23977 12/13/2004 12:45 04BUCHAREST3421 Embassy Bucharest CONFIDENTIAL 04BUCHAREST3416 This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available. C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BUCHAREST 003421
DEPT FOR EUR/NCE - WILLIAM SILKWORTH
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/13/2014 TAGS: PGOV, PREL, PHUM, KDEM, SOCI, ECON, RO SUBJECT: CENTER-RIGHT CANDIDATE TRAIAN BASESCU WINS PRESIDENTIAL RUN-OFF IN SURPRISE UPSET; NASTASE CONCEDES
REF: BUCHAREST 3416 (AND PREVIOUS)
Classified By: Political Section Chief Robert S. Gilchrist for Reasons 1.4 B and D
1. (C) Summary: Center-right National Liberal-Democratic (PNL-PD) alliance candidate Traian Basescu has won Romania\'s presidency, according to official results released early afternoon December 13. PNL-PD leaders tell post that the alliance is still absorbing the surprise win, but will soon begin efforts to form a parliamentary coalition. Cheering supporters crowded Bucharest\'s University Square late December 12 and early hours the next day to hear Basescu predict a clear victory; similar spontaneous rallies took place in other cities. Throughout the campaign, Basescu advocated strong trans-Atlantic relations. His alliance has promised to combat corruption and to undertake more rapid economic and political reform. Post has begun hearing names of potential cabinet members, but much remains in the sphere of speculation. End Summary.
2. (SBU) Defying predictions in the media and by political insiders from all political persuasions, center-right National Liberal-Democratic (PNL-PD) alliance candidate and Bucharest Mayor Traian Basescu has emerged as the winner of Romania\'s December 12 second-round presidential run-off elections. With 99 percent of the vote counted, the Central Electoral Bureau (BEC) announced early afternoon December 13 that Basescu held 51.23 percent of the vote compared to 48.77 percent for ruling Social Democratic-Humanist party (PSD-PUR) union candidate Prime Minister Adrian Nastase. PSD insiders tell post that the party leadership is coming to terms with what they see as a clear defeat. Nastase conceded at 2:10 PM local time December 13, noting that the vote indicated a broad urban-rural split in Romania and leaving open the possibility of political cohabitation.
3. (C) Meanwhile, the PNL-PD leadership is meeting in a closed session to discuss options for forming a possible parliamentary coalition. Given that most in PNL-PD were surprised at Sunday\'s result, the alliance has not engaged in serious discussions with other parties -- unlike the PSD-PUR -- since November 28 parliamentary elections and first-round presidential elections. Senior PD leader Cosmin Gusa confided to PolChief -- \"We are just waking up to all of this.\"
Possibilities for a Coalition
4. (C) Gusa also cautioned the morning of December 13 that it remained too early to determine how the PNL-PD will attempt to form a coalition. Nonetheless, he conceded that there is much speculation both inside and outside the alliance. The possibilities are numerous. Analysts note the first option may be a minority coalition with the ethnic Hungarian party (UDMR), the 18 Chamber of Deputies members reserved for ethnic minorities, and support from individual MPs from other parties, including defectors from the extreme nationalist Greater Romania Party (PRM) (Note: Basescu has repeatedly publicly and privately ruled out a coalition with the PRM. However, analysts note that this would not negate the possibility of many PRM MPs declining to vote against a new PNL-PD led government. End Note.)
5. (C) A second option would be co-opting the Humanist Party (PUR), which holds 18 positions in the Chamber of Deputies and ten in the Senate. With the UDMR and ethnic minority seats, this would provide a clear majority. The PUR released a communique early afternoon December 13 expressing the party\'s political independence, indicating that this might be a path PNL-PD could pursue. A third option would be to call elections as allowed by the constitution if the parliament meeting in joint session fails to form a government after three votes. Basescu could decide that PNL-PD could build upon momentum generated by the December 12 results to achieve a commanding parliamentary majority by holding new elections. A final option would be cohabitation, allowing the PSD the possibility to form a government. This last option is viewed as the least likely, as it would deny Basescu the capacity to implement PNL-PD\'s platform.
Possibilities for a Cabinet
6. (SBU) Throughout the campaign, Basescu repeatedly stated that PNL-PD\'s prime minister would be PNL acting president Calin Popescu Tariceanu. This reflects the longstanding deal between PNL and PD that one party would hold the presidency while the other would be accorded the prime minister position. Tariceanu remained at Basescu\'s side during celebratory comments made late December 12 and was the only other PNL-PD leader to share the microphone with the press. Beyond Tariceanu, Embassy contacts say the composition of a possible PNL-PD cabinet remains unclear. Party insiders and reliable media sources bruit several well-known political figures for the top positions.
7. (SBU) Leading PD member Adriean Videanu is touted as a potential Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Economy. Videanu is one of PD\'s richest politicians and currently heads the Romanian-American Investment Fund. He was one of the few parliamentarians to voluntarily leave office in accordance with new conflict of interest legislation. His managerial skills and discretion are widely respected across PNL and PD ranks. PD\'s Sorin Frunzaverde appears to be a frontrunner for Minister of Defense. He briefly held the position in 2000 and is well known by the Embassy. PNL\'s Valeriu Stoica is a possibility for Minister of Justice, and PNL\'s leading female deputy Mona Musca will likely be appointed either as Minister of Culture or Minister of Labor. PNL economic advisor Ionut Popescu, a well-known journalist and economist is a wildcard. However, given his position as the chief proponent of PNL\'s liberal economic strategy, he is likely to receive a key position in a future alliance government.
8. (C) Basescu\'s win is seen here as a new beginning in Romanian politics, with many hopes and expectations. Upcoming days will focus on coalition building to include frenzied horse-trading for leadership positions in the parliament and senior government slots. We expect PSD will emerge as a tough opponent, with popular outgoing President Ion Iliescu taking over party leadership and with the PSD still highly influential -- through formal and informal bonds -- over state institutions, including the judiciary and intelligence services. Events are evolving quickly in Bucharest. The only certainty is that Basescu and his allies have pulled off an unexpected victory with likely sweeping repercussions on Romania\'s economic and political life
9. (U) Amembassy Bucharest\'s reporting telegrams, as well as daily press summaries, are available on the Bucharest SIPRNet website: www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/bucharest