USR and MRÎ, anti-democratic populism


Contrary to the stereotypes, Uniunea Salvați România (USR) and the new political party launched by Dacian Cioloş, Mișcarea România Împreună (MRÎ), are the most demagogic parties in the current political spectrum. I have said “contrary to the stereotypes”, because in the media discourses, populism is usually attributed to larger parties, PSD and PNL, being equated and mistaken (sometimes deliberately, other times out of ignorance) with the propensity of these formations to express majoritarian opinions and demands (belonging to majority in society). Of course, large parties are also populist, but in a soft form, usually translated by attempts to socially (re)compensate the electorate or to take over the attitudes of the majority. This also explains the official assumption by PSD and PNL of the objective of the Coalition for Family to hold a referendum for the constitutional clarification of the definition of marriage. Even this takeover of a popular initiative, however, is brought to silence by its own political calculations: PSD promises civil partnership for same-sex couples, and PNL has done its best to procedurally delay the referendum.

On the other hand, USR and MRÎ inaugurate a kind of bizarre and quite unique hard populism in the European landscape: an anti-democratic one. I call it hard populism because one can recognize in it components specific to any type of populism: salvation, justice (in the form of anti-corruption) and anti-system/anti-political positioning. Both political formations, USR and MRÎ, claim to be bottom-up political movements, emanations of the civil society, led by technocrat professionals that are foreign of the political games and the illegal interests. At the same time, it is anti-democratic populism through the fact that the two parties are firmly opposed to the majority from the society. Unlike all the other forms of European populism, which, as a rule, take on the voices of those dissatisfied with the status quo produced by the dominant elites, they faithfully reflect the agenda of the European structures and are political allies of the banking system and  the multinationals.

One of the most striking evidence in this respect is given by the manner in which these parties manage the theme of the referendum for marriage. USR has practically abused the right to address to CCR on the law that allows the referendum to be held, on a issue that was already settled by the same institution, namely the role of the president in the process of holding a referendum. It’s hard to believe that USR does not have law experts and does not know that the action has no chance, and thus, that it is artificial. In fact, in order to achieve its political goals, USR practices the same type of political boycott already used by the party („filibuster”), characterized by abusing or forcing rules and procedures. In this particular case, the aim is, obviously, delaying the referendum. On the other hand, MRÎ, a political party launched right at a time when the theme of the referendum is a hot topic, manages to bypass the subject with such determination that the absence of a voice on the issue is more significant that a potential pronunciation on it. Undoubtedly, such an approach clearly shows that, in fact, MRÎ is on the same wavelength with USR in this regard.

The anti-democratic populism is a Romanian invention and, most probably, a local form of management of the crisis the European system is in. Being in an acute loss of electoral ground, the political and financial European elite are looking for various strategies of re-legitimacy. The USR and MRÎ are such political experiments whereby democracy in the strong sense of the word is boycotted in the name of saving the people.