Clotilde Armand is a French woman aiming to change the face of local politics in Romania. It started with a love affair, two love affairs actually. There is the Romanian man, now her husband and then there is the city of Bucharest.
She stood as the mayoral candidate for one of the richest sectors of the city. Exit polls had her ahead in the ballot only for the official results to declare she had come second.
Romanian politics have been marked by corruption. Clotilde Armand will have none of it. Her and the new party she represents are on a mission.
“We have demonstrated that it is possible to fight and that everyone’s involvement makes the difference. When we embarked on this adventure the party was very young it was only established in December 2015 so it is just a few months old.
“Many people have told us that we are quixotic, that we are fighting against windmills, the system is too powerful, we won’t get anywhere. We have demonstrated that with very few resources it is possible to change things
“We have shown we must not be resigned, politics are not reserved for the system, it is not an area that is the preserve of those who decided to hijack the country. No, democracy can work in our favour, we can believe in democracy,” she explained.
It was something of a foot slog on the campaign trail for the 42-year-old businesswoman who gained Romanian citizenship in 2015.
Politics had never been on her agenda until Nicusor Dan, a close friend of her husband, formed his new party – Save Bucharest Union, the USB.
Raising awareness of the young party in the face of electoral regulations and the system was a huge task.
“I personally started my campaign six weeks before the deadline. It was far too difficult to make ourselves known in just six weeks, knowing that television wasn’t going to help us a lot. The media is often part of the system.
“We had no right to put up banners and were extremely limited in our means of communication. It was very difficult to reach parts of the electorate under these conditions. We focused on social media and campaigning on the street.
‘No sense of honour’
“If you had been with me, by my side while I was campaigning in the street, you would have seen people’s reactions. People have lost all esteem for political power, there is no sense of honour in politics. Several of the mayors are under investigation but they are still in power and no new candidates were put up.
“They have not offered any alternative, they have no scruples. There are just small problems with the law, that is what these politicians say. All their abuses of recent years they call them “small problems with the law”. So people are not tired of politics, they find it all revolting.
“In this way things in Romania can be seen much more clearly, that is to say we see that corruption kills human lives. In Europe things are a little different because the action of the political classes doesn’t kill people directly but it kills the identity of the people.
“The political class have let people down in Europe for many and varied interests, multinationals, their own interests, they have sacrificed the identity of Europe. They let traditional values like work no longer be recognised as values and because of that the political class has been separated from the true will of the people.
“They – the politicians are guided by narrow interests and the political timetable instead of being guided the true long-term prospects of our nations. That is where they are discredited,” Armand concluded.