THE WINTER OF OUR DISCONTENT: THE ROMANIAN PROTESTS OF JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2012
The website of the book edited by Cătălin Augustin Stoica and Vintilă Mihăilescu
On January 2012, for more than three weeks, thousands of Romanians took to the streets in Bucharest and 50 other cities to protest against the resignation of Raed Arafat, a Palestinian-born Romanian medical doctor, who helped build the national Mobile Emergency Service for Resuscitation and Extrication (SMURD); this service is deemed an example of best practice at European level. Dr. Arafat resigned following a televised dispute with Traian Basescu, the President of Romania. The latter supported the adoption of a new health draft law, which allegedly promoted the privatization of the national medical emergency system (SMURD). The protests took the former governmental coalition, the political opposition, and pundits alike by surprise as most of them believed that “the polenta does not explode.” According to the Economist, the latter is “the gnomic phrase Romanians use to describe the attitude of resigned acceptance typical to the country” (see the Economist’s article “Rioting in Romania: the battle of Bucharest”, January 16, 2012).
The Raed Arafat’s resignation represented the triggering event but the protesters’ demands focused on a large series of issues: the austerity measures adopted by the former center-right government, the ongoing economic crisis, the perceived widespread corruption and cronyism among politicians, the former governmental coalition’s alleged indifference to people’s needs and hardships. Some local and foreign analysts have deemed these protests the Romanian version of Indignados movement due to themes of discontent, the high social diversity of protesters (from retirees to college students, from the unemployed to employees of multinational companies, from football hooligans [or ultras] to reputable university professors), and the protesters’ explicit criticism and rejection of all current politicians. By the end of January, the Prime-Minister Emil Boc resigned, the draft of the new health law was withdrawn, Dr. Arafat was reinstated as an Under-Secretary of State in the Ministry of Health, and the new government announced it would attempt to increase wages for employees in the state sector, whose wages were cut by 25% two years ago, in an attempt to balance the country’s budget.
Some might claim that it is too early to conduct an in-depth analysis of the January 2012 events. We contend, however, that it is not too early for a public sociology approach to the recent Romanian protests. Against this backdrop, this volume aims to reach a wide audience by providing a sociological analysis of public issues and a platform for dialogue among those who have witnessed and those who have been involved in the recent protests. We have not intended to provide any „concluding remarks” for these events. Along the lines of Michael Burawoy’s public sociology, our goal has been to offer different viewpoints and opinions on the 2012 Romanian protests.
Cătălin Augustin Stoica and Vintilă Mihăilescu (Editors)
© 2012 Paideia Publishing House, 15 Tudor Arghezi, Sector 2, 020942 Bucharest, Romania
Cover photo by Vlad Petri; © Vlad Petri – www.vladpetri.ro