The speeches of the two candidates were often interspersed, during the three-hour debate, with mutual attacks and accusations that the two raised without any mercy. From questions and answers, Basescu and Geoana promised each a prosperous reformed Romania that will be a visible presence on the regional and international stages.
The incumbent president insisted that the December 6 vote is an option for Romanian’s voters between a Romania that can embark on a path of accelerated reform steered by him, and a Romania of the past, where politicians will govern for them and their vested interests.
Geoana argued that he is offering a project for the development of the country and a guarantee that a Government enjoying a large parliamentary backing will be installed by Christmas that will be able to secure political stability.
The differences in the visions and approaches of the two were persistent and became obvious in their discussions of foreign policy. Although both candidates underscored the importance of Romania preserving and capitalising on its relations with the European Union and the US, insisting on the need to expand the existing partnerships, Base scu said Romania should develop a peace policy south of the Danube, in the Balkans and a policy that will link the region to Central Asia and, particularly, to the Caspian region.
Geoana argued in his turn that, given the fact that new emerging powers, such as China, India and Russia, become increasingly more visible, ‘Romania’s foreign policy has to be more pragmatic.’ ‘We will have to be loyal to our Western alliances, but we should also develop commercial, trade and investment relations with those which represent the powers of the 21st century,’ he said.
As for the solutions to get Romania out of the ongoing economic crisis, the incumbent president insisted on the need to boost productivity in the countryside by setting up small and medium-sized enterprises and using the resources available for Romania in the European Union. In his opinion, a way out of the crisis is focusing the Government’s policies on two main pillars: financing the reserves of the National Bank of Romania (BNR) to keep the exchange rate of the local currency, the leu (RON) against the euro at a convenient level and financing the Government deficit so that public wages and pensions may be paid and investments continued.
His challenger underscored the need for job preservation and following a policy of fiscal relaxation when the underground economy is brought to light. He insisted on the need for investments to continue in agriculture and the creation of a dynamic energy sector.
As regards their vision on social security, Geoana pleaded for equal opportunity and equal treatment for all the Romanian citizens, while Basescu criticised what he called ‘waste’ arguing the resources have to be steered toward those who really need them.
As far as the healthcare sector was concerned, Geoana would like to earmark a higher percentage of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for this field and establish a healthcare insurance system for the countryside and poorer, more peripheral areas of the country. He also suggested that the SMURD emergency aid service be expanded to include smaller localities and the expansion of the system of regional hospitals, the establishment of a national pharmaceuticals company and a consistent programme to reduce infant mortality and increase life expectancy.
Basescu’s main suggestions are cutting through the red tape and making the health care system into a professional one and drawing up treatment standards for each illness.
As regard the most polemical theme of the campaign – amending the Constitution to cut the number of MP seats and switching to a single-chamber Parliament, Geoana vowed to observe the outcome of the November 22 referendum.
‘From my point of view, the decision of the referendum is clear, we will amend the Constitution to accommodate a single-chamber Parliament,’ said Geoana. Basescu argued in his turn that the referendum was the strongest signal of the Romanians’ wish to see the political class and the most important public institution, Parliament, reformed.
‘This reality of the Romanian people should be understood and carried out by the politicians. Politicians should immediately start revising the Constitution. There is not just this to be reviewed in the Constitution, but we also have to scrap the whole system of immunity from prosecution currently extended to the President, ministers and some times the parliamentarians.
Romanians also told us something we have to understand: they no longer want privileges for politicians; they want the money designed for privileges to get there where it is most needed – to increase small pensions and wages,’ said Basescu.