Few people outside Romania have ever heard of Mircea Geoana, but recently his name has been on the lips of every Romanian. In 1996 Geoana (b. 1958) was appointed Ambassador to Washington, DC by the outgoing Nicolae Vacaroiu government, representing the Social Democrats, heir to the Communist Party that ruled the country until 1989. Within months of Geoana’s appointment political power reverted to the Democratic Convention, but Geoana was allowed to continue his activity. That decision was not in tune with the Social Democrats’ rush to fill the diplomatic corps, state bureaucracy and public administration with their supporters and clients after each election they won, but that was exactly the point. The new government wanted to show a clear break with the past, including Social Democrat clientelism.
Geoana’s stint in Washington, DC was uneventful so at the end of his term, in 2000, he returned to Bucharest. The stars were shining on him. As the Social Democrats had won the general elections that year, his skills were in demand in a party populated by old communist hacks with stern looks, dandruff-snowed stripped suits, and dubious democratic credentials. He became the Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Adrian Nastase government under the benevolent eye of President Ion Iliescu, former collaborator of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. From 2000 to 2004 the Social Democrats turned from a party known for their commitment to salvaging the reputation of the Communist Party and for allowing only the reforms that benefited their coffers to a well-oiled patronage machine whose clients used public resources for private gains. As the country’s new ‘phanariotes’, the Social Democrats decided that everything was for sale – from public posts to abandoned orphans. Corruption skyrocketed so much so that even ordinary Romanians, for centuries steeped in bribes and baksheesh, saw it. As such, in 2004 Nastase lost his bid for the presidency, and his Social Democrats were unable to beat the Justice and Truth Alliance and form the government.
Geoana’s stars were again hard at work, as that year was especially favourable to Cancers like him (Saturn and Venus intersected in his career house, the water and fire signs were benevolent, while the Sun boosted his luck and protected his family). Dissatisfied with Nastase’s electoral failure and worried about Iliescu’s outdated language (he addressed Social Democrat leaders as ‘comrades’), Social Democrats elected Geoana as party president at their April 2005 Congress. Embittered by this unexpected defeat, Iliescu branded Geoana “the fool” (prostanacul), an image that has haunted Geoana ever since. Despite Iliescu’s disparaging remark, Geoana went on to be reelected as party president in 2006 and to become Senate Speaker two years later. But Iliescu definitely knew something.
Geoana’s moment of fame came on 5 December 2009, when he declared himself winner of the second round of presidential elections. He drank champagne a bit too early, as the following morning his opponent, Democrat-Liberal leader Traian Basescu, was recognized as the official winner. What followed this public announcement was a string of declarations that grew weirder by the day. For everybody else, Geoana’s defeat was the result of his gross tactical error of visiting his best buddy, Sorin Ovidiu Vintu, just before the debate. The visit would have passed unnoticed if Vintu were not one of the ‘oligarchs’ Basescu repeatedly condemned for keeping the state prisoner to his business interests. For a friend of mine who gave Geoana the vote only to spite Basescu, the visit was such a serious mistake that she “had to slap [her]self twice” before the vote (“mi-am dat doua palme si l-am votat”). Indeed, it is difficult to understand why Geoana had to pay a visit in person instead of having a long phone conversation with the controversial businessman. But Geoana refused to accept any mistake on his part, and rushed to challenge the election results in the Constitutional Court. The Court ordered the counting of invalid votes, an exercise that increased Basescu’s lead.
One month later, after serious reflection, Mihaela Geoana reiterated that the presidential elections were rigged, and offered yet another explanation: her husband’s defeat resulted from “attacks of negative energy” launched during the candidates’ debate (1). In a last bid to overpower Geoana, she said, Basescu and his Democrat-Liberals had brought to the candidates’ debate paranormal, esoteric experts who ‘attacked’ Geoana at crucial moments. The attack was powerful enough for Mihaela Geoana to personally feel it: “I felt it a lot, I did not have energy, I could not do anything, I could not focus, I was not myself” (2). Because of the attack, Geoana could not react “naturally and directly” to Basescu’s questions regarding his visit to Vintu. But her greatest fear was that the attack, and Basescu’s victory, proved that “anything can be stolen in our country, even the elections” (3).
