Politics Member States

Romania: Dan Diaconescu goes from trash TV to shock politics

6 April 2012
România libera Bucharest

Famous for his crassly commercial – and popular – television shows, the owner of the OTV private television channel last year founded his own political movement, the Peoples' Party. A few months ahead of important elections in June, he's the front-runner in the opinion polls. This worries Romanian daily România Libera.

If it did not already exist, someone would certainly invent a party with the aspirations and the profile of the People's Party [the PPDD, centrist]. The proof is that this political party led by the owner of OTV is the front-runner in the forecasts, in the latest opinion polls, for the electoral results.

Between 12% and 14% of those polled say they will vote for his party. That's a higher percentage than the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (PDL). This means that Diaconescu's party will be unavoidable in negotiations for the transmission of power in 2012 [local elections are scheduled on June 10 and legislative elections in November]. 

Those close to Diaconescu could find themselves in key government positions. But who are the PPDD's leaders? They are essentially dodgy business executives, dishonest civil servants, the notoriously career-oriented or members of high society.

Shouters win elections

It is, nonetheless, difficult to explain the rise of this party. To answer this riddle, the words of Dan Diaconescu are helpful. In a 2009 interview to the daily, Gandul, the owner of OTV was asked to explain the success of his television show called Oglinda TV [Mirror TV]. He said that in general he tried to attract people that would make the ratings go up. "What kind of people are those?" asked the journalist. "Ones that gesticulate, shout, use foul language and make grammar mistakes with whom the viewer can identify," Diaconescu responded.

The people described by the TV programme producer were, as they are today, for the most part those that evolve in Romania's public sphere. "People who gesticulate, shout, use foul language" are those that, in general, win elections in Romania, those that tout themselves as either trend setters or analysts, those who claim to have things to say in this country.

Furthermore, over the years, Diaconescu's TV studios have witnessed a parade of first class personalities such as President Traian Băsescu, Bucharest Mayor Sorin Oprescu (left-wing opposition), Victor Ponta (PSD), Silviu Prigoană (the new PDL candidate for the mayor of Bucharest post) or former Minister of Tourism Elena Udrea.

And, over time, carried by the public love which manifested itself through his television audiences and through his guests, Dan Diaconescu became a political monster. His 2010 arrest for extortion of funds was but an episode in his career, one which, with hindsight, seems to have had for only effect to reinforce his image as a martyr for the people.

One of the most hideous creatures

Now Diaconescu cannot be brushed off as he was in the past. From the tribune of the People's Party flows a demented nationalism, waves of insults and abject calumny regarding his adversaries – real or imagined. But all this, rather than revolting it, seems to please a good part of the population.

Diaconescu's ascent is reminiscent of that of Corneliu Vadim Tudor [leader of the Greater Romania Party and today a member of the European Parliament] who made it to the run off round in the 2000 presidential ballot.

But the two cases are not totally comparable. Dan Diaconescu is the creation of an important segment of the electorate, generally uneducated and frustrated, but also of a political class that encouraged the owner of OTV, hoping to benefit from at least the crumbs of his success.

Under these conditions, it can be said that the People's Party represents one of the most hideous creatures of Romanian society. It is not by chance that his showcase is called Mirror TV.