PSD leader's rams against the chief prosecutors and the criminal legislation. I'm sure she would promote a useful emergency ordinance for Liviu Dragnea without delay.
Klaus Iohannis knows these things. And he also knows that a possible rejection of Viorica Dancila would instantly produce a crisis in the PSD, the dissident wing Tudose - Ciolacu - Oprisan - Tutuianu waiting at the corner for any failure of Liviu Dragnea. But does Iohannis have the electoral interest to produce a crisis in the PSD? Cold calculations show that he does not have this interest. For Iohannis, it is essential for the PSD to be weak in the presidential election in 2019, with an untrusted candidate and undermined both by the attacks on justice and the chaos in the economy. But a PSD led by Liviu Dragnea is exactly what his future candidate Klaus Iohannis wants. And if Dragnea becomes a presidential candidate for the PSD, then Iohannis can stay calm.
This political calculation is not that simple. There is a factor that can prove decisive: the dissatisfaction of the anti-PSD electorate, ie the electorate on which Iohannis is based in view of the presidential elections. A significant part of this electorate will feel betrayed if the president agrees to nominate Viorica Dancila as prime minister. This electorate has perfectly understood that Dancila is actually Dragnea, that Viorica Dancila's agenda is Dragnea's agenda, that the MEP has no political autonomy in the relationship with the PSD president. An eventual nomination for Viorica Dancila will alienate President Iohannis from a part of his own electorate, however exasperated by his chronic prudence.
Yes, but a rejection of the nomination could bring Iohannis the suspension. Lia Olguta Vasilescu explicitly said, other PSD members think it too. And the suspension for 30 days of President Iohannis (no longer needing a referendum on dismissal) could bring about a political disaster: Interim President Calin Popescu Tariceanu could instantly name Dancila Premier, then move to a quick replacement, together with the future Minister of Justice, Chief Prosecutors and even Heads of Service. Once returning to office after the suspension expires, Iohannis would be a purely decorative president, all around being deserted.
Here, however, the dissident's factor in the PSD intervenes. Tudose's resignation from the post of prime minister led to the formation of a group headed by Marcel Ciolacu (head of PSD Buzau), Marian Oprisan (PSD Vrancea chief), Adrian Tutuianu (Dambovita) and Tudose himself (PSD Braila) , will vote against a possible suspension of President Iohannis. In this revolt movement, could join some other organizations led by local leaders who are really dissatisfied with the way the PSD president leads the party, dissatisfied with the way Dragnea brought out a person from the faithful Teleorman again.
Without the parliamentarians of this faction, Liviu Dragnea will not be able to squeeze the votes necessary for the suspension. The votes he controls and the ALDE votes are not enough. I deeply doubt that UDMR will vote for the suspension of the President of Romania in such a complicated year for both Hungarians and Romanians, a year that began with the candid interference of a high representative of the Hungarian prime minister in the negotiations between the three parties that resulted the demand for territorial autonomy.
Of course we are talking about many variables here, of a lot of uncertainty. A major risk for President Iohannis. What should the president do at this moment of crossroads for his political future? Any decision taken by Iohannis must be based on clear information: how many votes are there for suspension, how many parliamentarians PSD and ALDE would refuse to vote on his suspension, what would all MPs do in a possible suspension vote. The president can not take the decision to dismiss Viorica Dancila without this information. The suspension plan is real, with exact terms discussed in a restricted circle. And the suspension would have catastrophic effects, as we have shown above.
We'll soon know what the president chooses.On his choice will depend his second mandate, but especially the way Romania will look in the coming years.