Tensions rise within USL as Ponta and Antonescu trade harsh words

“Crin Antonescu lied to his colleagues”, PM Victor Ponta said yesterday, referring to the information revealed Friday, during a meeting of the liberals, which reached the pages of the press. Antonescu promptly answered: “I will not allow Ponta to call me a liar. (…) It will be very hard for us to move along.”
Fierce disputes inside USL, with the Union’s leaders staging an unprecedented attack against each other through the media. The ‘bone of contention’ is represented by the modifications brought by the deputies with legal background, last week, to the Penal Code (CP) and the amendments voted to the law of the amnesty.
The acid statements were started by PNL leader Crin Antonescu who, according to ‘Gandul’, said Friday in a meeting of the party leadership that he discussed with Premier Victor Ponta, who came with “a stupid idea”: the leaders and ministers of USL should pronounce against the law of amnesty, but the draft act should be passed by the Parliament. A note of the article published by ‘Gandul’ yesterday refers to an audio recording made Friday, during the meeting of the liberal leadership, in which Antonescu explicitly says: “The premier insisted, starting from the same idea on which he insisted in the case of Rosia Montana, a stupid idea, that he can voice his disagreement, and that of certain ministers, and that I – as a political leader – also disagree because of certain matters of the state, but the Parliament can still pass the law.” According to the source, Antonescu informed his party colleagues about the intentions of PSD, warning that the deputies of PNL must vote in block against this draft act and, if the vote will be secret, they will have to leave the room.
The information was initially confirmed by PNL sources, which said Antonescu told them that PDL deputies might vote alongside PSD for this draft law, then blame it on PNL, in case of a secret ballot cast by the plenum of the Chamber of Deputies.
Later, the PNL president mentioned yesterday, in a press statement delivered at the Senate, that what he said in the PNL meeting is “true.” “The things that were reported by the press or those with which I was quoted are real, I made that briefing of the situation, not as a public statement, but in a party meeting,” the liberal explained, quoted by Mediafax. “I always told the truth, even when – as in this case – I would not have wanted to say it publicly,” Antonescu added.
Ponta: Antonescu lied
to his colleagues
Social-democrat President Victor Ponta said yesterday, when asked to comment the statements made by Crin Antonescu Friday in the meeting of the PNL leadership, which were revealed by undisclosed sources, that if they are true, then the liberal lied to his colleagues. “It would not be the first time when Mr. Antonescu tells something to his colleagues, something different to us and a something else to the press,” Ponta added. He mentioned that Antonescu is right when he says that nothing was discussed about the Penal Code: “there was a discussion. We never talked about the Penal Code, I knew nothing about it.” Asked if Antonescu requested him to pass the amnesty or Penal Code by an Emergency Ordinance, Ponta initially mistakenly said that he referred to the Penal Code, then corrected himself saying that it was about the law of amnesty. Asked when he was requested by the PNL leader to pass the ordinance, Ponta said that it happened several weeks ago. On the other hand, the premier issued a veiled warning to the leader of PNL, saying that Antonescu must decide if he wants the support of PSD for the presidential elections, because “we doubt it.”
Shortly after the statements of the PSD leader, Crin Antonescu publicly said that he does not allow Victor Ponta to call him a liar, same as he did not allow Traian Basescu. “Since I entered politics, I have always told the truth. I presented the situation to my colleagues as I knew it and everything I said is true,” Antonescu mentioned. The PNL leader added that, unlike others, he “was never proven a liar.” Asked if he still trusts Victor Ponta, given his statements against him, Antonescu answered that he “has extremely little to no confidence,” but he cannot demolish an alliance, a project (USL) because he lost his confidence in someone. “USL is in a difficult situation, of course this indecent and dishonest attack by Victor Ponta places us all in a difficult situation. (…) This means that it will be very hard for us to move along,” stated Antonescu, who declared himself “saddened and affected” by Ponta’s behaviour, whom “he helped become prime minister.”
later in the evening PM Ponta replied to Antonescu: “If he wants to tear down USL, let him do it. I don’t want to.” Ponta further said Antonescu should cease making statements “neither within the party, nor outside it, he should not make any more false statements. I have no problem. I only wanted to clarify some issues regarding things said by him that were not true.”
