CUPRINS nr. 123-124


Partide si societate

Is there a model for the political representation
of the Romanian Roma?


This article tries to responds to the following question: What are the nature and the manner of the political structuring and representation of the Romanian Roma? It aims to demonstrate that the structuring and the representation of the Romanian Roma citizens are built according to the model of the political precariousness. The article presents and explores this model.

The theoretical studies of the structuring and of the representation of the ethnic minority groups are already traditional, especially within the reflection circles in the Anglo-Saxon countries. As a result of the de-colonisation and of the emergence of the new states having multiple ethnic groups more or less represented or able to be represented, the political theorists and analysts found themselves confronted with a new type of challenge. This challenge was at least two-folded. The first class of issues was related to the possibility to measure and to put forward the correspondence between the principles defended by the ‘Western’ modern democracy (and especially those that are related to the human rights) and the principles aroused from the cultural tradition of the groups that became nations. For example, the debate on relativism (absolute vs. relative relativism, see SCHNAPPER, 1998, 40-3) highlights the dimension of the ideological confrontations. The second class of issues is related to a more pragmatic question: how to appreciate the capacity of the political science to analyse the manner in which the ethnic groups structure and represent themselves, whereas the ‘traditional analysis’ has always perceived the public space as being rather the meeting point of the socio-political interests than the meeting point of the ethno-political interests?

Our present analysis is rather related to this second type of questioning. In this essay, I aim to respond to the following question: What are the nature and the manner of the political structuring and representation of the Romanian Roma? I will demonstrate that the structuring and the representation of the Romanian Roma are built according to model of the political precariousness. In the next pages, I will present and explore this model. In order to establish this model, I will analyse, in the first part, the types of ethno-political organisations in order to make the choice of the ideal-type in the case of the Roma minority. Then, I will highlight the characteristics of the Roma Romanian communities in relation with the types of socio-political organisation and structuring, in order to build and to explain the model of the political precariousness through the study of a certain number of variables.


How can someone determine the typology of the political structurings and representations? According to the theoretical methods, as explored by Richard Gunther and Larry Diamond (Gunther and Diamond, 167-199), the literature considers three relevant criteria:
1. the nature of the party organisation (large party vs. small party; elite party vs. mass party);
2. the programmatic orientation of the party (ideological vs. clientele-oriented parties);
3. the degree of external democracy (tolerant and pluralist parties vs. proto-hegemonic parties)

Are these criteria fit in order to class the parties, which represent the ethnic groups? If one maintains the idea that, despite the fact that they pretend to represent the ethnic groups, the political parties are nevertheless organisations which are formed and which act like all the political parties, these criteria seem to be enough. But in this way I will ignore the absolute specificity of the organisations that are meant to represent the ethnic groups. This specificity is related to the type of their electoral and of their militant composition, to their message and to their behaviour, as compared with the other parties. It is thus necessary to detect some criteria that are capable to make the connections between the nature and the characteristics of the respective minority and its manner of political organisation and representation.

The first criterion above-mentioned must be necessary maintained, as the nature of the party’s organisation presents not only the manner in which the party is structured, but also the relations that exist between the party and the community that the party pretends to represent, as a function of the characteristics of the respective community.

On a contrary, the second criterion targets realities that correspond less to the ethnic communities. Even if we may have some ethnic parties that are ideologically oriented (such as the PKK – the Workers’ Party of Kurdistan), the fundamental role of these parties is to represent an ethnic group (one may ask about the degree of adherence of the Kurdish masses to the to the Marxist ideology). Moreover, even if there is a possibility to have, within a certain party, a clientele that the party is due to represent (e.g. – the iSocial Democratics Party of the Roma in Romania) – the main natural tendency of the party is to transform itself in the representative of the whole ethnic group.

As for the third criterion, one has to admit that it is rather relevant for the parties of the ‘majority’. If it is ietymologicallys totalitarian towards the national society, the party of the minority faces the interdiction or the enforced dissolution; this is obviously the case of the democratic systems. On a contrary, this criterion is relevant if one tries to distinguish, within the political community of the minority, the different manners in which the community is structured and the types of relations established among the various parties of the minority. I will thus hold this criterion as a useful way of differentiation within the ethnic group.

The same analysis of Gunther and Diamond allows us to find a forth criterion for our analysis: the degree of centralisation (poly-nucleic parties or political groups vs. unitary parties or political groups). This last criterion that I add is highly relevant in the case of the ethnic groups, as it allows us to relate the manner in which the ethnic groups are constituted and function and the profile of the political unities that represent them. It also indicates the degree of unity of the ethnic group and the relation between this degree and the number and type of interrelations among the unities that structure and represent them politically.

What does the primary analysis of these criteria allow us to conclude with respect to the manner of political structuring and organisation in the case of the Romanian Roma? A priori, the characteristics of the Roma communities in Romania (and especially: the cultural heterogeneity, the non-compact territorial diffusion, the rigid social stratification and the coercive domination within the communities) recommend a model of political structuring and representation that is rather elitist (as in criterion no. 1), poly-nucleic (as in criterion no. 4) and pluralist (as in criterion no. 3). I call this model of structuring the Elite Congress1. I will demonstrate that, as the manner of political structuring of the Roma communities after 1990 is rather elitist, mono-nucleic and hegemonic (with a dominant party), the real model is that of the political precariousness. The building of this model is based upon the inadequacy that exists between the ideal and the real types of political structuring and representation.

The characteristics of the roma population in Romania

The starting point of our demonstration is thus the analysis of the characteristics of the Roma population. This allows us to identify an ideal-type of political structuring and representation that is fit for the traits of this population. In this section, I will pass in review the characteristics of the Romanian Roma and I will concentrate on the specific dimensions that are relevant for imaging a model of political structuring2.

