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The rise of Union Save Romania: from civil society, political entrepreneurship and populism

Political Leadership
Political Parties
Political Psychology
Populism
Narratives
Political Ideology
Political Cultures
Claudia Postelnicescu
Universität Tübingen
Claudia Postelnicescu
Universität Tübingen

Abstract

The Union Save Romania, initially a grass-roots civic organization fighting the real estate mafia in Bucharest became the most successful political project of the last 30 years in Romania, by meeting the electoral threshold, and entering the Parliament in 2016. However, after 2017 the party was successfully taken over by several political entrepreneurs (McCaffrey, M., Salerno, J.T., 2011) and used as a vehicle for advancing their personal and political ambitions. By hijacking the party from the "unregulated market", the political entrepreneurs of Union Save Romania transformed a political party into a corporation, highly beneficial to the ownership and the board of directors redesigned as ministers, MPs, European MPs, heads of various public institutions, extending the power structure through serving and appointing the loyalists, and excluding the opponents, to maintain their power (Pfeffer, 2011). This paper will look at this very unusual case of populism, civil society, political culture, and the psychological framework of both the political entrepreneurs and their electorate, from a perspective of narratives, ideological manipulation, and discourse analysis of their main themes of political communication: anticorruption, the revolution of good governance, new people in politics. The conclusion leads to the staggering impact of the lack of political culture of a country as Romania, the lack of democratic exercise, and the heritage of authoritarianism, populism, and closed culture it has on the preferences of the electorate, including the educated electorate, who embraces non-critical the rhetoric of a very appealing populism: anticorruption. In a country ripe with corruption, the new entrepreneurs’ recipe for fame, success and acquiring outstanding power in less than five years is a remarkably interesting study in populism political entrepreneurship, political culture and Romania’s civil society and political culture.