Oh my goodness. I went to the Basescu rally (miting) yesterday here in Unicorn City. I stood in the burning hot sun for about two hours, squeezed right into the middle of the crowd and filmed the whole thing for your edification and/or amusement. My head and arms are bright pink on the verge of a sunburn and my arm was trembling from holding the video camera aloft. Whew, the things I do for you!
The video is less than 15 minutes long because I didn’t include all the “warm up” speeches from the other politicians and leaders, nor did I include all the music (except for a brief clip at the end). What you’ll see below is solely the part where Basescu speaks.
I know some people are going to question why I went to this event. To begin with, the president doesn’t come to my town every day and hold huge rallies. Secondly, obviously we’re in the midst of some rather serious political turmoil in this country and this was my chance to see it firsthand. Frankly as much as I loathe Ponta and Antonescu, if they had been in Cluj yesterday I would’ve gone and seen them as well.
The crowd, despite the heat, was immense. I heard figures of 15,000 people but haven’t seen any “official” numbers. I can tell you that the entire square was jam-packed with people so there were definitely several thousand. Some of the attendees were obviously party members “on the job” so to speak, waving white flags and wearing identical white shirts. Some of the signs were professional looking and probably the product of party organization as well.
On the other hand, there were definitely lots of “ordinary” people there (including the guy with the shirt in the picture at the top of this post). I had someone ask me about the age of the crowd and I can tell you that there were lots of people there of university age. I was standing next to three girls who were all 20 or 21. Some of the crowd was a bit older (my favorite participant with her handwritten sign can be seen here). I definitely saw lots of homemade signs and there were definitely a lot of local, “regular” folks down there for their own personal reasons – after the rally ended I was walking the same direction and heard their conversations between them so they weren’t bussed in with party buses or any of that.
Obviously this was a pro-Basescu rally so there was some anti-USL comments. To support Basescu in the referendum voters will have to choose “no” on the ballot, which lead to a lot of crowd calls like “How are you gonna vote? NO! Do you like what they’re doing to our country? NO!” etcetera. Frankly with the heat and the vitriol in some of the speeches (Vasile Blaga, I’m looking at you) I was starting to get worried there might be a riot. At one point a Lufthansa plane flew overhead on its normal landing pattern and a guy next to me shouted “I thought that was a USL plane come to spy on us!”. I am quite sure that if a group of people showed up bearing pro-USL shirts or signs, there would’ve been physical combat.
What with all the “no!” crowd calls and attacks on the USL, the rally was far more negative than I thought was necessary. Instead of focusing on the positives, support Basescu, support the Constitution, support this and that, the speakers tended to focus on the negative. Obviously I’m aware of the political situation in this country and this rally involved one of the major contenders in the boxing ring but I’d have preferred more statements like “with your support we will achieve X” and less trading insults. As we say where I come from, when you get in a shit throwing contest, even the winner goes home dirty.
Although the various speakers were not included in my video above, one guy was definitely cracking me up (Traian Razvan Ungureanu) with some of the things he was saying, my favorite being that USL stands for Uniunea Slabirea Leulului (Union for Weaking the Leu). Tragic but funny.
Either way, for whatever it’s worth, it was good to see people being involved in the democratic process and hopefully get energized to continue to participate even beyond the July 29 referendum.