Adam Burakowski: Political System of Modern Romania

04.03.2015 | By Bartosz Światłowski

Recent publication “Political System of Modern Romania” by Adam Burakowski fills the gap as regards rare Polish publications on the Romanian political reality. So far the Author has been primarily known for the joint authorship of the books about political history of Romania. This time Adam Burakowski decided to focus on the Romanian political system, describe the crucial legal conditions determining its power system and characterize prime players on the Romanian political scene after 1989.

Interestingly, the Romanian political system is defined as the semi-presidential, which means that constitutional powers of the president and prime minister are comparable. Yet this potential inconsistence in the assessment of primacy of the Romanian executive centers, which was revealed by the arguments of former President Basescu with the current Prime Minister Victor Ponta, had no substantial impact on the stability and efficiency of the Romanian governance system. According to A. Burakowski, this situation resulted from the well-developed adaptive capabilities of the post-communist Romanian elites that came into power after Ceausescu. The Western political solutions (French model in particular) were transplanted into Romanian system but perturbations or problems typical for the post-communist country were unavoidable. They are well exemplified by the two attempts aimed to dismiss President Basescu  in referendum, where the government tried to put pressure on the Constitutional Court that was expected to rule about validity of voting. A much serious problem is personal dependence of judges on their political principals and reluctance toward reforms eliminating the ossified sponsorship hierarchies in the judicial system. Another disadvantage is high corruption and a poor decentralization that gains importance in the context of applying for the EU funds. High personalization of the Romanian system means that political driving forces are political leaders (and their characteristics) and their parties.  Author provides its synthetic and encyclopedic analysis including the biographies of Iliescu, Roman, Basescu, Constantinescu, Ciorbea, Voiculescu, Ponta and Iohannis.

            This conciseness, to some extent necessary, is a drawback here. Author intentionally renounces the background of specific parliamentary life events but also ignores the Romanian socio-economic background, which limits the description of the whole political transformation after 1989. Author recognizes the constitution passed in 2003 as a landmark in the development of current political system but provides no extensive analysis of the electoral results after that year. Moreover, the events that had a huge impact on the characteristics of Romania – famed “mineriadas” (protest marches held by miners, sometimes brutally suppressed) – are only mentioned. Readers seeking any internal impulse keeping Romanian political life going may be disappointed. On the other hand, institutional description of the Romanian system of power is also limited to the presentation of formal and legal privileges along with their reasons and practical execution. The book lacks description of how the government actually works and what institutions impact the policy of President. Given a special position of the post-communist elites it is surprising why the Author completely passed over the vetting process initiated by the act of 1999 and establishment of the National Council for the Study of Securitate Archives (CNSAS). Official publication of the Securitate confidents was called „dosoriada,”and aroused interest of the public and authorities. The book contains chapters about Romanian mass media, judiciary system or the career of Romanian officials in the EU institutions. Certainly, it would be even more interesting if the Author explained the most important axes of political and social divisions in post-communist Romania, the mindset and language of political elites or the economic sphere in its institutional and informal dimension, where business overlaps with politics.

            Yet the book is worth recommending especially for those who want to understand Romania and the rules determining its system. This is crucial nowadays as we all urgently seek a new formula for the cooperation in the European Union. In this context the potential of Romanian player is still underestimated.

Adam Burakowski, Political System of Modern Romania [System polityczny współczesnej Rumunii]. Ośrodek Myśli Politycznej 2015