PNL’s presidential candidate was not nominated by the party congress on Saturday. Johannis and Antonescu contenders for nomination. Instead, the Liberals approved PNL’s affiliation to EPP and merger with PDL.
Sibiu Mayor Klaus Johannis was elected the National Liberal Party’s (PNL) President during the Liberals’ Congress on Saturday. Johannis won 1,334 votes from the delegates to the Congress while his rival, Ioan Ghise, won only 144 votes. A total number of 1,519 votes were cast, out of which 1,479 valid and 41 null.
After being elected, Johannis thanked the Liberals for the vote and invited those who left the party to return. “It is an overwhelming vote. This result is very touching. I dared ask for your vote, I presented a motion that I believe can be beneficial to PNL, but this massive vote is very beautiful. Thank you very much,” Johannis said, quoted by Agerpres. He pointed out that PNL is a big party, adding however that a party can never be too big and should never waste its human resources: “That is why, please allow me today, from this stand, to invite back to the party those who, for various reasons, on a temporary basis, believed it was better for them to be outside the party.”
In the speech given before he was elected PNL President, he said that the Liberals’ objective is winning the presidential elections and returning to ruling power. “Our major long-term objective is to give Romania a Liberal decade, which will be for Romania a period of rule of law consolidation and of economic prosperity and will lead our country to the European states’ level,” shows Johannis’s motion called “For a decade of Liberalism, prosperity and rule of law.” Johannis’ political programme also provides that PNL fundamentally opposes the left wing and, in the current political context, on the short-term, collaboration with the Social Democratic Party (PSD) is ruled out. At the same time, the governments PNL wants to create do not have in view a coalition with PSD. “PNL has the power, the will to determine Romania’s path in the next ten years. I want PNL to give Romania’s president for two terms. I want PNL to govern starting in 2016 at the latest, for two terms,” the Liberal added. According to him, a ten-year vision has to define at least three things in order to become a viable political project, in the sense that the Liberals have to say what kind of Romanian president they want, what kind of government they want, and to explain what should be the correct constitutional relation between the President and the Government. Concerning the future president of Romania, Johannis believes he should be a mediator: “I believe we want a president that is equidistant, a mediator president, the guarantor of the efficient functioning of state institutions.
We want a president that is a model of public behavior and maybe we now understand this very, very well.” He added: “We want a president that promotes the strategic partnership with the US, who understands Romania’s role within NATO, that wants to give a strong, healthy voice to Romania within the EU, a president preoccupied with solidarity with the Republic of Moldova and with Romanian expatriates.”
In what concerns his road within PNL, the Mayor of Sibiu stated that he “slowly” moved close to this party since 2004 and became a member in 2013, at the invitation of Crin Antonescu. “These ten years are not found in my party membership card, but they are found within my heart as a politician,” Johannis said. In reply, Ioan Ghise, his contender for the party’s presidency, stated that he envies “professor Johannis” because those Liberals that fought against PSD and PDL for ten years were “suckers” and the solution is “the waiver.” “As a simple party member, I envy professor Johannis a lot, from a political standpoint. (…) You know why? We, the ones who have fought against PSD and PDL for ten years, we were suckers. The solution is the waiver. First vice president through a waiver, president through a waiver, president of Romania through a waiver. It’s a brief, to-the-point solution,” Ghise said.
PNL Congress elects party’s 31 Vice-presidents
The ordinary Congress of PNL elected the 31 Vice-presidents of the party. Here is the complete list of the freshly elected party leaders: Ludovic Orban, Teodor Atanasiu, Dan Motreanu, Marin Almajanu, Alina Gorghiu, Cristian Busoi, Cristian Adomnitei, Marius Nicoara, Victor Paul Dobre, Florin Alexe, Raducu Filipescu, Cornel Popa, Nicolae Robu, Rares Manescu, Ciprian Dobre, Cristian Buican, Eduard Hellvig, Mircea Molot, Sorin Frunzaverde, Nini Sapunaru, Lucia Varga, Vasile Varga, Stelian Dolha, Mircea Rosca, Aristotel Cancescu, Marcel Vela, Vasile Mustatea, Daniel Popescu, Florin Turcanu, Mihai Voicu and Gigel Stirbu. Under the new PNL statute, the responsibilities of the vice presidents will be proposed in the meeting of the National Political Bureau and approved by the party’s Standing Delegation.