Characteristics of the Roma Communities in Central and Eastern Europe

1. Low level of self-consciousness

2. Non-territorial distribution

3. Traditional social organisation

4. Marginal economic status

5. Vertical and horizontal social and cultural immobility and rigidity

6. Heterogeneous cultural and political elites

Table no. 1. Characteristics of the Roma communities in Romania


The self-consciousness is the fundamental criterion for the participation of the ethnic groups to the life of the national community, as the ethnic identity that is openly assumed is the only mean that allows the identification of a community. – the ethnicity is self-assumed (by self-identification) and not attributed (by alter- or hetero-identification). In the case of the Roma communities, the self-consciousness is particularly low mainly because of the numerous prejudices, such as the one according to which belonging to the Gypsy community is perceived from ‘outside’ as being a shame3. In the most of the central and Eastern European countries, the informal reports show that the Roma are more than two times more numerous as they declare themselves within the censuses4; but, as the rules of democracy forbid the hetero-identification campaigns, even if they are aimed only to insure the ethnic identification, it is impossible to deal with the specific problems of the real Roma communities. On a contrary, as I have shown in a previous article (Miscoiu and Basaraba, 2005, 27-33), the governments have to approach only the problems of a specific part of the Roma communities, which are not generally the ones that are confronted with problems that are related to the specific ethnic belonging. Moreover, the different Roma communities exclude each other mutually from the ‘Gypsyhood’, in an effort to claim their direct and unique filiations with the first gypsy migrant communities that came from India5.

The Roma do not share the same vision about the meaning of the ‘being Roma’; this is politically translated by an extreme heterogeneity of the manners in which they organise and structure themselves in order to be represented.


The Roma communities are spread all over the territory of Romania. The zones in which they are concentrated (such as the valley of Mures or the Ilfov county, around Bucharest) and those in which they are quasi-absent (such as Northern Moldova or Northern Maramures) are rather rare. Less than 10 % of the Roma are concentrated in some regions where they represent more than 4 % of the total population (see Sandu, 2005, 9-12). The lack of territorial compactness blocks not only the establishment of some forms of local autonomy based on ethnic criteria but also hinders the communal cultural and political organisation. The Roma population is highly incapable to achieve the necessary degree of territorial unity in order to be represented within the local administration. The absence of the precise territorial distribution prevents them to be organises in an efficient manner and to become the interlocutors that must be seriously taken into consideration by the authorities and the main NGOs. The Roma constitute small communities that are homogeneously spread all over the country.

In order to be proportionally represented, the Roma communities would have to allow the formation of some federations of Roma organisations, having common political positions and presenting common lists in all kinds of elections; on a contrary, the Roma communities tend to constitute themselves in local, regional and national parties that are independent and rival.


The ethnic communities may be socially self-organised or not. The democratic and consensual system of government allows either a certain degree of social self-organisation for the ethnic communities (e.g. the case some ethnic communities with a specific religious belonging, such as the Arab communities in the Netherlands), or the participation of the individuals who belong to a certain ethnic group to the social organisation of the mainstream society. The two variants are possible if there is a modern type of social organisation, which supposes a shared vision concerning the rights and obligations, the division of the social roles and functions, a flexible regime of relations and hierarchies and a common understanding of the fundamental norms that are applicable inside and outside the communities. As opposed to all these traits, the Roma communities are, generally, placed in a framework of organisation that is based on tradition and especially on a strict sense of hierarchies and of roles’ distribution (which also includes a strong competition for the positions to be obtained within the hierarchies), on a heterogeneous normative system  (both inside and outside the communities)6, on the mutual social exclusion between the different branches of the Roma. Socially excluded by the pre-communist and the communist regimes, the Roma maintained a traditional system of interrelations that does not allow their participation to the social life of a larger national community. The rigid clan-like stratification and the very high proportion of the marginal Roma severely limit the possibilities of social extra-communal integration. Moreover, the social organisations of the mainstream societies and that of the Roma communities seem to be rather opposed than compatible and not capable to favour the harmonic coexistence within a pluralist society7.

This social marginality has some important consequences with respect to the political structuring and representation: it arouses a weak capacity of political participation, which implicates consequently the need of an elite-selection system that would be capable to substitute the absence or the weakness of the militant participation.  We will see at point no. 6 that, on a contrary, the Roma communities do not dispose of such a system.


As explained here above, the Roma communities are traditionally poor; they have been kept, more or less deliberately, in a marginal social and economic status. The rich leaders of the Roma defy publicly the particularly poor quasi-majority, being opulent in showing their wealth; in this way, they arouse the discontent of both the poor Roma and the majority8. Liberal pluralism standardised the economic equality between the majority and the minority; the most remarkable successes in the application of its menu are in the cases in which the ethnic groups of the minorities are at around the same level of economic development as the majorities: the tensions are in these cases improbable and the pluralist cooperation is entailed by the shared vision concerning the coinciding interests9.

In our case, the generalised view of the majority is that the application of the liberal pluralist principles supposes a full redistribution of the resources from the majority to the Roma ethnics. Because of the huge differences, of the extreme intra- and extra-communal polarisation and of the perception concerning the pre-eminence of the ‘black market’, the Roma seem to be incapable to look like equal partners in the process of societal building, whereas this seems to be an ineluctable condition, as it arouse from the cases of liberal pluralist success. In a political key of reading, this economic marginality supposes a partisan concentration having a social base; on a contrary, the Romanian Roma, despite the fact that they are poor, do not share the same poverty and are far from being able to constitute a political block having a unitary platform.


