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When Traian Basescu was reelected Romanian president by a thread in December, everyone, friend or foe, said he owed his victory to a handful of Romanian expats’ votes. Basescu himself thanked those living abroad for their support, while his leftist adversaries suggested expats should not be allowed to vote anymore.

One would have thought that, after one of the dirtiest election campaigns in postcommunist history, those in power and the opposition alike would finally turn their attention to the crippling crisis choking the economy of the EU’s second poorest country. Right?

Wrong. Several weeks ago, taking a short break from opulent traditional Christmas grub and thick-red Romanian wine, a prominent leftist politician close to ex-presidential candidate Mircea Geoana cracked on TV what everyone thought to be a joke: that Basescu’s victory was facilitated by an occult “violet flame,” and that his wearing a purple necktie or a purple sweater during the campaign was no accident or fashion statement, but a way of using “negative energy.”

People stopped from feasting for a moment, laughed and then resumed partying.

But the “violet flame” wouldn’t go away. Geoana, still reeling from his defeat, came up publicly with what many dismissed as just a ridiculous accusation, unworthy of a former diplomat and foreign minister: that he had been targeted by waves of no less than “negative energy” during the final live debate before the runoff that was won by Basescu.

His wife, Mihaela, said the attack was so powerful that Geoana’s concentration was broken. Many said Geoana was just adding insult to injury with his incredible statements.

But then video footage showed a mystery character who media said was a shady parapsychologist, Aliodor Manolea, walking right behind Basescu as he entered the debate hall. Then, photos were published of the same Manolea standing close to Basescu during the campaign.

In a country where magic and the occult have deep roots in popular beliefs, the story of the president’s healer and the violet flame has bumped from the headlines other less important stories such as the IMF delegation’s visit, critical for Romania securing a lifeline loan, or the meager budget law.

Basescu and the party behind him, the center-right PDL, at first dismissed the accusations as loony. But then they failed to explain the parapsychologist’s presence in the footage and photos, and what began as a slightly amusing story has now become an embarrassment for Geoana and Basescu alike.

Folk traditions aside, there is another reason why Romanians became so interested in the story. Mircea Geoana’s unbelievable statements about his being “hexed” by Basescu proved that the country had been at a hair’s distance from electing as president a politician whose diplomatic credentials did not do much to hide an immature and narrow-minded character.

For his part, Basescu will also have to explain sooner or later the healer’s presence in the presidential camp during the debate. So far, that did not happen.

-- Eugen Tomiuc

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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