Also on Saturday, the PNL’s Ordinary Congress voted by wide majority the affiliation of Liberals to the European People’s Party (EPP). Most delegates to the Congress voted for this resolution proposed by the PNL Presidents, with only 3 Liberals voting against.
In the speech he gave before the vote, MEP Norica Nicolai stated, referring to the party’s departure from the ALDE group, that when you were alongside a “family” that supported you “you are not allowed to inform it on TV that you divorce.”
Johannis and Antonescu, PNL’s presidential candidates
PNL President Klaus Johannis and former PNL President Crin Antonescu accepted on Saturday the party’s proposal for them to run for president. In this context, Johannis withdrew the proposal on the designation of the party’s candidate for the presidential elections, after he and Antonescu entered this race. “We are facing the happiest situation a serious party can be faced with, having two serious candidates and if we are in this situation we can only be glad. I do not fear entering a competition with Mr. Antonescu, but we shall have enough time to find assessment methods,” said Johannis.
In his turn, former PNL President Crin Antonescu said that Johannis’s decision was inspired, showing that a vote in this case would not divide the party. “All I can say is that Mr. Johannis acted as correctly as possible, as transparently as possible and as inspired as possible,” Antonescu said. He stated he believes he is the best candidate of the right wing, but that this is not enough and he does not disregard the chances of Klaus Johannis and Catalin Predoiu. PNL honorary president Mircea Ionescu Quintus said that the selection of the candidate for the presidential elections would be done by the party’s Standing Delegation.
Fusion with PDL, approved
On the other hand, PNL President Klaus Johannis said that the Democratic Liberal Party (PDL) accepted that the party that would result following the merger between the two parties would be called the National Liberal Party (PNL) and the PNL Congress approved the merger. “I personally am in favour of the merger. I am in the position to confirm that PDL accepts that the new party would be called PNL,” Johannis said. The delegates to the Congress voted by wide majority the merger of PNL with PDL. There were 6 votes against and 4 abstentions.
PNL Vice President Ludovic Orban stated on Saturday night that the PDL representatives are convinced that the name of the party resulting from the merger of PNL and PDL will be the National Liberal Party, and keeping the party’s name is a condition the Liberals cannot compromise on. “No PNL member will accept to be an accessory to the dismantlement of PNL after 140 years of existence,” Orban said. Moreover, the PNL Vice President pointed out that the party’s presidential candidate will be designated in two or three weeks, on the basis of opinion polls, within the Standing Delegation.
On the other hand, PDL First Vice President Catalin Predoiu maintains that Klaus Johannis was not mandated to inform the PNL Congress that the new party resulting from the merger would be called PNL. “I want to announce Mr. Johannis that I do not know what mandate he has, but he certainly hasn’t got mine,” Predoiu says in a Facebook post. He underscores that this should have been negotiated at the right time within the PDL-PNL negotiation committee and criticises the announcement Johannis made. “I regret and disavow this manner reflecting lack of respect for partners. As Vasile Blaga said, ‘we shall not offer PDL on a plate,’” Predoiu also said.
In his turn, PDL Vice President Ioan Oltean claims that PDL did not accept the fact that the new party resulting from the merger with the Liberals would bear the name PNL. In his opinion, the statements made by Johannis are “a huge step toward the failure of the merger.” Former PDL President Emil Boc shares the same opinion, telling the Democrat-Liberals that they should not “erase the party’s banner and history.”