Feature

Romania: Disrespecting the president and the flag

The whistles and curses began during the honor guard salute and reached a peak as the president sang, said Eugen Chelemen in Adevarul.

Eugen ChelemenAdevarul

Booing the president of a country while he sings the national anthem on a national holiday is pretty despicable, said Eugen Chelemen. Yet that’s what happened to Romanian President Traian Basescu this week in the eastern city of Iasi, where he presided over festivities for Union Day. The whistles and curses began during the honor guard salute and reached a peak as the president sang.

Narrowly re-elected just over a year ago, Basescu has now been in office six years, and during that time the Romanian economy has suffered deeply. Cuts in public-sector salaries and pensions have been hugely unpopular, as have the many austerity measures required by an IMF bailout. So I could understand the protests during Basescu’s speech, when some yelled, “Seller of the country!” or shouted, “Down with the pirate!” in reference to his past as an oil-tanker captain. But for “even the national anthem to be soiled” is unacceptable.

One could argue, as the opposition did, that Basescu was simply “reaping what he has sown in Romanian society: violence, hatred, defiance of law, mockery of national symbols, strife, deceit.” There’s no question that “Romanians are despairing over the difficulties of life.” These factors explain the rudeness to the president and to our national symbols—but they “don’t excuse it.”

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