The social horizontal and vertical mobility is related to the social and economic conditions: the communitarian partnership requires a high capacity of social changing of the minority, as well as a high degree of interconnectedness and of role-substitution between the members of the majority and those of the minority. The horizontal mobility is the possibility of functional inter-change between the members of the majority and those of the minority: the individuals who fulfil, respectively, similar roles and hold similar positions may do it with similar results in the majority and in the minority (e.g. a medicine doctor may perform his or her job within the majority and within the minority). The vertical mobility requires a dynamic disposition, in other words, the existence of the middle classes strongly represented in the majority and in the minority and the existence of a social circuit that allows smooth and non-violent changes within the both of them (see Tajfel, 1981, 221-230).

Unfortunately, both types of mobility are absent in the case of the Romanian Roma communities. The horizontal mobility is almost absent, mainly because of the deeply entrenched prejudices of the Roma minority and of the majority. The Roma communities do not accept the gadji (the generic name given to the non-Roma), seen as being a danger for the Roma identity. In their turn, the majorities generally refuse to accept the Roma that they consider virtually without any professional qualification but the stealth and the robbery (see Phalet and Pope, 1997, 702-723). The vertical dynamics are also particularly low in the case of the Roma communities, as they are in almost all the traditional communities. The changes of the social roles are rare, whereas the functions are rather discretionary attributed than freely assumed. The power is generally transmitted by inheritance or by violent rebellion (see Bobu, 2000).

Consequently, the political structuring is made in a traditional manner and is based on the family linkages; this hinders the real extension of the partisan structures on a national level.


Finally, there is a lack of modern elites within the Roma communities. The reports show that the level of illiteracy is ten times more important in the case of the Roma communities than in the case of the majority (see The Roma Education Initiative, 2003, 20—24). In the liberal pluralist view, the permanent communication between the ethnic communities and the national governments is essential, as it represents the ground for instituting a dialogical culture between the two sides. With some exceptions, the positive discrimination programmes did not produce sizable results; the conservative elites of the Roma, inner-oriented, seem to privilege the autarchic domination upon their groups (see Miscoiu and Basaraba, 2005). Meanwhile, even if the representatives of the ‘integrated elites’ do participate to the governmental structures of power, they seem to have only some modest influence upon the ‘deep communities’. The dominant opinion among the Roma ethnics is that emancipation means living the community10.

In these conditions, it is particularly difficult to imagine a coherent system of political structuring and representation; every imaginable system will face the contradiction between, on one side, the need to reach the highest possible degree of unity, and, on the other, the moral and practical imperative of representing all the layers of the Roma population.

The Model Of The Political Precariousness

The observations that result from the analysis made here above indicate the fact that there are some very severe preconditions, which restrict the achievement of a coherent model of political structuring and representation. The same analysis leads to the conclusion that such a model should fulfil, at the same time, two essential objectives:
- to give possibility of building a structuring that should be able to federate the interests of the Roma communities, as these interests are linguistically, culturally, socially, historically and economically diverse;
- to allow the coherent political representation of the Romanian Roma via their elites (this condition is required by the precarious social and economic situation of the Roma masses).

By keeping the terminology that I already have used, I conclude that the most convenient type of organisation is the Elite Congress. The Congress should be a pluralist and poly-nucleic federation of organisations of the minorities (which puts together, in the Roma case, some groups that are particularly heterogeneous). Its elite-oriented structure would provide the capacity to represent the ethnic communities in their relations with the state and will insure the presence of the Roma within the decision-making structures of the state of the local authorities.

Does the political structuring of the Romanian Roma communities correspond to this model? In order to answer to this question, one should write an analytical history of the evolution of the associative phenomenon in the case of the Roma. But, as this work is concerned, I will draw only the main lines of this model and I will provide the basic elements of it. The starting point of this model’s construction is the observation of the inadequacy between the ideal-type that I presented above and the real type of political structuring and representation of the Roma, which is rather that of the Elite Party. This real type supposes, according to the criteria quoted in the first section, the existence of a hegemonic and mono-nucleic party (criteria nos. 3 and 4) based on elites (criterion no. 1).

Let us begin with the latter. Despite the appearances, it corresponds less to the imperative of the ideal-type, given the way in which the Roma elites emerge and dominate in the most of the Roma communities (as pointed out here above, in the brief analysis of the 6th characteristic of the Roma communities). With respect to this criterion, there is a fundamental difference between the two types of Roma elites: on one side, the traditional elites, who dominate via the historically inherited mechanisms and keep a rigorous control on the ‘movements’ that take place inside the ethnic group; on the other hand, the ‘modernised’ elites, who internalised the ‘democratic’ ways of management and political change, but are far from the deep communities and rather integrated in the elite structures of the majorities (also see Zamfir and Zamfir, 1993). This differentiation led to the first cleavage between the traditional groups of elites, who had the capacity to shape the political parties and the modern groups of elites, who were able to shape the non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Even if, in the beginning of the 1990s, the two groups were federated, in the mid-1990s they started to separate, mainly after the consolidation of the Party of the Roma in Romania (PRR) and its claim for hegemony within the Roma communities. The mid-1990s have witnessed the progressive accentuation of this cleavage, mainly after the strengthening of the Roma NGOs, such as Aven Amentza or Romani Criss, and their closer collaboration with the Western partners, such as the Open Society Foundation. In the end of the millennium, this cleavage became structural, as the ‘modernised’ elites proved to be capable to access and to use the European and the international funds, whereas the parties, and especially the PRR, seemed to be more preoccupied to dominate the poor but numerous Roma electorate and to acquire the national subsidies attributed by the government to the political parties.

