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Cablegate: Romanian Political Parties Search for an Identity

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





E.O. 12958, AS AMENDED: N/A


1. (SBU) Summary. Two of the six parties in the Romanian
parliament have explicitly redefined themselves as "popular"
or "conservative" this year and President Basescu's
Democratic Party (PD) is considering a similar move. Their
motive is to curry favor with the European Popular Party
(EPP), a heavyweight in the European Parliament (EP).
Starting in September, Romanian political parties
represented in parliament will send a total of 35 observers
to the EP. How the parties define themselves will determine
their affiliations within the EP, where, after Romania's
likely EU accession in 2007, Romania will send full-fledged
MEPs. End Summary.

Rightward Trend for President's Party
2. (SBU) Senior leaders of President Basescu's Democratic
Party (PD) have confirmed to Embassy officers that the PD is
on the verge of formally redefining itself from a "social
democratic" to a mainstream conservative party. Former
Minister of Defense Sorin Frunzaverde characterizes the
expected move as an attempt to allow the PD to affiliate
itself in the European Parliament with the center-right
European Popular Party (EPP). Frunzaverde, who publicly
acknowledges that during the PD June 25 national convention
that he will throw his hat into the ring for party
president, describes the PD as essentially a center-right
party, with an urban, middle class constituency. Other
senior PD officials have told us that a formal break with
left-of-center social democratic ideology would allow the PD
to distinguish itself more clearly from its arch-rival --
the former ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD), from whose
predecessor the PD split in spring 1992.

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3. (SBU) PD leaders took the first public steps to break
the party's formal ties with the center-left when they
decided May 7 to allow candidates for the party's leadership
positions to run on platforms that do not espouse social
democratic values. Although the Constitution required
President Basescu to resign his party membership when he
assumed the presidency (based on the premise that the
nation's president should abandon partisan politicking), the
combative Basescu will probably dictate the PD's future
ideological course - and its key leadership positions.

4. (SBU) One clear indicator of the party's probable future
direction: Basescu, party leaders and ordinary rank and
file members are still smarting at the Party of European
Socialists (PES) May 19 decision to "postpone" the PD's
membership bid - and to grant the PSD full membership. The
PES acerbically concluded that the PD still needs to define
its ideological stance. PES representatives also visited
Bucharest May 10-11 in an (entirely unsuccessful) attempt to
reconcile the viscerally opposed PD and PSD. Acting PD
president and Basescu confidante Emil Boc drove a stake
through the heart of Romanian social democratic unity,
however, when he declared May 11 that the PD "cannot shake
hands with the PSD, a corrupt, anti-reformist and communist
party." Additionally, relations between PD and the
international socialist movement have been chilly ever since
the Socialist International openly backed PSD in the
December 2004 parliamentary and presidential elections.
Although many PD leaders and members would be relieved to
finally sever their international social democratic ties,
old habits die hard and some PD loyalists may still be wed
to a vaguely left-of-center philosophy. Indeed, during a
recent visit to Parliament, PolOffs observed PD deputies and
staffers wearing lapel pins featuring the party's initials
atop the socialists' trademark rose.

Opportunist "Humanists" Turn "Conservative"
5. (SBU) Over the same period, the PD's tiny governing
coalition partner, the Romanian Humanist Party (initially a
self-avowed "social-liberal" party and the smallest of the
six parties represented in parliament) decided May 7 to
change its name to the Conservative Party (PC) and to take
steps to affiliate the newly named CP with the EPP. Media
magnate, party president, and chief source of party funds
Dan Voiculescu proposed the move to the party's congress,
which dutifully followed his "suggestion." Voiculescu,
unsurprisingly reelected as party president by the congress,
declared that "only a right-wing identity" can boost the
party's sagging poll standings. He asserted that "striking
similarities" exist between the humanist and the
conservative doctrines - citing respect for private
property, a hesitant attitude toward government meddling in
the economy, and respect for family values, the Church, the
armed forces and the nation. Many analysts view
Voiculescu's move to redefine his party as the death throes
of a dying - or at least very ill - political party: recent
polls give the PC (vice PUR) less than a two percent
standing in the polls. In any event, all independent
political analysts and most ordinary Romanians recognize the
PC as exactly what it is - a creation of tycoon Voiculescu
lacking a meaningful ideological orientation, despite its
attempts to paint itself as a reformist movement.

EPP's other Romanian Buddies
6. (SBU) The ethnic Hungarian party (UDMR), the fifth
largest of the six parliamentary parties and a member of the
center-right coalition, has been affiliated with the EPP
since October 1999. The tiny Christian Democrat National
Peasants' Party (PNTCD), with a modest support base in
western Romania, is also an EPP member. The PNTCD decided
March 5 to change its name to the Christian Democrat Popular
Party (PPCD), in an attempt to curry favor with the EPP
following its consecutive failures (in 2000 and 2004) to
gain enough votes to enter parliament. Traditionally, the
PNTCD has been the party in Romania most closely identified
with the EPP; the PPCD's fragile electoral existence coupled
with the move of more mainstream parties to the right calls
into question the continuity of this relationship.

7. (SBU) Many political analysts deride as sheer
opportunism the recent attempts of extreme nationalist
Corneliu Vadim Tudor to reshape his Greater Romania Party
(PRM) as a mainstream conservative party, redubbed March 12
as The Greater Romania Popular Party (PPRM). (Ref) The "new"
PPRM, which has on paper shed Tudor as its leader, also
approached EPP for support - but EPP rejected the request.
PNL and PD deputies told PolOffs May 24 that PPRM appears to
be a party on a steady downhill spiral, as its most hardcore
backers, including ex-members of the notorious communist-era
"Securitate" secret police die off and its "new" message
attracts few, if any, voters. Nonetheless, the PPRM remains
a force on the political scene, virtually tied for third
place in Parliament with PD and having shown itself willing
to enter into de facto alliances of convenience with the PSD
in parliament against the PNL-PD-led center-right coalition.

The Big Question: Where to Sit at the European Club?
--------------------------------------------- -------
8. (SBU) Comment. Ideology counts for little on the
Romanian political scene. As one senior PD politician
recently told us, Romanian parties are "pragmatic." A more
jaundiced observer would describe them as "wholly
opportunistic." In any event, a road-to-Damascus conversion
to free market principles and limited government a la
Margaret Thatcher does not underlie the migration by several
parties toward the right of center mainstream. Rather, the
driving force is Romania's road to Brussels following its
April 25 signature on the EU Accession Treaty, which
entitles Romania to send 35 "observer" MPs to the European
Parliament in September of this year. These observers will
become full-fledged Members of the European Parliament
(MEPs) upon Romania's almost certain EU accession on January
1, 2007. This means that each party in the Romanian
parliament needs to decide, literally and figuratively,
where it will sit in the European Parliament.

9. (SBU) Hans-Gert Poettering, an EPP German leader,
announced May 21 that EPP will hold a special meeting of its
leadership in Bucharest on June 2-3 to review the
applications of Romanian parties. Assuming the PD moves
definitively to the right, that party looks like the EPP's
best bet, given that the PNTCD is nationally insignificant,
the UDMR and PC are relatively minor parties and the PPRM
remains an extremist masquerading as a moderate. Of the
mainstream conservative wannabes, only Basescu's PD brings
real muscle to the EPP. End Comment.

10. (U) Amembassy Bucharest's reporting telegrams are
available on the Bucharest SIPRNET Website:


© Scoop Media

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