Convening on Friday and Saturday in Bucharest National Council, Social-Democrats forecast PSD leader Victor Ponta is on his way to PM office.
“Highlights” of the convention included attacks on the ruling coalition and president Basescu, as well as below-the-belt strikes between current leaders and those put on the shelf. The Social Democratic Party (PSD)’s National Council adopted on Saturday a number of resolutions by which Social-Democrats voiced their opposition to the Democratic-Liberal Party (PDL)’s bills to modify Romania’s territorial make-up, to merge polls and to revise the Constitution before the elections.
PSD leaders reiterated, indeed, the possibility of leaving Parliament or boycotting the elections if there are reasons to believe the ruling party intends to rig the future elections. PSD’s honorary president Ion Iliescu was the first to say that PSD and the National Liberal Party (PDL) should pull out of Parliament if the ruling coalition forces on the Legislative the bills for territorial reform, vote by mail and merging the presidential and general elections. On Saturday, the chairman of the National Council (CN), Adrian Nastase, voiced his support for this project, also calling for a boycott. The CN chairman further stated that the opposition in Romania was akin to Gulliver in Lilliput – strong, but as yet still held down by “a host of little people” – and claimed that “it is obvious that PDL is trying to prolong its stay in power indefinitely, by undemocratic means”, arguing that the Social-Liberal Union (USL)’s triumph in the 2012 elections depended on each and every member on the PSD board, as well as on those at home.
Support from all quarters
Although a couple of days ago Iliescu qualified Nastase as “a better, more experienced, prime-minister” than Ponta, on this occasion the honorary president stated the incumbent PDL leader was all grown-up and in need of backing. Iliescu also dispelled the rumours to the effect that he no longer backed Ponta. “I’ve backed and go on backing Ponta as the party president. (…) Those are attempting to interpret some of my statements as indicative of a break with Victor Ponta have a vested interest. I will not play into their hands. (…) I think Ponta is fully qualified to take on the tasks he has taken on and those he is pursuing,” Iliescu argued.
Nastase adopted a similar stance: “I want us to ignore the press’s speculations and ill-meaning intentions and to get one thing straight: Victor Ponta will be the next prime-minister, just as the party decided”.
The group of backers was joined by the PNL leader Crin Antonescu, who was invited to attend the PSD Council on Saturday. “I know beyond the shadow of a doubt we will know the elections and I know the name of the future prime-minister: Victor Ponta,” he told the CN delegates, adding that the Social-Democrat leader’s youth was an asset, rather than a disadvantage.
In response, the honorary president of the National Union for Romanian Progress (UNPR) Cristian Diaconescu argued that Ponta would never have the backing of all the parties making up USL.
Ponta: i cannot be like Iliescu and Nastase
Although he has the two leaders’ backing and voiced his admiration for them, Ponta stated he could not and would not be akin to them, as Romania and the world at large have changed. On the other hand, the PSD president argued the party mustn’t ever again lose the battle because of its leader, vouching that, should he ever become a “liability” for the party, he would resign. Ponta called on the PSD members to keep a close watch of the vote count in the future poll. “We will not win the elections by means of special New Year parties and mobile phones, but by votes,” Ponta further stated, in a jab at Marian Vanghelie, the ex-PSD Bucharest leader, who stated recently for “Gandul” that, in the run-up to the election campaign, dozens of thousands of cell phones would be handed to the people of Bucharest.
Ponta defended Nastase, arguing that in the past seven years the latter had been a victim of Traian Basescu’s abuses, and stating that he would pay a visit to the Romanian president after the parliamentary elections, bearing the PM nomination, and would give him a book as a present – “Investigation and Trial Procedures in the case of ex-Presidents”.
Geoana – Iliescu argument
Despite calls for unity, the Social-Democrats’ convention was also an occasion for in-house disputes. In an interview to Mediafax, the ex-PSD leader Mircea Geoana criticized Iliescu, arguing that the honorary president had difficulty accepting anyone else as a party leader, as well as Miron Mitrea, whom he deemed an unfortunate choice for Sorin Oprescu’s campaign chief. In response, Iliescu qualified Geoana’s critical remarks as mischievous: “Do you mind if I decide not to comment? Because, if I start, I could go on for ever,” Iliescu told the journalists who asked him for a statement. In turn, Mitrea argued he was not interested in what Geoana had to say, as it made no difference to him, while the secretary-general Liviu Dragnea advised the ex-president to think before making further statements concerning the party. After these reprimands, