- "36189","7/8/2005 15:09","05BUCHAREST1521","Embassy Bucharest","CONFIDENTIAL","05BUCHAREST1511","VZCZCXRO8424
DE RUEHBM #1521/01 1891509
ZNY CCCCC ZZH O 081509Z JUL 05
FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1937
INFO RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHMFISS/CDR USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE IMMEDIATE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY","C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BUCHAREST 001521
STATE DEPT FOR EUR/NCE - WILLIAM SILKWORTH
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/08/2015
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, ECON, KDEM, SOCI, RO
SUBJECT: RULING ALLIANCE MOVES TOWARD ELECTIONS; OPPOSITION
IN DISARAY, SEEKS COMPROMISE
REF: A. BUCHAREST 1511 B. BUCHAREST 1433 C. BUCHAREST 1348
BUCHAREST 00001521 001.2 OF 002
Classified By: Political Section Chief Robert S. Gilchrist for Reasons
1.4 B and D
1. (C) Summary: The governing Liberal-Democratic (PNL-PD) alliance on July 8 continued to send out strong messages that the country is headed for early parliamentary elections, following the surprise July 7 resignation of the cabinet. President Basescu is expected to accept the resignations and appoint an interim prime minister by July 14. The likely date for the vote will be late September or early October. Meanwhile, the opposition Social Democratic Party (PSD), concerned about a possible severe electoral loss, is seeking negotiations to prevent an early vote. Tariceanu is expected to remain in place in the interim government, along with other key cabinet members. End Summary.
2. (SBU) Romanian media entered a frenzy of speculation July 8 over the prospects of new parliamentary elections, following the announced resignation on July 7 of Prime Minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu and his center right cabinet (ref a). Embassy contacts said the political parties were taken by surprise by the resignations, even those within the ruling coalition. Meanwhile, party leaders entered discussions to determine the course of events for the coming months and to forge backroom deals.
PNL-PD Committed to Elections
3. (C) Multiple PNL-PD insiders confirmed to Post that the alliance is committed to elections and is making plans for a vote in late September or early October; the most likely date would be October 2. The two parties have also agreed on electoral arrangements between themselves -- primarily that the Prime Minister will come from PNL, and that the electoral list and seats in parliament will be divided evenly between each party (Note: PNL outnumbers PD in the current parliament by a previously agreed ratio of 1.3 to one). Foreign Minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu told Charge that the PNL-PD led government is committed to continuing its activities as \"closely to business-as-usual as possible.\" Ungureanu said this applies particularly to issues related to EU accession. Presidential Counselor Claudiu Saftoiu told PolChief that Basescu would likely reappoint Tariceanu as interim Prime Minister and that many ministers would remain in place, even after elections.
4. (C) Although President Basescu was reportedly slated to make a press statement on July 7, thus far he has remained publicly quiet on the Cabinet resignations. Until he formally names an interim prime minister and accepts the Cabinet\'s resignation, the current government continues to operate as previously. Saftiou confided that Presidential advisors hoped for an announcement soon, but that the PNL-PD would need to work out details of timing on elections and pass electoral legislation. Other PNL-PD insiders expected this to happen by July 14.
The Opposition Panics
5. (C) Embassy contacts within the PSD have confessed that the party was taken by complete surprise by the government\'s resignation. One contact characterized the PSD leadership as being \"in total disarray.\" Meanwhile, senior PSD members publicly accused the PNL-PD of putting partisan interests above the interests of the country. PSD President Mircea Geoana publicly called the Tariceanu government the \"worst the country had had in the last 15 years\" and accused President Basescu of being behind the resignations. (Note: Under the Romanian constitution, the President is obliged to refrain from participation in partisan politics. End note). Geoana further asserted that the \"unprecedented political and constitutional crisis,\" was artificially created to give Basescu \"absolute power.\" Nonetheless, he noted that the PSD had already entered discussions with other parliamentary parties about potential electoral pacts.
6. (C) PSD senior parliamentary leader Viorel Hrebenciuc reaffirmed to PolChief that the PSD had entered one of the most heated days of internal discussions the party had ever had. Hrebenciuc confessed privately that the PSD was not prepared for Tariceanu\'s surprise resignation or for BUCHAREST 00001521 002.2 OF 002 elections, which the party feared it would lose. Hrebenciuc said that PSD had offered a compromise deal with the PNL-PD to carry out a vote in Parliament to override the Constitutional Court decision that precipitated the government\'s resignation. He confided that some in the PNL rank-and-file were ready to accept such a deal, but had little hope that Tariceanu or other senior PNL-PD leaders would agree to it. Hrebenciuc described Romanian national politics as being \"in total chaos.\" He said he had heard many scenarios of how events may unfold in coming weeks, including the \"tragic\" possibility that PSD would be forced to forge a parliamentary coalition to vote in favor of a PNL-PD government and program. At mid-day he had placed odds of early elections at 50-50; however, Post understands he had adjusted those odds to 75-25 in favor of elections by later the same day.
7. (C) The extreme nationalist Greater Romania Party (PRM) publicly supported new elections, with leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor calling for presidential elections in addition to those for parliament. Internally, according to contacts who know the PRM, many members dread the idea of returning to the polls and have begged Tudor to oppose them. However, Tudor is interested in taking out of Parliament a large group of former members who have defected from the party in recent months (ref c). According to recent polls, support for the party has dropped from roughly 13 to 10 percent since November 2004 elections. Nonetheless, according to one counselor in the prime minister\'s office, Tudor would \"prefer the smaller representation than to having to deal with his renegades in Parliament.\"
8. (C) Although the small Conservative Party (PC) is formally a member of the governing coalition, for the purposes of new elections it would likely fall on the side of the opposition. Saftoiu claimed to PolChief that the PNL-PD will \"refuse to negotiate\" with the PC, which Basescu has referred to even publicly as an \"immoral\" or \"parasitic\" party. The leader of the PC is media magnate Dan Voiculescu, who is alleged to have had links with the former Securitate internal intelligence service. Nonetheless, some PNL-PD insiders believe PNL-PD will have to negotiate with some members of the PC to secure a continued parliamentary majority capable of forcing elections. This may come in the form of offering some PC members places on the new PNL-PD electoral list for the next parliament.
Ethnic Hungarians Reluctantly Agree
9. (SBU) Members of the ethnic Hungarian party (UDMR) have long confessed to Post concerns that new elections risk wiping the party off the map, as there is always a possibility that it will not meet the required 5 percent electoral threshold for entering Parliament. Nonetheless, some contacts admitted that the party felt it \"had no choice\" but to join the PNL-PD in supporting early elections if the UDMR hopes to remain in government following the vote. Mid-afternoon July 8, UDMR president Marko Bela publicly announced support for snap elections as \"a means for strengthening the parliamentary majority.\" He acknowledged that elections could be avoided, but said that the UDMR still felt compelled to join the government in pressing for the vote.
10. (C) Comment: Rumors abound in Bucharest that the call for new elections is merely PNL-PD brinksmanship to bring about concessions from the PSD on key reform legislation and on issues such as parliamentary leadership. However, every PNL-PD contact with whom we have spoken in recent days has underscored that elections \"are not in doubt.\" As reported in reftels, Basescu has repeatedly called for new elections to capitalize on his popularity and increase the PNL-PD majority. While there are still a few constitutional hurdles and negotiations continue with potential electoral allies, it is increasingly clear he will get what he wants.
11. (U) Amembassy Bucharest\'s reporting telegrams are available on the Bucharest SIPRNET Website: www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/bucharest