Religion and Political Communication during Elections in Romania

Article excerpt

In the context in which the majority of Romanians are orthodox and the level of trust in Church is very high, this paper aims to analyze the level of political interference into religious life. The article focuses on particular aspects of political communication, namely the use of religious symbols and religious events in electoral campaigns.

The main hypothesis of the research refers to the supposition that during the electoral years, the visibility of politicians presented by newspapers as attending religious events is higher than in the rest of the time. Moreover, the paper aims to analyze if there is an overlapping between the years in which politicians are presented to attend more religious services and the years in which people have higher trust in Church.

Key Words:

politics, religion, political communication, visibility

Introduction

The interplay of politics and religion is a frequently discussed, yet very sensitive issue in Romania. This matter can be treated from at least two perspectives. First, in their aim to improve their electoral image, there is the involvement of politicians into religion. Second there is the involvement of priests into political aspects of life, either by supporting certain political actors or by running for public offices. This paper will specifically focus on the first perspective, namely, the involvement of political personalities into religion life.

With a strong Christian heritage, Romania has a majority of around 87% Orthodox Christians, 4,7% Romano-Catholics and 8,3% other religions.1 Thus, in the context in which the majority of Romanians are orthodox and, as presented in the following part, the level of trust in Church is very high, this paper aims to analyze the level of political interference into religious life.

Based on Public Opinion Barometers, the level of Romanians trust in Church is significantly high. The table bellow presents the evolution of very high and high trust in Church from 1996 to 2007, these data being the only available ones.

The main conclusion that can be draw from this table is that the level of trust in Church is varying around 85%. However, due to the fact that these data represents averages on percentages obtained in different months of the same year, it is important to emphasize that, for instance, in December 1997 there was registered the lowest level of trust in Church, within the analyzed period, namely 76%. Thus, as the following figure shows, we may claim that there are slightly important fluctuations of trust between years.

Based on the above figure we can argue that the highest point of very high and high level of trust in Church is reached in 2001, with a stagnation of three years, from 2002 to 2004. Although the differences between the annual levels of trust are not necessarily significant, we must admit that there are relevant ups and downs. Thus, for instance, while from 1996 till 2001 it can be observed a relatively increasing level of trust, from 2001 till 2005 there is a decrease in the level of trust in Church. In 2006 the level of trust seemed to increase again, but it decreased till 2007.

It is also important to underline the fact that, in the contemporary Romanian society, the role of the Church is a relevant one. Since 1989, Church is "one of the dominant forces in transition by imposing its views on democracy through direct and indirect engagement".2

In a context in which religion seems to matter so intensively, this paper aims to analyze if political sphere is interfering with the religion one. The research questions are the following: Is there any interplay of politics into religious events? and Can we argue that politicians' attendances to religious events are political communication tools during electoral campaigns?

Thus the main hypothesis of the research refers to the supposition that during the electoral years, the visibility of politicians presented by newspapers as attending religious events is higher than in the rest of the time. …