Chamber Speaker: Amnesty law to be publicly debated by February 1
The amnesty law will be removed from the Chamber of Deputies’ agenda and will be up to public debate, alongside the lobbying law by February 1, the lower Chamber Speaker, Valeriu Zgonea, announced yesterday, quoted by Agerpres, ahead of the Social Democrat Party’s (PSD) Standing Bureau meeting.
‘Following the talks with the embassies, everybody has realized it is a normal planned law and it is undergoing public debate. That is the reason why I stopped it before the final vote. So that it should be up to public debate, for everybody to see there is no illegal matter. /…/ Everything has been transparent,’ said Zgonea. He stressed that the new Penal Code will also take effect on February 1 and added new modifications are being considered, by which the lawmakers and the head of state should be applied harsher sanctions. ‘This new Penal Code goes forth and we want tougher sanctions and a separate chapter for the deputies, senators and the country’s president. We want no civil servant to be in a class with a senator and a deputy. We have been discussing for three years, but we have been unable to promote such aspects in the current Penal Code, because it was done by the Government’s taking responsibility for it,’ he explained. The speaker insisted that President Traian Basescu, by his latest public remarks, is trying to ‘block the Parliament’, since it has already begun the campaign for the European Parliament elections.
In parallel with the disputes inside USL, the Minister of Justice Robert Cazanciuc, the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Valeriu Zgonea and PSD deputy Eugen Nicolicea yesterday met PM Ponta at the Victoria Palace, for talks about the draft modification of the Penal Code and the amnesty law.
After these talks, the premier said that he demands a transparent procedure of consultation with all institutions, respectively the Ministry of Justice, CSM, ICCJ over the PC modifications, when they will return in Parliament, after the opinion given by CC. As for the amnesty law, Ponta says that it can be adopted, after informing the European Commission, if it is in the spirit of the Constitution and if it exempts violent and corruption crimes.
Protest in Bucharest against amendments to the Penal Code
More than 200 people, mostly youngsters, protested Sunday evening at the University Square against the modification of the Penal Code and against the situation in Pungesti, shouting “United we save the entire Romania” and “Christmas and the New Year’s Eve without Ponta and Chevron.” The protesters waved flags and billboards with messages like “Criminal Parliament you run away from the tribunal,” “The MPs of Romania, the terrorists of democracy” or “Criminal Parliament + corrupt Government = sold state”. The protest was marked by incidents, as protesters broke through the cordon of gendarmes and blocked the traffic on Calea Victoriei and the Regina Elisabeta Boulevard. They marched, shouting “Resignation” and “Down with the Ponta government,” in various directions, some reaching the Calea Victoriei Avenue and others the Regina Elisabeta Blvd, blocking the traffic on both streets.
The chief of the Gendarmerie, Mircea Olaru said that gendarmes intervened with tear gas when the rally became violent and some of the protesters, who lied down on the pavement holding their hands, suffered bruises during the intervention of law enforcement officers. Olaru added that the videos recorded during the incidents will serve at identifying the violent protesters, as well as the possible abuses committed by gendarmes.
Penal Code also makes victims in PDL
The Penal Code also makes victims in the opposition’s ranks, not only in USL. The leaders of the parliamentary groups of PDL – Cristian Radulescu (Senate) and Mircea Toader (Chamber of Deputies) – resigned from office yesterday, PDL president Vasile Blaga announced after the meeting of the Steering College of the party, because they initialled the Conduct Code of MPs. Blaga explained that they did not vote the modifications and withdrew their signatures, but still resigned because they considered that they damaged the image of the party. The three PDL lawmakers that voted the modification of the Criminal Code, Adrian Gurzau, Gheorghe Udriste and Dragos Gunia, were punished yesterday by being suspended from the party from a 3-month interval.

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