At this point, the discussion over the criteria 3 and 4 becomes essential, as the reality of the political structuring and representation of the Roma gets in direct contradiction with the ideal model. Since the beginnings of the 1990s, the progressive separation between the Roma political parties and the other associative movements has been accompanied by a process of demarcation and, then, by a process of power concentration in favour of the most important party, the PRR. The most of the electoral studies indicate a more and more salient distancing between the PRR and the other parties and alliances of the Roma. This distancing is visible not only in the evolution of the electoral scores, but also in the analysis of the different types of relations that the Roma parties established with the communities11. If the PRR aimed at concentrating and maintaining its control over the ethnic groups of the Roma by keeping its unity, the other parties did not succeed in being coherent enough and concentrated on some particular ethno-electoral segments. After 1996 and, especially, after 2000, the PRR succeeded in marginalizing its incommode competitors by handling its dominant position of the unique representative in the Parliament, in order to get near the Social Democratic Party (PSD, which the PRR made an electoral and then a governmental agreement with, in 2000-2004). This latter move allow the PRR to acquire, besides the subsidies given to all the parliamentary parties, a preferential access to the public resources and to the development programmes – which was logically followed by the acquiescence of a sizable economic clientele12. According to the criterion no. 4, the PRR has become, since the mid-1990s, a hegemonic party.

This advantage of the PRR has remained however relative. The hegemonic capacity of the PRR consists mainly in marginalizing the NGOs and the other political parties who claim that they represent the Roma communities. The possibility of a full and federative representation, required by the heterogeneity of the Roma communities, is thus cancelled by the pre-emption of the imperative of unity that the PRR established and never amended. As being limited by a proportional electoral system, with a threshold of 3 % (1992, 1996) and then of 5 % (2000, 2004), the Roma political parties (including the PRR), could not represent the entire Roma community. The sole PRR deputy13 has always been elected with 50,000-80,000 votes, whereas only the self-declared Roma ethnics are about 525,000, according to the 2002 census (see Bleahu, 2005, 9). Even if we sum the votes gathered by the diverse parties of the Roma, we hardly obtain 1.3% (this pinnacle is achieved in 1996) – so less than half of the former threshold of 3 %. Moreover, the break-up between the PSD and the PRR, that took place in 2004 (at the end of the governmental mandate of the PSD), contributed to the direct mergence of a PRR faction (led by its President of Honour, the former deputy Madalin Voicu) with the PSD and thus to a more radical electoral defection for the PRR. The PRR’s absence of the capacity of federating did not only stop the achievement of the political unity, but also discouraged the ethnic consciousness of the Roma. According to the criterion no. 3, the political representation of the Roma took the mono-nucleic shape – that of the dominant Party; this Party remains however incapable to constitute itself in the representative of all the factions of the ethnic group.

The model of the political precariousness is thus the one of the political inconsistency between the ideal type of structuring and representation (in our case, the Congress of Elites) and the real one (in our, the Party of Elites). In the figure here below, I try to depict the relations that were established between the Roma communities and the various forms of associative movements, which pretend to represent the Roma communities.

The Roma communities are represented below. Giving the heterogeneity of the Roma identities, the outer forms are punctuated, as well as some of the demarcations between the communal groups. As a general rule, the differentiation is made rather outside than inside the ethnic groups. Highlighting the thick frames puts this observation forward. The structures of representation may be grouped in four types. The dominant party is placed in the middle of the scheme (in our case, the dominant party is the PRR). The other parties and federations, called marginal because of their weak effectiveness, are placed on the left side of the scheme. The third type of structures is represented by the non-governmental organisations, which are, in terms of influence, much more important than the marginal parties. Finally, the forth category is that of the majority parties, which try to ‘catch’ the Roma electorate. Even if, in December 2005, the National Liberal Party expressed the intention to constitute an organisation for the Roma ethnics14, the Social Democratic Party was the only one capable to devise to some extent the PRR by cutting an electoral segment that remains highly unappreciable.

The relations developed between the Roma communities, their representative structures and the public authorities are highlighted via a certain number of variables. These variables are the result of the analysis of the characteristics of the Roma communities and of the ways of political structuring and representation that they chose.

The legitimacy of the representational structures has, in the case of the Roma, two hypostases – the electoral legitimacy and the traditional legitimacy. What is the place of the four structures of representation, according to this variable? Giving the fact that it has always obtained the most important number of votes and has always renewed its incumbent deputy, the Party of the Romanian Roma seems to have acquired some electoral legitimacy, even if its results remain weak, as compared to the number of Roma ethnics. It is necessary to observe at this point that, as it is itself heterogeneous, the PRR groups some leaders, which have also a traditional legitimacy (meaning a sort of legitimacy that is obtained by inheritance or by violent taking-over). This is especially the case of the Roma leaders of the rural regions, who have joined the PRR mainly because of the conflicts and rivalries they had with the other traditional leaders or with the challengers for the local leaderships. It is quite difficult to weigh the importance of the traditional legitimacy in the case of the PRR mainly because, giving the public image reasoning, the PRR remains dominantly preoccupied by the advancement of the electoral ‘modern’ legitimacy.

In their turn, the marginal parties have faced some important difficulties in acquiring an electoral legitimacy. Generally separated, these parties had settled, in some occasions, various alliances that were meant to put the hegemony of the PRR to an end. They almost succeeded in 1996, when they formed the Union of the Roma (Unirea Romilor); on a contrary, in 2004, they Alliance for the Unity of the Roma (Alianta pentru Unitatea Romilor) was marginalized by the PRR, which got four times more votes than the AUR. Because the electoral legitimacy suffers, the marginal parties try to attach themselves to the communities by the traditional manners of legitimisation. This is the case of the religious parties or of the parties that gather religious communities – such as the Christian Centre of the Roma, led by ‘King’ Florin Cioaba, the leader of an important Pentecostal neo-protestant community. In these cases, the legitimacy is maintained by a mixture elements issued from the nomad or the ‘sedentary nomad’15 tradition and the religious elements, such as the obeisance to the pastor16. This also explains the success that the neo-protestant missionaries had within the Roma communities, provided that the missionaries have approached a local leader of the Roma before engaging the community as whole.

