227851 10/1/2009 13:15 09BUCHAREST669 Embassy Bucharest CONFIDENTIAL 09BUCHAREST662 P 011315Z OCT 09 FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9938 INFO EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY C O N F I D E N T I A L BUCHAREST 000669
STATE FOR EUR/CE ASCHEIBE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/01/2019 TAGS: PGOV, RO SUBJECT: COALITION COLLAPSES AS PSD MINISTERS RESIGN
REF: BUCHAREST 662
Classified By: DCM Jeri Guthrie-Corn, reasons 1.4 (B) and (D).
1. (C) SUMMARY. On October 1 President Traian Basescu dismissed Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Dan Nica of PSD and appointed Regional Development Minister Vasile Blaga of PDL to assume both portfolios. PSD chairman Mircea Geoana responded by announcing that all PSD members of the PDL/PSD coalition government would resign. With less than two months until the November 22 presidential election, PDL leaders are weighing their options for keeping the government of PM Boc in place while still supporting President Basescu's re-election bid. END SUMMARY.
2. (U) On the morning of October 1, President Traian Basescu signed the order dismissing Interior Minister and Deputy PM Dan Nica of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) and replacing him on an interim basis with Blaga, who is also Secretary General of the Liberal Democratic Party (PDL). The political crisis had erupted two days earlier when PM Emil Boc informed PSD leaders that he would replace Nica (reftel).
3. (U) Basescu,s decision to dismiss Nica followed the failure by PSD and PDL to negotiate a mutually acceptable compromise on Nica's fate and/or replacement. As reported reftel, Basescu had appealed publicly to Boc to work with PSD, going so far as to suggest that Nica be replaced with an opposition politician or a neutral technocrat, but PSD leaders dismissed these offers as political posturing. PSD chairman Geoana insisted that Boc retract his dismissal of Nica or that President Basescu refuse to sign it, accusing Basescu of political manipulation. Late on September 30 Nica, in his capacity as Deputy PM and the senior PSD member of the Cabinet, announced that all PSD ministers would resign "within 30 minutes" if his dismissal were actually carried out. Nica later refused Basescu's request that he alone resign from the Cabinet as a graceful way of resolving the crisis. Once Basescu's chancellery announced that Nica had been fired, Geoana hastily called a meeting of the PSD leadership just after noon on October 1. Geoana emerged from the meeting to announce to the media that all nine PSD cabinet ministers would submit their resignation. Geoana also reiterated his charge that blame for the crisis lay entirely with President Basescu,s electoral machinations.
4. (C) PDL deputy chairman Adrian Videanu later told the media that the party is considering all constitutional means of keeping the Boc government in place. There are essentially two options: having incumbent PDL ministers assume "double duty" and take over the vacant portfolios as "interim minister"; or bringing in outside technocrats and/or members of the opposition Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR).
5. (C) We expect PDL to opt for a one-party "interim" cabinet for the time being, as the Constitution allows interim ministers to serve for 45 days without Parliamentary approval. Media reports suggest that under this scenario Boc himself would assume the Education portfolio, while Defense Minister Stanisoara or Justice Minister Predoiu would take over Foreign Affairs, Transportation Minister Berceanu would cover Agriculture, Finance Minister Pogea would handle Labor, and Tourism Minister Udrea would oversee Environment. Romanian law gives the Prime Minister 15 days to respond to a minister's resignation, after which it takes effect automatically if the PM has not yet acted. Should Boc choose to take no action, the interim ministers could serve until December 1, beyond the November 22 first round of the Presidential elections.
6. (C) The second option of a PDL-UDMR-independent technocrat government would require parliamentary approval, and despite ongoing negotiations with individual MPs from other parties it is uncertain that PDL could muster the necessary votes for approval of a new Cabinet. Also, to date UDMR has not agreed to any form of coalition with PDL before the presidential elections, apparently preferring instead to limit itself to parliamentary support of PDL initiatives. Indeed given the short time before the election there seems no incentive for UDMR to do anything else.
7. (C) Comment: PSD seems clearly to have emerged from this crisis as the big loser. Having lost resources, government positions and patronage in the short-run (reftel), their best hope appears to be an even more aggressive anti-Basescu campaign. In addition, PSD's departure from government allows them to avoid co-responsibility for any actions that Boc or Basescu may take between now and the election. For PDL and Prime Minister Boc in particular, the challenge now will be to govern the country and manage the party, while at the same time supporting Basescu's re-election campaign. However, there is no guarantee that either government or PDL party interests will fully coincide with the president's agenda. End comment.