Mihaela Geoana’s remarks echoed those of Viorel Hrebenciuc, Mircea Geoana’s presidential campaign organizer. After elections, Hrebenciuc ventured to say that “on Thursday [the day of the candidates’ debate] Traian Basescu was in top shape, because it was the day of the purple flame” (4). For Hrebenciuc, proof that Basescu and his Democrat-Liberals knew about the mysterious force of esoteric powers was the fact that they wore purple ties, sweaters and dresses that day. Basescu dismissed the charge by claiming that “purple is the colour of the year” 2009, and the Minister of Tourism and Regional Development Elena Udrea, also present at the televised debate, argued that she had picked up the purple dress by pure chance. But Mircea Geoana supported his wife’s allegations, insisting that he was quite certain that strange powers and energies were used by Basescu in the electoral campaign and at the Presidential Office (the old Cotroceni Palace in Bucharest) (5).
At least part of the Romanian political elite takes a keen interest in paranormal activities, lucky charms, mind control, the evil eye, transcendental meditation, witchcraft, and a wide range of superstitions. The Washington Post (6) reprinted photographs which clearly show that Aliodor Manolea, a shady character with a reputation as a ‘specialist’ in deep mind control, clairvoyance and hypnotic trance, was standing near Basescu on the morning of 6 December, when the official result of the presidential poll was announced. Ironically, two years earlier Manolea had accompanied Geoana in a trip outside Bucharest. The photos show not only that Manolea was eager to offer his services to anyone willing to pay the fee, but also that Geoana and Basescu have held Manolea’s mystic powers close at heart (7). The politicians’ eagerness to fall prey to the irrational was reflected in their shallow presidential campaign, devoid of concrete political programs, saturated with populist policy proposals, and lacking a vision for the country’s integration into the European Union. Victory was a matter of fate and destiny. But Manolea’s increasing influence is unexpected in a country where presidential contenders have publicly declared themselves devout Christian Orthodox, and the majority of the population professes allegiance to the Orthodox Church.
Geoana might have believed that this public stunt – extensively discussed these days by every Romanian television station, newspaper and tabloid – would help him retain the Social Democrat Party chairmanship, but his statements opened him even more to attacks from his fellow party members. Iliescu dismissed the allegations as ‘a return to Nostradamus’, Nastase declared that the violet flame was not among the party’s priorities, while senator Miron Mitrea asked Geoana to simply step down and cease to provide ‘ridiculous’ justifications for his electoral defeat. Once again, Mircea Geoana has proved to be his worst enemy, miscalculating his moves and simply talking before thinking. His wife has stood by her man, declaring that Geoana represents the future of the Social Democrat Party, while Iliescu and Nastase represent its past. For once, I agree with Mrs. Geoana – Iliescu and Nastase do represent the past and should be promptly discarded by any political party worthy of its name. But the future the Geoana couple has in mind seems closer to the fictitious world of Avatar more than life on the banks of Dambovita. I see perilous future trends in Geoana’s zodiac.
(1) “Romanian Claims Negative Energy Lost Him Election,” The Washington Post (18 January 2010), reprinted in The New York Times (18 January 2010), and Boston Herald (18 January 2010). See also “Romanian Claims Negative Energy Lost Him Election,” Forbes (18 January 2010).
(2) “Mihaela Geoana: Mircea was energetically attacked by the parapshychologists during the confrontation with Basescu,” Bucharest Herald (17 January 2010).
(3) “Mihaela Geoana: Sotul meu a fost atacat energetic foarte mult in campanie,” Realitatea TV (16 January 2010).
(4) “Hrebenciuc spune ca Basescu a fost ajutat de ‘flacara violeta’ in dezbaterea cu Geoana,” Mediafax (16 december 2010).
(5) “Geoana: Basescu are specialisti in ezoterism la Cotroceni, i-a folosit si in campanie,” Realitatea TV (15 January 2010).
(6) Alison Mutler and George Jahn, “Zap! Was Romanian Election Loser Victim of Occult?,” The Washington Post (22 January 2010), and Alison Mutler and George Jahn, “Romania Abuzz with Claim Winner of President Election Enlisted the Paranormal,” Chicago Tribune (22 January 2010).
(7) In a strange twist to an ever stranger story, on 12 February, the Romanian Association of Magistrates announced its intention to sue Basescu because the Romanian coat of arms showed off by the Presidential Office displayed violet, instead of the required deep blue. See “Magistratii il dau in judecata pe Basescu din cauza stemei violet,” Ziare.com, 12 February 2010, available at: http://www.ziare.com/actual/eveniment/02-12-2010/magistratii-il-dau-in-judecata-pe-basescu-din-cauza-stemei-violet-994832.