189319 1/29/2009 6:34 09BUCHAREST58 Embassy Bucharest CONFIDENTIAL P 290634Z JAN 09 FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9151 INFO EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY C O N F I D E N T I A L BUCHAREST 000058
STATE FOR EUR/CE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/28/2019 TAGS: PGOV, PREL, RO SUBJECT: PD-L VICE PRESIDENT STOICA: LOOKING BEYOND THE BASESCU ERA
Classified By: CDA Jeri Guthrie-Corn for 1.5 (b) and (d)
1. (C) Summary: PD-L Vice President Stoica evinced confidence in the prospects for the new Boc government, noting that Prime Minister Boc enjoyed many attributes including his position as head of a large party; the full support and confidence of the President; and lack of any corruption baggage. Stoica said the glue holding the coalition together was the even match of the two parties' shares of parliamentary seats, resulting in a continuous process of consultations and informal checks and balances. He was worried that this delicate balance might be upset during the upcoming European Parliamentary elections and the year-end Presidential contest. Stoica confided that Basescu was unlikely to get much progress on constitutional reform prior to the elections and noted that--ironically--there was an inverse relationship between Basescu's personal power and his ability to have his way on the constitution; the stronger he was, the more his opponents would dig in their heels. Stoica also noted that the largest threat to the coalition was the continued existence of the PNL as an alternative partner for both the PSD and PNL. End Summary.
2. (C) At a meeting with Polcouns January 27, PD-L Vice President Valeriu Stoica said that he was optimistic about the prospects for the new Boc cabinet; Prime Minister Emil Boc had everything it took to lead a highly successful government. Unlike predecessors like Prime Ministers Isarescu, Ciorba, or Vacaroiu, Boc was the head of his own party and thus had a big party behind him, and unlike Tariceanu, Boc enjoyed the full support and confidence of his President. Finally, unlike Nastase, Boc carried no corruption baggage. Stoica added that Boc was a good negotiator, knew how to listen and accept counsel, and--most importantly--had four years of hands-on administrative experience as a former mayor of a large city. Stoica said that he was also "pleasantly surprised" at Mircea Geoana's "evolution" since the formation of the coalition. Geoana had quickly used his position as President of the Senate to finally consolidate his position in the PSD. As long as the two leaders had a good perspective on their respective positions, there was no reason why the new government couldn't endure--at least until the Presidential elections. If they survive the elections, they could even finish their four-year mandate.
3. (C) Stoica opined that one factor keeping the coalition together was that "those guys are negotiating all the time, it's really a system of checks and balances at work here." He acknowledged, however, that this was largely due to the fact that the two sides were evenly matched in their shares of parliamentary seats and neither side had an upper hand. He said that any small shift in the power balance could jeopardize the coalition, and he evinced the hope that the European Parliament election this summer would end in a draw. Otherwise, he said, this could be a real problem. Stoica added that the biggest test would be the year-end Presidential election: there was no way to split the Presidency fifty-fifty between the two parties. I just hope, he said, that the PSD isn't dreaming that they have any chance that they can beat Basescu.
4. (C) Polcouns noted that the fifty-fifty division of the spoils of office had brought relative peace between the PD-L and the PSD for now; what did it mean about the quality of governance? Stoica responded that he was aware that individual Ministers and senior officials were largely chosen on the basis of factional interests and patronage. He added that, as a former Justice Minister, he was aware that one of the parties--the PSD--had at best a lukewarm commitment to judicial reform. He insisted, however, that ultimately the Romanian judiciary had to step free as an independent branch of government and to assert their autonomy from political pressure.
5. (C) Stoica admitted that the two parties had no "common understanding" about what to do with their overwhelming parliamentary majority. Despite President Basescu's declaration that he wanted to jump-start the constitutional reform process prior to the year-end Presidential election, Basescu was realistic enough to realize privately that the most that he could expect was to launch the public debate on the issue in the hopes that this would, in turn, pressure parliament to move more quickly once the elections were over.
6. (C) Stoica added that he personally thought it was a "bad thing" to base constitutional reform solely on the efforts of one individual--the President--or to have the effort too closely identified with this individual's political future. Stoica noted that the last attempt at constitutional reform in 2003 was marred by several key faults, not least being then-Prime Minister Nastase's desire to leave his imprint on the document for personal political gain. Other faults included lack of a clear philosophical conception of what the document should be: the drafters were either former marxists or experts from the interwar Romanian period whose connection to political realities and the evolution of thinking in the field of constitutional law had ended in the 1930s.
7. (C) Stoica remarked that--ironically--Basescu's prospects for successfully completing his constitutional reform objectives were inversely related to his political influence. The stronger he was, the more likely his rivals would resist. Conversely, a weak President was more likely to get his way, especially if he stressed that it would only be his successor who would govern under the new rules. The challenge for the PD-L, he added, was for the party to become stronger as Basescu's own political power inevitably waned--a big task. While he was constantly remimding his colleages not to concentrate on governance to the exclusion of strengthening the overall PD-L party organization, he was happy that the PDL was stronger now than it was just a few months ago; it was back in the government, controlling both the Prime Ministership and the Presidency. If we fail now, he said, it'll be our own fault.
8. (C) The real danger to the coalition, said Stoica, was the continued existence of the PNL as a third major party and center-right alternative to the PD-L. As long as the PNL existed, there would always be a temptation for both the PDL and PSD to consider switching partners. Stoica said that he was advocating two ways to deal with this: first, to convince voters that the PD-L was the new party that was the genuine expression of center-right Liberal values. More importantly, he said, the PD-L-PSD coalition needed to move quickly to harness its parliamentary majority to amend the election law to create a more majoritarian, first-past-the-post system. The PNL will raise holy hell, he said, but it needs to be done to bring a true two-party system to Romania.
9. (C) Comment: Of all of the senior leaders in the PD-L, party Vice President Stoica has the least involvement in daily matters of governance, or even politics. One of the highest-paid lawyers in the country, Stoica also heads the PD-L's think-tank (the Center for Analysis and Institutional Development) and he is one of the few individuals in the party who has focused on party development and long-term policy planning. Stoica's long view on political developments is exemplified in his argument that the party needs to think ahead to the post-Basescu era and to strengthen itself as Basescu's political influence ultimately wanes. Stoica's arguments also reflect his long-held desire to streamline the Romanian political spectrum to a two-party system, with the PD-L occupying the center-right half of the spectrum. End Comment.