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Cablegate: Deputy Prime Minister Resigns

VZCZCXRO3758
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHBM #0777 1861352
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 051352Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6945
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS BUCHAREST 000777

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR EUR/NCE

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

TAGS: PGOV PREL SOCI RO

SUBJECT: DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER RESIGNS

REF: A) BUCHAREST 531 B) BUCHAREST 540 C) BUCHAREST 581 D) BUCHAREST

612

1. (SBU) A belated casualty of the failed attempt to remove
President Basescu, deputy prime minister Marko Bela has resigned.
Marko, recently re-elected to a fifth term as leader of the
Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR), stated at a July 3
press conference that he wanted to focus entirely on reconnecting
with the Hungarian community and his party position. He insisted
that his decision was not the result of "any dissatisfaction"
concerning his work in government. Nor should it be viewed as
presaging the fate of the UDMR's governing partner, the National
Liberal Party (PNL) of PM Calin Popescu-Tariceanu. Marko stated
that the UDMR would not leave the government and that he would be
engaged in coordinating the activities of the remaining UDMR
ministers in the Tariceanu cabinet.

2. (SBU) Marko initially announced his intention to leave the
cabinet on May 21, two days after the failed referendum to dismiss
president Traian Basescu. Under his leadership, the UDMR officially
aligned itself with the so-called "anti-Basescu coalition," even
while many regional UDMR leaders were distinctly cool to Basescu's
30-day suspension and the subsequent May 19 referendum. (On May 19,
Basescu was overwhelmingly returned to Cotroceni by the Romanian
electorate, with three quarters of those voting registering their
opposition to the Romanian president's ouster.) One surprise
outcome of the referendum vote was the high percentage of UDMR
supporters--between 60 and 66 percent according to exit polls-who
disregarded the party line to vote in favor of retaining President
Basescu. This incipient rebellion among UDMR members prompted Marko
Bela to acknowledge a "deficit of communication" with the UDMR
electorate and vow to concentrate more on restoring the confidence
of minority Hungarians in the party.

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3. (SBU) Comment. Marko's decision to resign as Deputy Prime
Minister in order to concentrate on party activities underscores the
continuing impact of his ill-fated decision to join the anti-Basescu
bandwagon. Marko is also under pressure from rival UDMR leaders
including Senator Peter Eckstein-Kovacs, who has publicly urged
Marko and other UDMR leaders to resign from their party positions.
More evidence of the gap between the UDMR leadership and the ethnic
Hungarian community can be found in two recent opinion surveys which
suggest that the party currently does not have enough support to
pass the 5 percent threshold for parliamentary representation if
elections were held today. This data is especially worrisome for
the UDMR leadership as Romania will soon enter a cycle of five
back-to-back elections (including Euro-parliamentary, local,
parliamentary and presidential contests) over the next thirty
months. Finally, there are persistent reports, including in the
Romanian media, that Marko and other leading UDMR figures may be
facing corruption charges in an ongoing investigation, another
factor which may have contributed to his decision to leave the
Tariceanu government's second-ranking position. End comment.

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