Sunday, March 26, 2006

How Close We Came

For quite some time now I've been contemplating a post about Mr. Adrian Nastase's fate - former Communist, turned Prime Minister, turned Presidential Candidate, turned leader of the Lower House of the Romanian Parliament, turned deserted politician in search of a party.

Oddly enough, Nastase's life scale makes me recall the words allegedly attributed to pastor Martin Niemöller - Iron-Cross decorated WW1 captain, turned Hitler supporter, turned theology scholar, turned Allies-rescued concentration camp prisoner, turned right-wing Christian public speaker:

First they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew./ Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist./ Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist./ Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me!

It's not that I'm trying to draw an analogy between the two, but rather point out that chameleon-like political figures have always existed and Mr. Nastase is but another example, rather than the exception. In fact, I wonder whether adaptability to profound change isn't the trademark of a skilled politician.

For Romania it's not uncommon to encounter former members of the Communist party in top political positions. Mr. Nastase's pre-Revolution period was quite prolific and I dare say he may have succeeded in his political career had Ceausescu never been shot. Married twice to daughters of prominent Commi figures, Nastase ironically represented the Romanian Communist Party at various international conferences on human rights and published exhaulted articles in the Romanian pre-1989 press. His avid attack in a Romanian Communist magazine against Freedom House for having ranked Romania at the time as a "Not Free" country is of particular notice, so are his illustrious writings on the "retrograde concept" of human rights.

Sarcasm aside, it's rather baffling to me that such a character managed to become the Prime Minister of "free" Romania for almost 4 years; he barely lost the Presidential elections in 2004 to Traian Basescu, the current President. It's baffling that a Revolution wasn't enough to shake Communist ties. It's baffling that no longer than 3 years ago my own father was still reluctant to make anti-governmental remarks on the phone for fear that someone "may be listening."

We came very close, indeed, to having a Communist chameleon as a President, once again. I don't think a lot of Romanians understand the weight of their decision to vote for Basescu. It's true that before the Revolution many current politicians had to be members of the Communist Party - or else. But there's a significant difference between belonging to the Communist Party and marrying it. Between silently adhering to a system for your own safety, and condemning human rights in the name of that system.

At the moment Mr. Nastase is what one may call a fallen politician. Following a corruption scandal, having resigned as the leader of the Lower House of the Romanian Parliament, ostracized by his own party, he may never be able to return to the Romanian political scene. But if he does, it would only prove that chameleons will always find a way to adapt.


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