59804 4/7/2006 15:57 06BUCHAREST590 Embassy Bucharest CONFIDENTIAL VZCZCXRO6215 PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR DE RUEHBM #0590/01 0971557 ZNY CCCCC ZZH P 071557Z APR 06 FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4140 INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BUCHAREST 000590
STATE PASS TO EUR/NCE BILL SILKWORTH
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/07/2016 TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, PINR, SOCI, RO SUBJECT: ROMANIA: DEEPENING RIFT IN GOVERNING COALITION -- BUT NO CLEAR ALTERNATIVE FOR NOW
Classified By: Ambassador Nicholas Taubman; Reasons 1.4 (B) and (D)
1. (C) Summary: A series of events and statements in recent days have highlighted deepening divisions between the two leading parties of Romania's governing coalition, the center-right National Liberal Party (PNL) and the centrist Democratic Party (PD). President and de facto PD leader Traian Basescu has publicly expressed his doubts about the future of the PNL-PD Alliance, which was the vehicle by which he was elected in December 2004. He has also expressed, in the clearest terms to date, animosity toward Prime Minister and PNL leader Calin Popescu-Tariceanu, saying that he regrets having named him premier. The divisions reflect less policy differences between the two camps so much as personality clashes and deep-rooted suspicions, some of which preceded the government's formation. While the majority of our contacts still discount the likelihood of early elections in the near or mid-term, virtually everyone expects that continued tensions within the coalition will lead inexorably to this government's early breakup. Basescu has suggested on more than one occasion that it could happen after Romania's expected EU accession in January 2007. Ironically, the more bullish Romania's prospects are for an on-schedule accession -- and Bucharest now feels confident it is over the bar -- the more unstable the Romanian domestic political scene appears to become. End Summary.
Basescu: "I regret choosing Tariceanu"
2. (SBU) In a special edition of a nationally televised talk show April 5, President Traian Basescu spoke more critically than ever before about PM Calin Popescu-Tariceanu and the governing center-right coalition. Basescu said that he believed that Tariceanu had strayed from the PNL-PD Alliance's political ideals and accused the PM of being unduly influenced by "oil-flavored" interest groups, a clear reference to Tariceanu's relationship with embattled energy magnate and influential PNL member Dinu Patriciu. Basescu anticipated that henceforth his relationship with Tariceanu would be "purely institutional." Basescu said he had initially hoped Tariceanu would be a partner and noted the strong support he had given the latter during the fall 2004 electoral campaign. Basescu "now regretted" choosing Tariceanu, who he said had since "selected others with whom to dance."
3. (SBU) Basescu deemed "out of the question" a possible merger between the PNL and the PD, as had been touted in the early months of his presidency. He lamented that when the alliance between the two parties was established the leadership of the PNL was quite different, a reference to Theodor Stolojan who stepped down from the PNL presidency. As such, Basescu said he saw "no future" for the pact between the two parties after Romania's anticipated EU accession on January 1, 2007. Basescu promised a period of "political stability" for the time being, calling any breakup before year's end a "betrayal of national interest."
4. (SBU) PM Tariceanu replied publicly to Basescu's remarks on April 6, characterizing them as "surprising and inadequate." He described Basescu's sense of timing as particularly "inappropriate," given positive statements a few days previously from senior EU officials regarding Romania's planned EU accession. Other PNL leaders adopted a harsher tone. Chamber of Deputies speaker Bogdan Olteanu reproached Basescu for "endangering Romania's EU accession chances." PNL Bucharest president Ludovic Orban described Basescu's remarks as "despicable," stating the PD could not accept that the PNL was the senior party in the ruling coalition. PNL Secretary General Dan Motreanu accused Basescu of currying
SIPDIS favor with the center left PSD, since the PD would have to rely on another party to trigger early elections.
Background to a Political Brawl
5. (SBU) The latest round of troubles between the coalition leaders followed a week of controversy surrounding the election of a new president for the National Council for the Securitate Archives (CNSAS), the agency responsible for maintaining and reviewing Romania's communist era intelligence archives. In a surprise move, CNSAS board members from the PD joined those from the opposition PSD and extreme nationalist Greater Romania Party (PRM) in electing
BUCHAREST 00000590 002 OF 003
Cornel Turianu, an official alleged to have persecuted dissidents during the communist era. They voted against the candidate supported by PM Tariceanu's National Liberal Party (PNL), Titu Dumitrescu, a former political prisoner and known reformer who was widely perceived as committed to transparent management of the archives. Many analysts and politicians speculated that that the delegates sought to hide material in the archives that would incriminate Basescu and other PD leaders. Following the vote, PNL leaders announced that the party would stop attending meetings of the coalition's National Steering Council (CNC), which charts coalition strategy. PM Tariceanu characterized the CNC meetings as "valueless" if agreements among the parties are not followed.