The non-governmental organisations of the Roma (or created for the Roma) are far from having acquired any form of legitimacy from the Roma communities. By being generally shaped by the groups of elites, emancipated or even integrated in the national communities of the elites, the Roma NGOs are rather far from the deep communities and act in a manner that relates them more to the wealthy groups of the majority. If, however, someone desires to find some elements of legitimacy, he or she may observe the prestige that some of the NGO leaders have within a certain layer of the Roma communities (this is the case of the leader of Aven Amentza, Vasile Ionescu). However, this prestige does not transform itself in a confidence that might be speculated in an electoral or in a militant manner. The lack of communication between the NGOs and the Roma communities is due, to a certain extent, to the gap between the modernising emancipation of the former and the persisting traditionalism of the latter. This gap has critically progressed after 1990, despite the projects and the programmes that the former have tried to and sometimes succeeded to settle for the latter.

Finally, the PSD is the only political party having an electoral and a governmental offer for the Roma and beneficiates of a certain electoral legitimacy provided by the entrenchment of one of its groups in the Roma communities. This legitimacy remains strictly electoral; it is sometimes directly and positively correlated with the lack of interest of the other parties for the problems of the Roma and, moreover, with the degree of tolerance of some parties with respect to the anti-Roma racism17. Some analysts pointed that, in 2000, the PRR made an informal agreement with the PSD. By this agreement, the PRR, sure of renewing the mandate of its deputy (transferred from Madalin Voicu to its President, Nicolae Paun) and certain of not being capable to reach the new threshold of 5 %, ‘borrowed’ its votes to the PSD, mainly in some regions where the Roma electorate was more compact18. But this is a strategic movement rather than the sign of a legitimisation of the PSD in the Roma electorate. This is also the proof of the precariousness of the political vision of the Roma political parties, which contrasts with the clarity of the Hungarian minority’s political vision. The fact that, giving the 2004 break-up, the PSD did no longer beneficiate of PRR’s support, but the latter was not able to recover the ‘transferred’ electorate of 2000, shows the long-term precariousness of the structuring and representation relations.

The participation to the structures of the local and the central political power
is the second variable, which allows us to understand the type of relations that exist, this time, between the structures of representation of the Roma and the governmental and civil institutions.

The Party of the Roma has participated, between 2001 and 2004, to the structures of the central power by managing the Office for the Roma Issues19 and by having representatives within each prefecture. The effects of this participation are naturally subjects of various controversies. Without intending to judge its effectiveness, I limit myself to observe a long-term negative consequence: by having made an alliance with the PSD, the PRR lost the confidence of a large layer of the Roma elites and of the other parties of the majority; this alliance with the PSD was in fact sanctioned by the administrative contests of 2005, when the new liberal-democrat government made lots of efforts to purge the PRR officers from the central and the local administrative structures that deal with the Roma related issues. Moreover, the lack of managerial experience, often criticised by the representatives of the Roma NGOs, aside with the numerous suspicions of corruption, contributed to the entrenchment of the prejudice according to which the Roma are less capable and more vicious than the others20.

The marginal parties have been more prominently excluded from all kind of participation to the public affairs. Having rather a modest representation and being the adversaries of PRR considered, by ricochet, the manager of the Roma issues, the marginal parties were forced to content themselves by gathering the PRR dissidents. This generally inconsistent strategy could not provide to these parties the access to the management of the public affairs.

On a contrary, the Roma NGOs seem to have acquired the right to participate to the management of the public institutions; but this access is handicapped by the absence of the democratic delegation that only the electorate can insure. Even if the managerial capacity is rather high, especially in dealing with the governmental and the European projects, the Roma NGOs can insure their participation to the public affairs only as representatives of the civil society. This limitation prevents them from the management of the institutional apparatuses. On several occasions, the rivalry among the Roma NGOs made them lose the access to some important financial programmes. Meanwhile, as in the case of the PRR, the NGOs have established some sizable clienteles (especially some ‘intellectual’ clienteles), which insured their public campaigns’ consistence (especially of the anti-racist campaigns and of those of educational insertion for the Roma youth). In exchange, this ‘intellectual’ clientele was regularly co-opted in the well-financed activities of the Roma NGOs. To sum up, the Roma NGOs participate to the management of the public affairs, but they do it in a rather informal manner, being confronted with the issue of the lack of legitimacy.

The PSD was the party in power between 2001 and 2004; during this period, the PSD involved in the governmental structures, either directly, via its agreement with the PRR, or indirectly, numerous Roma ethnics who claimed that they represented the interests of the Roma communities. In the case of the PSD, what may be discussed is not the question of its general participation, but the one of the participation of the PSD Roma to the government. The PSD made an effort in order to show its good intentions and its tolerance by granting to Madalin Voicu an eligible position on the party lists. However, the erosion of Voicu’s public image and PSD’s failure in the ranks of the opposition put to an end the idea that the Roma communities can insure their participation to the public affairs via the PSD.

The managerial capacity
is the variable that puts forward the differentiations among the types of political structuring of the Roma, which involve not only the relations with the government, but also the endo-organisational relations. This variable makes the variable of the participation more precise and more complex.

