Ion Iliescu is still around. Back in May, I blogged a bit about how Iliescu was getting on in the aftermath of last year's election. Not a lot has changed since then. Iliescu is still out there. He's still in the paper or on TV almost every day, and according to some polls he's more popular than ever. He's still locked in a complex relationship with PSD: they don't want him in charge, but they can't do without him. One new development: Iliescu announced recently that he's forming a new "center-left social platform", in alliance with -- among others -- former Prime Minister Petre Roman.
(This is a bit amusing, because Iliescu and Roman were political allies in the original National Salvation Front -- the government that took power after Ceausescu, in December 1989. That alliance was short-lived, as Iliescu sacked Roman in 1991. But now they're friends again. This has caused some wits to say that the new movement is a National Re-Salvation Front.) Now, notice that this isn't a new party. Nonono. It's a new "social platform". What exactly does that mean? Well, probably it means that Iliescu is strengthening his position vis-a-vis the disrespectful young whippersnappers in the PSD. If they don't bow down and start licking, then in a year or two he'll turn the platform into a party, instantly sucking away tens of thousands of loyal Iliescu voters. And quite possibly, hundreds of senior PSD leaders too... a lot of them are still loyal to Granny. What's he after? That's easy. Power. He can't be President any more, no. But he can still be the grey eminence, the power behind the scenes. Why? Why won't he go away? One, he's an old Communist. Those guys never go away. Unless utterly and totally discredited -- like, thrown in jail for a while -- Communist leaders of the old school keep coming back until they die. They don't think of power as something you walk away from. Two, he's firmly identified with a particular ideology. While many politicians are seen as opportunist (Nastase) or as driven by personality (Basescu), Iliescu is seen as a true believer in socialism. Three, he's still really popular. There are a number of reasons for this, but here's a key one: he's never made himself rich. Oh, he presided over years of massive corruption, and his close friends and allies found wealth beyond the dreams of avarice... but Iliescu himself has always lived rather modestly. Which leads to Four: Iliescu only cares about power, getting and holding it. This gives him a major advantage over politicians who are interested in power as a means to an end -- making themselves rich, or serving the national interest, or whatever. And Five, he still has deep links to the security services. It's widely believed that he has dirt of some sort on pretty much every major player in Romanian politics and business. Whether that's true or not, the belief itself has a significant effect. In sum, Romania is going to have Ion Iliescu around for as long as his health allows. Iliescu is seventy-five years old, and has had at least one heart attack. On the other hand, Romanian Orthodox Patriarch Teoctist is 90, and he's still going strong. So who knows.