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Cablegate: Romania Election Update: Pnl Throws Its Support To

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBM #0789/01 3291409
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 251409Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 0109

UNCLAS BUCHAREST 000789

UNCLASSIFIED

DEPT FOR EUR/CE ASCHEIBE

SIPDIS, SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV RO

SUBJECT: ROMANIA ELECTION UPDATE: PNL throws its support to
Geoana, isolating incumbent Basescu

REF: BUCHAREST 783 AND PREVIOUS

1. (SBU) Summary. With more than 99 percent of votes counted,
incumbent President Basescu and Social Democrat (PSD) candidate
Geoana will advance to the December 6 Presidential runoff. In a
November 22 statement third place finisher Crin Antonescu (National
Liberals-PNL) again ruled out supporting Basescu, leaving Geoana at
least a temporary edge in courting PNL's 20 percent of the
electorate. An OSCE election observation team declared that the
contest generally met international standards but noted numerous
irregularities. It now seems clear that Romania will not receive
the next tranche of its IMF financial package before 2010, leaving
the government struggling to pay its bills. End Summary.

2. (U) With 99.92 percent of votes tallied, the Central Election
Bureau (BEC) released near final results early on November 24:
Basescu 32.42 percent, Geoana (PSD) 31.17 percent, Antonescu (PNL)
20.0, Vadim Tudor (Greater Romania Party - PRM) 5.55, Kelemen Hunor
(Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania - UDMR) 3.83, Sorin
Oprescu (independent) 3.18, Gigi Becali (New Generation Party) 1.91.
Final voter turnout stands at 54 percent, higher than expected.
Barring the unforeseen, Basescu and Geoana now advance to the
December 6 runoff.

ELECTION OBSERVERS WEIGH IN
3. (U) The Ministry of Interior reported the number of electoral
"incidents" at 1,327, about evenly divided between urban and rural
areas. As reported reftel, many of these involved allegations of
vote-buying and most involved the three major parties. In a
November 23 preliminary statement, the OSCE Limited Observer Mission
praised the election as generally meeting OSCE and international
standards, but noted accusations of multiple voting and long lines
at special polling stations - many of which closed before all voters
were able to cast their ballots. The OSCE team will remain in
country to observe the remainder of the campaign and the December 6
runoff.

ANTONESCU AND BASESCU SNARL
4. (SBU) Antonescu categorically ruled out November 23 offering any
support to Basescu, labelling him a "populist devoid of ideology"
and a danger to Romanian democracy. However, he also said this did
not automatically translate into support for Geoana. Antonescu
called on the PSD to endorse Sibiu Mayor Klaus Johannis as Prime
Minister and to support a cabinet based on competence and
professionalism rather than political criteria. Geoana promptly
announced PSD's willingness to strike a political agreement with
PNL. The same day, Basescu denounced Antonescu's inconsistent
position on Geoana, whom the PNL leader had criticized on the
campaign trail as the puppet of shady interests and media moguls.
Basescu reiterated November 24 that he would "rely on voters and not
politicians" for re-election.

5. (SBU) Antonescu's quick announcement may have been motivated by
fear that Basescu's very active negotiators might sway more amenable
members of the PNL leadership. At present the PNL electorate seems
divided among Basescu supporters who share the center-right
philosophy of his Liberal Democratic Party (PDL) and Geoana
supporters, many of whom have grown to hate Basescu. While most PNL
members are thought to favor the second option, many local PNL
leaders are reportedly concerned that a formal PNL-PSD alliance will
be a difficult sell to their voters. Basescu's public statements
appear designed to attract this group.

IMF PACKAGE STALLED
6. (SBU) Meanwhile, the pre-election government crisis and the
electoral calendar have all but certainly delayed until early 2010
disbursement of the next tranche of the IMF bailout package. As
previously reported, the GOR must pass a CY2010 budget that meets
IMF criteria before the IMF Board will vote to release the money.
There are indications that the Parliament may be prepared to
consider the budget as soon as a new Government is formed following
the December 6 runoff. However, inauguration of the new president,
nomination and approval of the new Government and presentation of
the budget could well take several weeks. Even were an IMF team
able to visit Bucharest and report back to the IMF Board before the
New Year, the Board itself would not likely convene for a vote
during the holiday season. That poses an even greater challenge to
a GOR already struggling to pay this year's bills.

7. (SBU) COMMENT. The acid exchange between the Basescu and
Antonescu camps gives Geoana the upper-hand, at least for now.
Pundits predict that half of Antonescu's support could go to Geoana
and one quarter to Basescu, with the remainder staying home. Even
if that is correct, about half of the undecided electorate still
remains ripe for the taking, with far-Right and ethnic Hungarian
voters comprising 12 percent of the electorate. The ethnic
Hungarian UDMR is scheduled to meet later today to discuss whom to
support, and no one expects Basescu to sit back and cede undecided
votes to Geoana. There are deals to be made out there.


GITENSTEIN

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