6. (C) On April 4, Basescu visited the CNSAS ostensibly to broker a solution to the ongong controversy. He was greeted by angry protestrs, with several analysts noting this was the firt time Basescu had been booed since his election a president. After the meeting, Turianu resignedand the board elected a compromise candidate. Hwever, Turianu did not go gently into the night,asserting during a television interview that the CNSAS archives included documents that proved PM Tariceanu had been a Securitate informant. Against intense public and media scrutiny, Turianu back-peddled and claimed his statements had been taken out of context. (Note: Several contacts with access to the archives confirmed to us that the CNSAS files contain little, if any, derogatory information about Tariceanu. End Note.)
7. (SBU) Throughout this period, the media reported that cooperation between the PNL and PD had already begun to break down at the local level. According to one credible report, the so-called "cooperation protocol" between the two parties has been canceled in six counties and faces possible dissolution in six other counties.
Staying together... for Now
8. (C) Although a few voices in the media speculated about the possible imminent demise of the coalition government, most analysts and politicians have predicted that the Alliance will stay together at least until Romania enters the EU. PD president and Cluj Mayor Emil Boc declared publicly that the PD will remain in the ruling coalition on the grounds that there are "urgent social matters" to be addressed by the government. Nonetheless, Boc accused the PNL of failing to honor its agreements. Chamber of Deputies PNL whip Crin Antontescu similarly asserted that the Government must survive until EU accession. Antonescu qualified this assertion, however, by noting that this did not necessarily mean that the PNL-PD alliance would remain intact. Respected political analyst and Embassy contact Cristian Pirvulescu opined that the alliance would last as long as its members could not find another option. He did not see PNL and PSD cooperation as possible, but thought that at some point in the future PSD could back a minority government potentially led by PD. Several other Embassy contacts privately expressed similar views.
9. (C) At the same time, fewer political observers believe Romania will head towards early elections, noting that among the national political parties only Basescu's PD would stand to gain. Some Embassy contacts have also remarked that the constitutional hurdles for holding snap elections would be insurmountable if only Basescu and the PD were to push for an early vote. Independent MP Cosmin Gusa opined to PolChief that early elections were attractive to the coalition parties only in the early months of the government, when both PD and PNL stood to gain from Basescu's popularity. Gusa suspected that early elections would now "play a less prominent role" in the political debate, asserting that eyes should now be on "what the next coalition will look like."
10. (C) A close advisor to PSD president Mircea Geoana confided to poloffs that Geoana is keenly aware that the PSD's stock rises as discord between the PNL and PD becomes more pronounced. The same advisor assessed that since Geoana could never hope to beat Basescu in a presidential race, his best hope for national office would be as prime minister under Basescu. The advisor said this possibility has become increasingly important in Geoana's calculations for himself and the party. Other PSD insiders have told us that Basescu has had increasingly good relations with PSD leaders, especially following the ouster from senior positions of former PSD PM Adrian Nastase, whom Basescu views as supremely corrupt
BUCHAREST 00000590 003 OF 003
11. (C) Comment: The past week's bitter inter-coalition struggle has highlighted the growing tensions between Basescu and Tariceanu -- and between the governing coalition's two largest parties. As recently as a few months ago, senior PNL and PD politicians insisted to us that the coalition between the parties was running smoothly despite periodic spates of public bickering and perpetually frosty private relations between the President and PM. Now, the long-term viability of the coalition itself appears increasingly in question. Standing at the margins of the PNL-PD slugfest is the former ruling PSD, itself weakened in the past several months by a spate of damaging corruption allegations against senior leaders. Nonetheless, in the not so distant future the PSD could find itself again in a governing coalition, either through indirect parliamentary support of a PNL or PD-led minority government or direct participation in the cabinet. The controversial ad hoc collaboration by PD and PSD delegates on the communist-era secret police archives (CNSAS) may prove to have been a harbinger of future collaboration between the PD and PSD, especially if the PNL-PD Alliance continues to crumble at both the national and local levels. Indeed, several contacts have stressed to us that in the early 1990's, Basescu and PSD founder/elder statesman Ion Iliescu were political allies. The two men maintain cordial relations and share a populist touch. Although some in Bucharest continue to talk about possible snap elections, a reconfiguration of the governing coalition, including a possible PSD-PD entente, appears at least as likely. Odds are that the increasingly acrimonious PNL-PD marriage will break up, but perhaps not before January 2007. End Comment. TAUBMAN