By Paul Ciocoiu
Romanian President Traian Basescu appointed Mihai Razvan Ungureanu, head of the foreign intelligence, as designate prime minister to succeed Emil Boc on Monday evening (February 6th). Boc submitted his resignation earlier that day.
The new head of the government, who will probably keep most of the ministers from the previous executive, takes the helm in a crucial moment for the Romanian society marked by social tensions, after almost two years of austerity measures in place, and a still feeble economic environment.
“I think the number one priority for the new government is an effort to restore the standard of living of the Romanians who have severely suffered the bill of the macro-economical re-balancing processes,” Basescu said in a televised speech in which he announced Boc’s successor.
“The government I will form needs the citizens’ confidence. My essential priority is Romania’s economical and political stabilization,” Ungureanu added.
Boc resigned Monday after immense political pressure in the democrat-liberal ruling party following unprecedented antigovernment street protests last month that spread across the whole country.
Analysts say the new executive should take advantage of the relative calm brought by the change in the central administration.
“Obviously, this new government gets a higher rate of confidence from the population than the previous executive,” Mircea Kivu, an associate professor of sociology at Bucharest University, told SETimes. “But let’s bear in mind that Emil Boc’s government’s popularity rate was incredibly low so that leaves this new government a narrow space of maneuver.”
Kivu, who is a founding member of the Romanian Society of Marketing and Public Opinion, said the government should promote policies to increase the standard of living and change the way it governs.
“The population should be consulted more closely and the decisions should not be imposed anymore, but rather discussed with the citizens,” he said.
Some expressed hope in the new government.
“I see this change as a mere result of internal political calculations of the ruling coalition,” Alexandru Murgeanu, a public accountant in Bucharest, told SETimes. “But still, I expect this government to show us our economic sacrifice has not been in vain. We have done our job. Now it is their turn to do theirs. We are not asking for much: we just want our lives before the drastic and unfair austerity measures back.”
As of mid-2010, all the public employees’ salaries have been slashed by 25% and pensions frozen as part of an austerity package. The measures, coupled with a 5 point VAT increase, led to a dramatic decrease in the Romanians’ standard of living.
Augustin Cozma, a pensioner, was out in the University Square last month, protesting the austerity measures and the Boc government.
“I have at least the satisfaction our voices were heard and the government fell. This should be an alarm call for the new people in power. But looking ahead, I fear this change would remain only on paper,” he told SETimes.
“For me, it is not only about economy. I hope this government is able to show more transparency and prove it doesn’t not all come down to political interests, as it has been the case so far,” he said.