The liberal enigma

The elections for the European Parliament have proven that the political right must coordinate its efforts in order to fight the left with equal chances. Poor results were registered by the liberal party (PNL) 15 percent, by the democrat-liberals (PDL) – 12 percent and by the newly set People’s Movement Party (PMP) – 6 percent, while mini-parties as the Civic Force or the New Right Party proved they are just the results of some politicians’ imagination.PNL and PDL claimed they need to merge. Negotiations have started and it seemed, for a while, that they were on the right track. Well, the congress last Saturday of the liberals has managed to stir discontent among both PNL and the democrat-liberals. It seems there are a lot of things that were not said between the two entities, one of them being the name of the future party. The freshly elected PNL President Klaus Johannis claimed an agreement has been reached and the name will be… PNL.

PNL. Then democrat-liberals voiced discontent as first-vice-president Catalin Predoiu denied such an agreement had been reached. And it hadn’t, as Johannis himself confessed one day later, it was just his own opinion that PDL would accept the name.This issue by itself could blow up any kind of possible agreement between the two parties. PNL honorary president Mircea Ionescu Quintus opined on Tuesday that the merger will not be possible, the solution being an alliance. “The only solution” – he said, referring to the matter mentioned before – “is that the two parties join forces in view of presidential elections and form an alliance.” Johannis in turn played down the controversy and vowed his party will carry on negotiations regarding the merger.Unfortunately, there are more reasons for discontentment on both sides. Although the leaders play the soft stance, the targets they want to reach are very far away. One could talk about self-pride of the two parties, of their leaders and so on. It’s more than this. It’s about the long history of divergent trends, behavior and standing in various situations.It’s about liberals that left the party to form the PDL.It’s about the involvement of President Traian Basescu in PDL’s life and his attempts to subordinate PNL through a planned merger years ago.It’s about their governance to­ge­ther during 2005-2007. The constant criticism made PNL ousted PDL from the executive in March 2007.It’s about the mistakes made by PNL while governing alone (with social-democrats’ support in parliament) until 2008, mainly for overspending in view of general elections that very year.It’s about the fake promises made by PDL during the electoral campaign, due to which it won the elections (raising salaries for teachers, lowering taxes, etc).It’s about how PM Emil Boc handled the problems of the economy during the governance of PDL (be it with PSD during 2008, or without it later on). It’s about PDL’s relationship with President Traian Basescu.It’s about cutting down state employees’ salaries in 2010 by 25 per cent and increasing the VAT from 19 to 24 percent – announced by President Bases­cu on behalf of the Boc government.It’s about the Social-Liberal Union (USL) set up by the social-democrats with PNL, fighting against President Traian Basescu and his allies.It’s about PNL’s support to suspend Traian Basescu in 2007 and in 2012.It’s about lots of liberals being investigated by justice (while PNL did not intervene in their favour) and the fact that democrat-liberals investigated could be counted on fingers.It’s about PDL’s accusations that in 2012 an attempt of coup d’etat had taken place.It’s about tough retorts between former PNL leader Crin Antonescu and President Traian Basescu on one side, and between Antonescu and PDL leaders on the other.It’s about Antonescu’s accusations against President’s friend Elena Udrea.It’s about the support given by PDL to the head of state (indirectly working even now) irrespective of his decisions, while PNL criticized Traian Basescu.It’s about the so-called ‘black Tuesday’ (December 10, 2013) as the opposition (PDL included) accused the ruling power at the time (USL – including PNL) of attempting to adopt controversial laws that would have led to democratic decline. It’s about the unknown plans of President Traian Basescu for the near future, of how PDL is included in his targets after the presidential elections this autumn.It’s about the joint runner to face the PSD candidate (most probably Victor Ponta) as both parties want to prove each is the first in the standings.It’s about many more issues.One of them is also the internal fights within PNL. Klaus Johannis or Crin Antonescu for presidency? Do they stand real chances? Whom would the liberals prefer? Last but not least, how many liberals will leave the party, dissatisfied with the party’s standing, with its shifting of stand from Liberal-Demo­crats to EPP on the European scene? An example of internal turmoil is the appeal made by the PNL MP Radu Zlati, former adviser for Crin Antonescu, to Klaus Johannis – not to interfere with the issue of the presidential runner against Antonescu.Well, PNL and PDL should decide whether they can get over all the above mentioned issues that weigh a lot in their history. Lots of people have left PNL to join PDL, after the alleged merger they would be back where they started. Are all of them ready to forgive and forget? Are the current liberals ready to get them back?Knowing the domestic political scene, lots of questions are still valid. The right-wing is far from being ready to stand together. Just like in the 2000 elections, more likely than not, there will be lots of candidates on the right, while the left will present itself united. Nevertheless surprises are possible. The liberals in Romania are an ongoing enigma.

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