Explaining Eastern Europe: Romania’s Italian-Style Anticorruption Populism

Issue Date July 2018
Volume 29
Issue 3
Page Numbers 104-116
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In Romania today, as in Italy twenty years ago, the gradual politicization of anticorruption has come to shape the political scene. When the EU asked Romania to establish an anticorruption agency as a condition of EU accession (2004), the country responded by creating the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA). Yet three unforeseen problems derailed what might have become a virtuous circle. First, the distinction between the corrupt and noncorrupt political camps gradually evaporated. Second, the growing effectiveness of DNA made it an irresistible political weapon for those in power to use against their opponents. Third, President Traian Băsescu had the country’s National Defence Council declare corruption a security threat, which led to a massive increase in the number of wiretap warrants issued in corruption cases. The politicization of anticorruption has thus produced political instability and disillusioned voters.