Behold the deadly duo of Ceauşescu-Băsescu. A bridge over the decades with the face of the communist dictator at one end and a neo-communist autocrat at the other. Both of them equally nasty, and equally unrelenting in their disdain for their people and even their closest associates. And both of them the bizarre recipients of occasional favours from Western Europe.

When they won the general election in 1946, the communists mounted a relatively successful operation to intimidate voters and prevent them from going to the polls. Băsescu and his party (the Democratic Liberal PDL) are now resorting to exactly the same tactic.

There is no more anti-democratic gesture than calling on your own supporters to stay away from the polls. Today Băsescu and his henchmen should be condemned not only for their decision not to participate in the vote, but also for their attempt to prevent other voters from expressing themselves [because the referendum will only be valid if more than half of the country’s 18 million voters go to the polls]. For this profoundly anti-democratic action Băsescu should have already been sanctioned by our Euro-Atlantic partners.

But that is not to say that the similarities with Ceauşescu stop there. Just like his political forebear, Băsescu has sought to identify the person of the “conducător” with the state itself. Ceauşescu liked to present himself as the avatar of the Carpathians and the Danube [and was called “Genius of the Carpathians” and “The Danube of Thought”], and Băsescu would have us believe that he is the incarnation of the mines of Roşia Montana, which is a testament to the lengths to which overt and covert dictators are willing to go in their craven quest for power.

Even shared the Queen of England’s carriage

And when their thirst for power is not satisfied, they will take full advantage of state institutions that support them to obtain it. Following in the footsteps of Ceauşescu who reinforced his rule with Securitate, Băsescu has abused the secret service to destroy political adversaries and terrify his own supporters — a method of operation that, as always, has been made possible by submissive prosecutors and a legal system on its knees.

Just like Ceauşescu, Băsescu is characterised by his contempt for parliamentary government. [In the time of Ceauşescu] the Great National Assembly was a caricature of a parliament, and Băsescu has attempted to make the modern parliament its natural successor. The same applies to the press. While Ceauşescu relied on censorship, Băsescu added the media to his list of major threats to national security, and at the same time sought to compromise certain journalists — on occasion offering them bribes that were sourced from public funds.

Just like Ceauşescu, Băsescu has presided over corruption: the only difference being that under the latter, corruption has become institutionalised. And because major perpetrators of corruption are the most loyal supporters of his regime, Băsescu sought to subordinate a public ministry to protect his corrupt supporters, while waging a merciless war on his political opponents [an allusion to the conviction of former prime minister Adrian Năstase].

Finally, in exchange for favours that were fully funded by the Romanian population, both Ceauşescu and Băsescu benefited from protection both from Washington and major European governments, to the point where the first of these two dictators even shared the Queen of England’s carriage [in 1978]…