USL leaders decided to carry on despite recent disagreements. Crin Antonescu (PNL) has been reconfirmed as USL’s candidate in this year’s presidential elections that could take place on November 2 or November 9. USL protocol to be updated.
PNL President Crin Antonescu stated yesterday at the end of the USL meeting, at a joint press conference with Victor Ponta that USL has decided to organize the referendum on the amending of the Constitution simultaneously with the European Parliament elections. In his turn, Premier Victor Ponta stated that the referendum could span two days.
The information was initially leaked at the end of a meeting that took place on Sunday evening. The meeting was attended by Premier Victor Ponta, Deputy Prime Minister Liviu Dragnea, and PNL President Crin Antonescu who was accompanied by Radu Stroe and Eduard Hellvig. According to sources quoted by Mediafax, the USL leaders decided to organize the referendum on validating the Constitution amendments simultaneously with the EP elections scheduled in May, the referendum set to span two days and to have a voter turnout validation threshold of 50 per cent.
The decision was harshly criticized by PDL MEP Elena Basescu, who claims that USL is trying to undermine the European Parliament’s legitimacy and the campaign will turn into a political scandal. “The intention to merge the referendum on modifying the Constitution with the European Parliament elections represents new proof of the lack of respect that USL has towards EU institutions and Romania’s European path,” President Traian Basescu’s youngest daughter wrote on her Facebook page. In her opinion, this idea will be received “extremely negatively in Brussels and Strasbourg.”
The Democrat-liberal party (PDL) is rejecting the intention to merge the EP elections and the referendum on constitutional amendments. PDL First Vice-president Catalin Predoiu yesterday lashed at USL leaders, saying Ponta and Antonescu are only following their own interests, against the Romanians’ will. “We are absolutely rejecting this intention of merging. It reveals the two have no consideration for the European elections, just for the sake of Antonescu’s nomination for presidency,” Predoiu said. Predoiu added PDL cannot support constitutional amendments ‘that were criticised by Romanians as well as by Venice Commission.’
Presidential elections 45 days before Basescu’s term expires
In what concerns the organizing of presidential elections, Antonescu pointed out that USL has decided that they should take place 45 days before the current president’s term expires. According to him, the decision was taken in order for the transition to be made immediately after the current term in office expires. “It’s normal not to leave these elections for the end of December, but to hold them 45 days before, in order for the transition to be made immediately after the current president’s term in office expires,” Antonescu explained, being quoted by realitatea.net. The Liberal pointed out that this decision “does not affect any day of President Traian Basescu’s current term.”
The day before, Premier Victor Ponta had stated that this year’s presidential elections will be held “sometime in November,” so that the new president could start his activity immediately after December 21 when Basescu’s term in office expires.
Another important decision taken by USL yesterday concerns the modification of the elections law, so that the vote on electoral lists will be reintroduced in what concerns the Lower Chamber, the maximum number of Lower Chamber MPs being set at 300. Antonescu explained that a lower number of Lower Chamber MPs is likely to increase the lawmakers’ prestige. He also said the number of 300 Lower Chamber MPs will be stipulated in the Constitution in order to prevent fluctuations.
Joint platform for EP elections and updated protocol
On the other hand, the PNL President announced that USL’s constituent parties will work on a common platform for the EP elections, irrespective whether they will run on joint lists or not. Antonescu pointed out that the joint platform will feature joint positions on European policies, in order to support Romania’s interests within the EU. PSD’s EP campaign head will be Liviu Dragnea, according to PM Ponta.
In what concerns USL’s candidate in this year’s presidential elections, Antonescu stated that USL’s protocol will be updated, in the sense of introducing three changes, one of them stipulating that he is USL’s presidential candidate. “The article that read “the one who is better positioned in the polls will be the candidate” will be modified. (…) “USL’s presidential candidate is…” And the article that says “the candidate for the position of premier…,” which is also outdated, will be modified, and will read instead “the Romanian Premier backed by USL is…” You know these names,” the Liberal said, referring to himself and to Victor Ponta respectively.
He pointed out that two more articles will be added, one concerning the setting up of an USL parliamentary council made up of the leaders of parliamentary groups, the representatives of the Permanent Bureaus, the Speakers of the Chambers and the group of national minorities. And the other stipulating that when a consensus is not reached on an issue the decision will be taken by USL’s central leadership.
USL’s goal – removal of the Basescu regime
The decision concerning the maintenance of USL was in fact taken during a meeting between USL leaders on Sunday evening, a fact confirmed by Ponta. The Premier stated on Antena 3 that he is convinced that the members of USL will stick together in order to attain their fundamental goal, namely the removal of the Basescu regime. “Today (Sunday – editor’s note) it was necessary to hold an informal meeting after the New Year and to say it once more: who is our enemy? PNL for PSD and vice versa or the Basescu regime? And all of us have said the same thing: the people voted for us to get rid of this regime and to change the country for the better. We didn’t talk about joint lists in the elections, but about the fact that in the European Parliament elections there will be two engines that nevertheless will pull in the same direction, the whole political message will be common,” Ponta said.
In his turn, Crin Antonescu stated on Romania TV that USL “stays,” but within the Union there will be a discussion about “supplementing with annexes” the collaboration protocol, so that everything will be “clear” about this. “USL stays, USL recovers the unity that took it to victory in 2012 and in the local elections, in the referendum against Traian Basescu and in the general elections and that is pursuing the goals for this country at least until 2016,” the Liberal said. Referring to the situation registered within USL Ilfov (PSD Senator Gabriela Firea resigned from the party, accusing PNL of collaborating with PDL in Ilfov County – editor’s note), the PNL President stated that the situation will be settled by the end of this month, through “applied talks.” Victor Ponta subsequently stated that he did not accept Gabriela Firea’s resignation, pointing out that she has to stay alongside the Social-Democrats and that USL’s central leaders will deal with the party branches’ issues today.