The Party of the Roma has the most complex and well-developed organisational structure of all the partisan and civil organisations of the Romanian Roma. Theoretically, the PRR has local and county-level organisations and a system of inner management that is democratic and statutory. In fact, as it was observed during many affairs of local rivalry, the PRR does not show any respect to its own rules of management21. The main managerial deficiency is that of lacking some practical mechanisms of elite-selection. Giving the traditional domination exerted on the communities, the party leaders are mainly the chieftains of the large and rich Roma families, who, in some cases, never went to primary school. This makes understandable their incapacity to cope with the exigencies of a modern management of the party and of the institutions that they try to lead.

These observations are correct in the case of the leaders of the marginal parties, too. Despite the advantage of the size, these parties suffer more than the PRR because of the absence of the state subsidies and of the acknowledgement. In the cases of the parties having a religious component, the organisation obeys rather the ecclesiastic model (the ‘pastor-presidents’). This allows them to achieve a better degree of inner organisation. But this advantage is shadowed by the sectarian nature, which obliges the national leaders to choose the local representatives only among the members of the ethno-religious community. They are thus isolated and marginalized, being far for reaching any national mandate that could allow them to weigh on the public management of the Roma issues.

The NGOs are better organised than the parties. As they are not supposed to gather the masses, the civil society organisations succeed in becoming rather unitary groups; their members do have the intellectual and the professional experiences that are necessary in order to build long-term strategies for insuring the project management. The partnerships that some NGOs made with the national and the international structures of financing allowed them to acquire both resources and prestige. If there are only some unessential elements that put into question the managerial capacity of the NGOs, it remains that the Roma NGOs are far from being representative and that they tend to support some interests that are more and more particular.

The PSD is the largest Romanian party (over 700,000 members in 2004). It disposes thus of a remarkable internal structure and of a high capacity of making decisions within the statutory institutions. The most important question, in the case of the PSD, is to find out to which extent this structure is capable to take some important decisions that insure the management of the Roma related issues. Or, as I have demonstrated before, the PSD contented itself to conduct an image operation. The Roma related issues were not even a marginal preoccupation, but were always seen an electoral opportunity. As, between 2000 and 2004, the PRR was called to manage the issues related to the Roma minority and the PSD took in charge the management of the issues of the other minorities (via the Department for Interethnic Relations), the PSD was not interested to increase its capacity to deal with the Roma related issues. In its case, there is rather a non-assumed capacity.

Finally, the integration of the elites is the last variable. I chose to make it independent, as, in the case of the Roma, the model of the political precariousness was built via the roles of the elites or, more precisely, via the inadequacy of their interrelations and of their relations with the masses.

As I showed before, the elites of the Party of the Roma come from various sociological milieus. The most of the central leaders are issued from the Roma families of Bucharest or rather of the neighbouring area, dealing generally with the small illegal trade and which emerged economically in the early 1990s. The local leaders cover a variety of social situations and of milieus of origin22. There is however a general constant – the isolationism from the elites of the majority, perceived as a means of conservation. Even if some of the ‘emerged’ leaders of the PRR keep god relations with the elites of the majority, they isolate themselves in order to show their loyalty to the ethnic group. The integrated elites within the national elites would have provided a superior access to the power resources and, in this way, a better capacity to cope with the expectation of the Roma communities. On a contrary, the isolation of the PRR leaders hinders the capacity of acting of this party. I have to notice however the progress of a certain part of the PRR leaders, who beneficiated from the co-option in the managerial governmental structures that deal with the Roma issues and succeeded thus to be intellectually and socially emancipated. This last observation concerns however some isolated groups.

The same thing happens with the marginal groups. Their isolation is more pronounced, as their access to the co-constitution of the ‘epistemic communities’ with the political elites of the majority is weaker. In the case of the religious-political elites, the reasons of the communal isolation are clearer. For the others, the isolation is due both to their own archaism and to a strategy of marginalizing operated by the PRR.

The elites who lead the Roma NGOs have established some privileged relations with the leaders of the majority. The most of them grew and received education not in the Roma communities but in various intellectual milieus of the majority. Moreover, some of them spent various periods of time abroad23; they are a part of the European groups of elites. The social and cultural fracture with the communities is evident. The advantage of the integration of the ‘non-governmental Roma elites’ in the elite groups of the majority is transformed this way in the disadvantage represented by the lack of the ways of communication with the communities. The cleavage between the elites and the communities seem particularly salient in the case of the ‘Roma civil society’; this prevents any kind of legitimisation of the NGO elites in front of the Roma masses.

In the case of the PSD, the problem is that of the integration of the Roma elites within the commanding elites of the party. Taking into consideration the case of the leader of the social-democratic group of the Roma, Madalin Voicu, it seems that he was the only one able to combine the ethno-political legitimacy, the ideological-political legitimacy and the prestige (the latter in the form of the professional prestige). However, this rather unique case demonstrated that, in the absence of a personal determination to conserve the entrenchment within the ‘profound’ communities and of a permanent action of rapprochement towards the other Roma faction, the prestige and the integration are far from bring enough to succeed on a long-term. The progressive marginalizing of Madalin Voicu, which came after his personal conflict with the PRR deputy, Nicolae Paun, shows the limits of the integrative strategy of the Roma elites.


The variables that I presented here above have provided the possibility to build the model of the political precariousness as a ‘reversed mirroring’ of the ideal model of political structuring and representation. The ideal type, the Congress of Elites, allows the reunion of the structures of political representation of the Roma (various parties, religious organisations and NGOs) in a federative unit. This could have the possibility to respond to the imperative of the legitimisation, by combining the traditional and the electoral modalities. At the same time, the Elite Congress could insure the participation of the Roma elites to the leadership of the public institutions that deal with the Roma issues. These participative elites would have a high managerial capacity, insured by an optimal dosage between the integration within the national communities and the entrenchment within the Roma communities.

