The first memory I have surrounding politics is being told by a clown that I’ll make a great president one day, the first female president of my country. I was five then and I was wearing a sailor hat, right around the time that Traian Băsescu, a former ship commander, was elected president. And the remark really made me proud, although the source wasn’t politically acclaimed.
Ever since then, my relationship with politics has been stress-inducing at its best. And I am the first to admit that political discussion is the one thing I am allergic to. Still, I voted on the first round of the presidential elections held between the 10th and 12th of this month. And I will vote again for the second round, this weekend.
Just so you have an idea of what I would have to face as a president-to-be, the political landscape in Romania is composed of multiple parties that fall across the political spectre. However, since the campaign season started, the spotlight was on former president Klaus Iohannis, running as the representant of the centre-right party, PNL, and former prime minister and leader of the PSD (centre-left) party, Viorica Dăncilă. Unsurprisingly, they were the candidates to emerge as winners in the first round.
But what makes this election any different from any other, so different, in fact, that even a political ignorant such as me took some interest in it?
Well, two words – media agenda.
In all the years that I’ve been exposed to news from my home country, I had never seen the media supporting one candidate so openly to the detriment of another. It appears that even the most left-winged media cannot paint Mrs Dăncilă in the most favourable light and decided to report the events related to the election more neutrally.
Nevertheless, if one were to compare the number of mentions the two candidates have in the articles written from the beginning of the campaign, I would bet that the centre-left candidate would win by a large margin. This is only caused by the sensationalist nature of her political persona. Her countless blunders make for way more entertaining headlines than anything her “dull” competitor does. This translates in social media as well, where the lady has the edge on followers.
If this doesn’t ring any bells, I could add that she sports a short, blonde haircut. Perhaps the similarities between her and the current leader of the White House and prime minister of Britain don’t end here…In the international media, this matter is framed from an EU perspective and the candidates’ promises related to the demands of the Union. While Mrs Dăncilă’s position is more extremist and in trend with the nationalist shift that sweeps Europe, Iohannis has a moderate view of Romania’s membership in the European Union.
All of these, along with a public opinion poll that predicts Iohannis to be the victor, make for an unpredictable spectacle in which I decided to have an active part.
What is the value of one vote?
If there is one language that the political class all around the world understands, that is votes. Anything else falls as less consequential. Even individual voters. I know that to politicians, us as individuals, matter no more than a speck of dust on their shoes. But our united power as voters can have a greater impact on the way policies are made than any number of angry emojis sent as a response to a politician’s failure.
If presence at the polls can increase the likelihood that the average people will be heard, even in the slightest… then I encourage you to take a stand. Make a change!
Had the same clown come up to me now and told me I’ll someday be the president I would wave him off and tell him that I’m happy being a voter.
Cover: Heather Mount