Cablegate: Coalition Politics Leave Romanians Wondering Who Will Form New Government; Nastase Tries to Hang On

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/14/2014



Classified By: Political Section Chief Robert S. Gilchrist for Reasons 1.4 B and D

1. (C) Summary. Center-left Social Democratic Party (PSD) Prime Minister Adrian Nastase is attempting to remain in power through a coalition deal negotiated before his December 12 presidential defeat. Two small parties - the Romanian Humanist Party (PUR) and the ethnic Hungarian Party (UDMR) - hold the balance and are sending mixed signals as to which way they will go. President-elect Traian Basescu continues to insist on a government led by his center-right National Liberal-Democratic (PNL-PD) alliance. Basescu's constitutional prerogative to appoint the new prime minister and call snap elections if the parliament fails to approve his cabinet give him the upper hand. The ruling PSD is undergoing internal turmoil, with outgoing President Ion Iliescu poised to return to the helm of the party. End Summary.

2. (C) Contacts in both of the principal political blocs have approached post December 14-15 with information indicating the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) is pressing hard to keep intact its planned coalition with the Romanian Humanist Party (PUR) and the ethnic Hungarian party (UDMR). The deal, which had been worked out among the three parties in the two weeks between the two rounds of presidential elections, assumed a Nastase win. Moreover, Nastase used the fact that he had secured an apparent parliamentary governing coalition as a point to boost his standing during the campaign, thelogic being that a PSD-led parliament would work best with a PSD president.

3. (C) Prior to Basescu's win, PUR and UDMR contacts told post their parties were "extremely pleased" with the terms they had received in negotiations with the PSD. While full details were not disclosed, the PSD had reportedly promised the ethnic Hungarians a vice premier slot and at least three ministerial portfolios, including Health, Transport, and Education. PSD had similarly promised the PUR key positions, including a second vice premier slot, a key economic ministry and a newly created Ministry of Small and Medium sized Enterprises. The negotiated deal was much better than these two parties had received during their earlier alliance with the PSD. In addition, as political insiders have noted to post, UDMR and PUR "feel comfortable" working with PSD, as they have a long history of collaboration.

4. (C) However, the foundations of the PSD-constructed house of cards were severely shaken by the seismic impact of a clear Basescu victory. December 13-15, as Basescu's win sunk in, both PUR and UDMR issued a series of conflicting statements about their future intentions. Contacts within the parties confided that this reflected intense pressure applied from both PSD and PNL-PD and the new rules-of-the-game set by Basescu. In contrast, one PNL-PD contact told post that he remained alarmed by the high price each of the two small parties sought to exact as its admission fee into a PNL-PD-led government. Late December 14, UDMR leader Marko Bela met with Basescu and likely PNL-PD prime ministerial designee Calin Popescu Tariceanu. The following day, UDMR declined to sign a planned formal protocol setting in stone an alliance with PSD and PUR. UDMR issued a statement that discussions would continue with both sides and that any protocol should be postponed. One PSD insider confided to post that despite intense ongoing negotiations December 15 between PSD and UDMR, ultimately an alliance between the two was "unlikely to gel." Although PUR leader Dan Voiculescu has said his party would prefer an alliance with PSD, he also expressed a willingness to remain open to an agreement with PNL-PD as circumstances require.

5. (C) Meanwhile, President-elect Traian Basescu remains firmly committed to a PNL-PD-led government, as he declared publicly during his December 13 presidential acceptance speech. Given that the central plank in Basescu's campaign was combating what he called PSD-perpetrated corruption, few political analysts see any way he could allow PSD to remain in government. To a great extent, the vote for Basescu was against PSD. Despite some internal dissent, PNL-PD leaders meeting the week before December 12 elections formally set a policy that the alliance would exclude PSD from any PNL-PD-led coalition. Any backtracking by the alliance would be perceived in the media and by the public as indication of insincerity by Basescu and the PNL-PD in their commitment to fight corruption and usher in reform. Tariceanu reminded the press December 14 that PNL-PD had firmly ruled out any alliance or cohabitation with PSD. Moreover, he asserted PSD efforts now to forge a parliamentary majority are only in play to allow PM Nastase's political survival.

6. (C) At the same time, as president, Basescu will wield powerful constitutional prerogatives that give him an upper hand in shutting out PSD by designating a prime minister of his choice, likely to be Tariceanu. Given that PSD on its own does not hold an absolute majority, post's view of the constitution indicates that Basescu is merely obliged to consult all the political parties represented in parliament. If Basescu's choice for PM does not succeed in forming a majority, he still has the option of forcing a minority government. This is provided that such a government could survive a vote of no confidence. Given that the parties and most MPs are reluctant to engage in another electoral campaign so soon, this is unlikely. However, if a vote of no confidence were to pass, Basescu could call new elections as soon as 60 days after the first failed attempt to form a government.

7. (C) In a private conversation with the Ambassador on December 15, Basescu was clearly ebullient. He presented a governing approach aimed at completing the 1989 revolution initiated, but subsequently hijacked, in his view, by second and third tier apparatchiks from the old regime. Like every other political adept in this town, Basescu had done the math and concluded that he can nominate a majority government, without cohabitation with the PSD. Put quite simply, adding the UDMR, the PUR and 18 special seats reserved for ethnic minorities to seats won by the PNL-PD produces a parliamentary majority.

8. (C) Naturally, the PSD has come to the same conclusion and has already made a serious effort at sabotage. Basescu told the Ambassador that the PSD already showed him files throwing dirt on PUR leader Voiculescu, implying that such information could be brought to light to damage a future coalition. The Ambassador observed that full transparency would be the best way of coping with this blackmail threat, but Basescu was quite confident he could build his government owing to his trump card ) the threat of new elections in which he believed he could handily prevail and win a clean majority of parliamentary seats. In his words, &At the end of the day,if I explain to the population the situation, I will become more popular.

9. (C) Basescu reiterated some of the same themes that he accented during his acceptance speech and campaign style appearance the previous night at Victory Square in front of the Palace of Parliament. Basescu highlighted, however, the necessity of a fight against corruption, at both the top level of the political class and in the institutions of government that had come to serve the ruling party and favored individuals rather than the people. Therefore, he concluded, he could not have cohabitation with those same individuals and political forces. He offered that a few years in opposition would be good for both the PSD and Nastase, providing them the opportunity to rethink their politics and clean house. He immediately added, however, that the PSD might be &irredeemable.

10. (C) Comment: While PSD emerged with the largest parliamentary bloc in November 28 elections, Basescu's December 12 victory has delivered a tremendous blow to the bloc that has governed for 11 of the past 15 years. Few Bucharest analysts believe Nastase can succeed in keeping his pre-set coalition intact, although tough bargaining positions by the PUR or UDMR with PNL-PD could change the outcome. One Embassy contact has told us that the PSD is already undertaking internal changes, and that Iliescu is preparing to lead his party in opposition. End comment.

11.(U) Amembassy Bucharest,s reporting telegrams are available on the Bucharest SIPRNET Website


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