As opposed to all these, the Romanian Roma have ‘adopted’ the Party of Elites model of structuring and representation; it supposes the existence of a dominant party (the Party of the Roma in Romania) that leads in an authoritative manner the relations with the communities but succeeds only to a lesser extent to represent them. Its electoral legitimacy, albeit completed by a traditional one, remains relative because of the rivalry, sometimes violent24, with the other parties and with the NGOs. The latter are rather integrated within the national societies but have distanced themselves from the Roma communities, which remain traditionalist. Albeit it is useful and professional, the participation of the Roma NGOs to the public affairs is handicapped by the fact that they are not representative. Meanwhile, the participation of the elites of the dominant party to the public management is characterised by a weak managerial capacity. The relations between the dominant party, the marginal parties, the NGOs and the party of the majority that is interested by the Roma electorate are rather conflict-like and limit the representation of the Roma interests. These relations push away the type of the Party of Elites from the ideal-type of political structuring and representation and confirm, in a nominal manner, the rightness of the model of the political precariousness.


1. BARSA, Pavel (2002), « Ehnocultural Justice in East European States and the Case of the Czech Roma » in Will KYMLICKA and Magda OPALSKI, (eds.), Can Liberal Pluralism Be Exported? Western Political Theory and Ethnic Relations in Eastern Europe, Oxford, Oxford University Press
2. BLEAHU, Ana (2005), The Emergence of Roma Political Participation in Romania iDrafts
3. BOBU, Nicolae (2000), Cutuma justitiara. Judecata de pace la romi, Cluj, Centrul de Resurse pentru Comunitatile de Romi
4. CALCIU, Laurentiu (2004), Rromalle, RO PHARE projet 9803.01 (film documentaire)
5. GHETAU, Vasile (1996), “O proiectare conditionala a populatiei Romaniei pe principalele nationalitati (1992 – 2025)” in Revista de Cercetari Sociale, No. 1/1996, IMAS-SA, Bucharest
6. GUNTHER, Richard and DIAMOND, Larry (2001), “Species of Political Parties. A New Typology” in Party Politics, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 167-199
7. MISCOIU, Sergiu (2005), “Revisiting the Liberal Pluralist Solutions. Research Concerning the Case of the Roma Population in Central and Eastern Europe” in Sandu FRUNZA, Nicu GAVRILUTA, Michael S. JONES (eds.), Challenges of Multiculturalism in Central and Eastern Europe, Cluj, ProvoPress
8. MISCOIU, Sergiu et BASARABA, Adrian (2005), « Remarks concerning the sociology of the roma identity and the theoretical framework of the public policies for Roma in Romania » in The Works of the Multidisciplinary International Scientific Symposium "Universitaria SIMPRO 2005"– Social Sciences, Petrosani, 2005
9. PHALET, Karen and POPPE, Edwin (1997), “Competence and morality dimensions of national and ethnic stereotypes: a study in six Eastern-European countries”, European Journal of Social Psychology, no. 27, pp. 702-23
10. POTRA, George (2000), Contributii la istoria Tiganilor din Romania), Bucuresti, Ed. Casa de Presa Mihai Dascal
11. SANDU, Dumitru (2005), Roma Social Mapping. Targeting by a Community Poverty Survey, World Bank, Bucharest
12. SCHNAPPER, Dominique (1998), La relation à l’autre. Au cœur de la pensée sociologique, Paris, Gallimard
13. TAJFEL, Henry (1981), Human Groups and Social Categories, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press
14. ZAMFIR, Elena et ZAMFIR, Catalin (coord.) (1993), Tiganii. Intre ignorare si ingrijorare, Editions Alternative, Bucharest
15. XXX, The Roma Education Initiative (REI) Working Committee, Combating Educational Deprivation of Roma Children: A Policy Discussion Paper, OSI internal document (2003)

