Ponta: I hope Liberals won’t sacrifice USL for Antonescu’s personal project

PNL President Crin Antonescu has convened the party’s Permanent Delegation which could decide tonight the pulling out of all Liberal ministers from the Ponta Gov’t.

Social Democratic Party (PSD) Chairman Victor Ponta on Monday voiced his hope that Liberals “are not sacrificing” the project of the Social Liberal Union (USL, the ruling alliance made up of PSD, the National Liberal Party – PNL, the Conservative Party – PC, and the National Union for Romania’s Progress) in favour of a ‘personal project’ of PNL leader Crin Antonescu. ‘His project must be included in the great national project, the USL. We have the full will of carrying on together and of reaching our goals. (…) Notwithstanding any political controversies, the important thing to remember is why we have founded the USL and what are its goals,’ Ponta said, quoted by Agerpres, at the meeting of PSD’s National Political Bureau, where UNPR and PC Presidents Gabriel Oprea and Daniel Constantin had been invited. He mentioned that the goals undertaken by USL, and also by the Social Democrat Union (USD, electoral alliance made up of PSD, PC, and UNPR) are to provide better governance for Romania and a stable political regime. ‘I am asking you again today (yesterday – editor’s note) to make all the efforts resting upon USD to continue the two fundamental goals to which we committed ourselves three years ago, namely changing a political regime, [President] Traian Basescu’s regime’ the prime minister said.
In this context, Ponta called on USL’s unity but pointed out that if PNL pulls out of government, like Antonescu claimed on Sunday evening, he will nominate interim ministers at the helm of the ministries currently led by Liberals and only after the interim terms expire would he go before Parliament with a new government. The Premier however reiterated that he will try, as long as the Constitution allows him, to find a political solution in order for the government to continue under the USL formula: “If there is no solution to continue governing alongside PNL I will go before Parliament with a government that would allow the continuation of the USL program and the fulfillment of the measures we proposed to the population.” He pointed out that if it comes to the breakup of USL from USD’s point of view there will be a hand extended to the Liberals in order for the two to be alongside each other both in central structures – Parliament and government – and in territorial structures. Subsequently, Ponta pointed out that if PNL walks out from the government the deadline for the setting up of the new government will be March 8, the date when the interim term of Deputy Vice President Gabriel Oprea at the helm of the Interior Ministry (MAI) expires. “Basically the deadline is March 8. It’s the date on which the 45 days expire and we cannot go forward nor have a government without an Interior Minister,” Ponta said. On the other hand, he pointed out that no member of USD will initiate or support any move to revoke Antonescu from the Speaker of the Senate office.
Antonescu can become Romania’s president without USL’s support
The Prime Minister stated in a talk-show on Sunday that PNL President Crin Antonescu could become Romania’s President without the support of the ruling USL, arguing that parties are not the ones given a vote at the presidential elections, their candidates are. “In this case, since they are not parliamentary elections the candidates matter the most. But, at the same time, I do not think that Antonescu would be voted by the supporters of right-wing parties against left-wing candidates,’ Ponta told Antena 3 private broadcaster. In addition, when asked if Bucharest General Mayor Sorin Oprescu could be the candidate supported by PSD, if Antonescu does not turn out to be the unbiased President he expects, Ponta said the polls reveal that six people have real chances for the presidency: Mugur Isarescu, Sorin Oprescu, Calin Popescu Tariceanu, Mihai Razvan Ungureanu and Elena Udrea. He omitted himself from the list. On the other hand, Victor Ponta thinks that the USL could break up due to PNL President Crin Antonescu’s belief that he can win the presidential elections only running from the Opposition.
According to the PSD President, USD currently holds a fragile majority that would nevertheless allow it to govern in case USL breaks up, pointing out that for him it is important to respect the promise he gave to UDMR too, reminding that in 2012 he invited the Hungarian minority to be part of the government: “I didn’t hide the fact, and I received extremely harsh criticism for it, that along with Antonescu I signed, in November 2012, an agreement to bring UDMR into the government, and I did not deny that even though I was criticized. UDMR did not enter the government because PNL and PC opposed that.”
In other developments, Ponta claims he will not resign from the office of Prime Minister in case USL breaks up, an idea expressed by Crin Antonescu, unless President Traian Basescu resigns too, in order not to give the President the chance to appoint a Prime Minister again.
During the same talk-show, Ponta stated that the USL agreement stipulated a single Deputy Prime Minister, an office held by PSD, but that the PNL President asked him for the Liberals to have such an office too. And in order to maintain a balance a third office of Deputy Prime Minister was created and offered to Oprea. He added that he is willing to agree with only two Deputy Prime Ministers remaining within the government, but without ultimatums and without finding out from the press about the reshuffling of the government, like it happened in this case. “I am responsive to dialogue, not ultimatums,” the Premier said.
The PSD President pointed out that in case USL breaks up he will present in Parliament a governing program that will exactly follow the USL program, after the PNL’s ministerial positions are taken over, ad interim, by PSD ministers. Nevertheless he added that he is willing to welcome PNL 1 to 3 months from now: “PNL won’t find me remarried, it will have its place there. Maybe 1-3 months from now we will restore the family.”
In fact, this was not the only dispute between the two USL leaders, Ponta admitting that he once had a fight with Antonescu back when the latter insisted on appointing Relu Fenechiu as Transport Minister and adding that he was significantly upset when the Liberal accused him of signing the agreement with Traian Basescu.
PNL decision in hands of party’s Permanent Delegation
PNL President Crin Antonescu stated on Sunday evening that Premier Victor Ponta’s option is clear in what concerns the acceptance of the Liberals’ proposals, pointing out that he has convened the party’s Permanent Delegation which will decide this evening the withdrawal of all ministers from the government. “The lack of an answer is not, in fact, a lack of answer, but an answer,” Antonescu stated, referring to the ultimatum he gave to Victor Ponta in what concerns the changes the Liberals want to make within the government. Asked whether he tried to contact the Premier over the weekend, Antonescu answered negatively, adding: “That would be harassment; I don’t want to risk that.” According to him, the Liberals take no responsibility for the prolongation of the government crisis. “A hundred per cent of every day and hour, of every minute of this crisis was generated by Mr. Ponta and PSD.”
Despite the fact that he is trying to maintain his position, Antonescu announced that PNL has given up the request for USD to be disbanded. Ponta however says that the PNL President’s announcement concerning this renunciation “has no relevance” because “the discussion is about governance.” “We want to govern as USL, not like USD. I’ve always said this,” the Premier stated for ‘Gandul’ daily.
USL’s breakup, imminent?
Although the PSD President hints that there could still be a way for him and Antonescu to mend fences, things seem as clear as they can get. In fact, Social-Democrat sources claim that the form of the new government formed by USD after PNL’s withdrawal will reach Parliament on March 4. “PSD’s National Political Bureau (BPN) has decided to go before Parliament with a new government Tuesday, March 4, so that it would be installed by March 8,” the aforementioned sources pointed out. The new government will have to be voted by Parliament. Until the appointment of the new government Ponta will designate interim ministers that will hold the offices currently held by Liberals.
Since the die has already been cast, PC President Daniel Constantin stated yesterday that USL’s breakup is only a formality, pointing out that PNL President Crin Antonescu has a “hidden” and “older” agenda concerning his presidential candidacy. “We are all making efforts but it seems there is no longer any will on the other side,” Constantin stated when arriving at the PSD headquarters.
PDL President Vasile Blaga however has an entirely different opinion. Blaga stated yesterday that he does not believe USL will break up because “the dog won’t leave the butcher’s stall.”

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