The main party in power has just adopted a "resolution" against the so called "parallel state" (source in Romanian, could not find an international source) [translated by me]:

The National Committee [...] adopted a resolution which refers to "the parallel and illegitimate state" which tries to gain political control [...]

This not exactly new in Romania, as there several declarations in the past against the "parallel state", "the system" etc. (e.g.)

Also, "the parallel state" is not used as defined by Robert Paxton, but having the meaning "state within a state" (source):

The "parallel state" is a term coined by American historian Robert Paxton to describe a collection of organizations or institutions that are state-like in their organization, management and structure, but they are not officially part of the legitimate state or government. They serve primarily to promote the prevailing political and social ideology of the state.

The parallel state differs from the more commonly used "state within a state" in that they are usually endorsed by the prevailing political elite of a country, while the "state within a state" is a pejorative term to describe state-like institutions that operate without the consent of and even to the detriment to the authority of an established state (such as churches and religious institutions or secret societies with their own laws and court systems).

Also, another example of "parallel state" comes from Turkey:

Turkey's former Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has used the term "parallel state" (or "parallel structure") to describe followers of Fethullah Gülen who occupy senior bureaucratic and judicial positions, which have been accused of attempting to bring down Erdoğan's government.

Question: why would a politician from the political party in power rely on such rhetoric?

I think that people tend to support politicians that seem to have power to change things for the better (more prosperity, less corruption etc.) and this message makes them look exactly the opposite: weak and powerless.

  • I am interested in a more general answer, if possible, that's why I don't know which tag(s) to use (and used the generic "political-theory" one). If an entire party conveys a message that seems absurd for others, there most be a strategy. Any help with proper tagging is greatly appreciated. – Alexei Nov 18 '17 at 20:47
  • It isn't entirely clear if the translation is accurate or whether the real reference is intended to be to the "deep state" which is a more common accusation (basically that entrenched forces in the bureaucracy oppose the democratically elected political leadership). OTOH, parallel state is a pretty good description of the relationship of the communist party to the government, a familiar concept to Romanians in what was previously a one party state. – ohwilleke Nov 21 '17 at 6:44
  • @ohwilleke - in Romania, politicians literally refer to "parallel state" ("stat paralel" - nothing lost in translation). I have also found a link to Google book that used "parallel state" to describe the "Security" within the Romania before 1989 (communist era). Unfortunately, the resource seems to be a preview and does not work in all countries. – Alexei Nov 21 '17 at 7:34
  • Literal translations aren't always accurate in the case of idiomatic phrases. In the same way, "mouse tears" in Russian means roughly "cry me a river" in English. – ohwilleke Nov 21 '17 at 17:11

why would a politician from the political party in power rely on such rhetoric?

  1. In order to use power against individuals who they feel may take actions that oppose them. I won't try to diagnose Romania, but Turkey has been in the news enough that I think I follow the highlights.

    Recep Tayyip Erdoğan says that people in the system are supporters of Fethullah Gülen so as to remove those people from power or limit their ability to oppose him.

  2. In order to explain why the politician has not been successful.

    As you say, the best argument for future elections is that the politician is effective. But what if the politician is not effective at meeting the campaign goals? By reducing expectations, the politician can seem to perform well against the newly lowered expectations. Also, the politician can say things like "if you give me a supermajority" or "if we change the constitution" then things would be better. They could remove the parallel state or work around them.

In the United States, Donald Trump promised to close off the border, end trade deals, bring jobs back from overseas, reduce crime, throw Hillary Clinton in jail, stop foreign adventurism, and stand up for US interests worldwide. If he fails in doing those things, then he has to explain why. The "deep state" (the US version of a parallel state) preventing him is better than saying "I have no government experience and promised a bunch of things that I could not deliver, either at all or without ruinous consequences."

The basic strategy is simple. Politicians in power either want to argue that things are great or that what's not great is not their fault. They'd prefer to argue that things are great, but sometimes that's just not true. Rhetoric works best when it amplifies or redirects reality, not when it attempts to deny reality. Rhetoric can't turn night to day. It may encourage people to view twilight as half day rather than half night. Or in this case, "OK, it's night, but that's the sun's fault. How about some streetlamps?"

I don't know how that applies to the current Romanian government. I'd guess that there is something that they said they would do that they did not actually accomplish. Usually there is some kind of plan to resolve it. Perhaps they need more power. Perhaps they need the "parallel state" to have less power. Perhaps they want to fire people. They may not have made statements about that solution yet. Note that it is all right for the solution to be difficult to accomplish or to require voter assistance. In fact, such things may make it better. "It's not us; it's those other idiots."

  • Yes, in Romania, several electoral promises were not met (some argue they were not realistic anyway), but what seems to be a strong reason is that several political leaders are facing serious charges by Anti-corruption Department (some of them are already convicted, others have multiple accusations, it's really complicated for them). If found guilty, it means jail time and end of political life for a while. Anyway, in a democratic country this strategy will most certainly lead to losing next general election, doesn't it? – Alexei Nov 19 '17 at 6:48

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