1 The noun Congress is inspired by the names of the poly-nucleic ethnic federations built during the de-colonising process, like those in India or in South Africa.
2 I will revisit, in a more precise manner, some of the observations I made in a previous study that was aimed to put forward the inapplicability of the liberal pluralist menu in the case of the Roma communities of central and Eastern Europe. See Sergiu MISCOIU, “Revisiting the Liberal Pluralist Solutions. Research Concerning the Case of the Roma Population in Central and Eastern Europe” in Sandu Frunza, Nicu Gavriluta, Michael S. Jones (eds.), Challenges of Multiculturalism in Central and Eastern Europe, Cluj, ProvoPress, 2005.
3 The surveys demonstrate that the Roma are still far from being accepted by the mainstream society. See
4 The Romanina case is striking. According to some estimations (the estimation of the ‘King’ of the Roma, Florin Cioaba; the estimation of the analysts of the Survey Division of the World Bank, led by Richard Florescu), there are between 1.5 and 2.2 millions Roma, whereas only 525,000 of them declare themselves as being Roma. Some other researches – such as that of Vasile Ghetau, “O proiectare conditionala a populatiei Romaniei pe principalele nationalitati (1992-2025)” (“A Conditional Projection of the Romanian Population by Nationality (1992-2025)”) in Revista de Cercetari Sociale (Journal of Social Reesearch), no. 1/1996, IMAS-SA, Bucuesti) – indicate the same conclusions.
5 The analysis of Elena and Catalin Zamfir is highly relevant in this respect. It presents five types of perception of the Roma identity in Romania: 1. the Roma who present all the traditional characteristics of the Roma and identify themselves always and in every occasion (privately as well as publicly) as being Roma; 2. the Roma who present all the traditional characteristics of the Roma and who identify themselves as being Roma only in the private milieus; they prefer to the identify themselves publicly as being either Romanians or Hungarians; 3. the ‘modernised’ Roma, who changed their way of being and do not present their Roma roots in an obvious manner, but who identify themselves as being Roma in the administrative and official contexts; 4. the ‘assimilated and modernised’ Roma who do not declare themselves as being Roma, even if neither they nor the members of the majority have lost the ‘traces’ of their origin; 5. the ‘former’ Roma, who integrated in the mainstream societies, lost there Roma origins, even in the private milieus. See Zamfir and Zamfir, 1993.
6 “I am the Boss and since I’ve seen for the first time the sunlight, I can say that I have never seen a single Gypsy judged by our stabor ithe tradition judicial court of the Romas for stealing, as stealing is not a crime for my Gypsies”. This declaration belongs to Ilie Ratoi, one of the bulibasha (heads) of the Roma from the town of Strehaia (South-Eastern Romania), as collected in a direct interview made in May 2001.
7 This situation is not a specificity of the Romanian case. It is also present in the case of the Czech Republic. For this last example, see Barsa in Kymlicka, 2002.
8 For an overview of the situation of the Romanian Roma, see the excellent research made by the Centre for the Study of the Interethnic Relations in Transylvania, “Survival Strategies, Economic Integration and Life Style of Roma People in Romania (2002-2003)”, available on the e-site [], last access June 2006. For some remarkable images concerning the status of the Roma communities, see the documentary movie made by Laurentiu Calciu, Rromalle, RO PHARE Project 9803.01.
9 The revenues of the Basques and of the Catalans are approximately equivalent to the revenues of the Castilians. The ‘French’ and the ‘English’ Quebecois earn approximately the same incomes, as the Flemish and the Walloons do. This statistics may be checked on the e-site of the Institute for the World Development,  [], last access in May 2006. 
10 See the results of the ethno-barometers made by the Centre for the Research of the Interethnic Relations in Transylvania, []  last access May 2006 . 
11 The studying of the results obtained in the 1990, 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004 elections indicates the progressive monopolization of the electoral space by the PRR (which did not participate per se in the 1990 election). 1996 is an exception, as the PRR was confronted to a great rival, the Union of the Roma (0.67 % for the PRR, who was able to renew the mandate of its incumbent deputy, vs. 0.58 % for the Union). See Bleahu, 2005, 6-7.
12 Numerous corruption scandals in which some prominent leaders of the PRR were involved made the headlines of the newspapers. See, for example, ‘Scandal intre romi…’ in Gazeta de Sud (Craiova), 28.02.2002. 
13 According to the Romanian electoral system, the positive discrimination is applied for the political parties of the national minorities. The previsions are rather complex, but what is important here is that the parties of the minorities who obtained the most numerous number of votes within the respective minority are entitled to receive one mandate of deputy each, provided if they reach a minimal quota of votes. The system favours thus the creation of the Group of the National Minorities (other than the Hungarian minority, who has its own group, as it reaches the threshold of 5 %); this group federates between 15 and 18 MPs and some of them are elected with less than 2,000 votes (whereas a non-minority deputy needs approx. 30,000 votes in order to be elected).
14 See the discourse pronounced by Teodor Melescanu, Vice-president of the PNL, on the occasion of the Congress of the Party of the Romanian Roma, in December 2005 (re-baptized “The ProEuropa Party of the Roma)
15 The ‘sedentary nomad’ tradition has mainly a professional character, meaning that it covers the relations developed in the communities where the Roma practiced the same jobs (e.g. jobs related to the metal crafts). See, in its respect, Potra, 2000. 
16 The manner in which the leader of the Pentecostal Roma community of Targu Jiu, Ion Ministru, leads its sheep may be an example. During the mass, the glossolalia of the believers failed in ecstasy was the most present gesture of the whole ceremony. I also participated to a reunion of the local federation of the Roma Christian Centre that was rather an allegory of the personality of the president-pastor.     
17 This was the case of the Union of the Right Wing Forces (UFD), between 1998 and 2001.
18 This allegation is checked at least in the Ilfov county, in 2000, when the results of the PSD were particularly high precisely in the communes in which the Roma communities were sizable and, moreover, the PRR was strong. 
19 Nowadays, the National Agency for the Roma.
20 This image is widely spread in the Central and Eastern Europe. See Phalet and Pope, 1997.
21 The president of PRR’s county organisation of Bihor, Iosif Reszmeves, told me in an interview that the ‘the main objective of the PRR is to fight against Balogh Gyöngy’; I found out later that Balogh Gyöngyvér was his step-sister and the former vice-president of PRR Bihor, chased from the party by Reszmeves without any formal scrutiny.
22 The PRR leaders in Ramnicu Valcea and in Targu Jiu are rich businessmen; the president of PRR in Zalau is a worker, whereas the president of the PRR in Caracal is a schoolteacher living in a house with no roof.
23 This is the case of Nicolae Gheorghe, who spent several decades in Paris, where he edited the journal L’Alternative.
24 In November 2004, a high representative of the PRR within the Government made usage of his gun during an electoral campaign event.

- doctor in stiinte politice la Univer­sitatea Marne-la-Vallee (Paris) si doctor in istorie la Universitatea “Babes-Bolyai” din Cluj-Napoca. Dome­niile sale de cercetare sunt teoriile natiunii si ale na-tionalismului si sistemul politic francez. A scris doua carti – Formarea natiunii. O teorie socio-constructi­vista, Cluj, EFES, 2006, 140 p. si Le Front National et ses répercussions sur l’échiquier politique français 1972-2002, Cluj-Napoca, EFES, 2005, 147 p. – si douazeci si cinci de articole in reviste de specialitate. Este director executiv al Centrului de Studii Politice si Relatii Internationale (CESPRI).




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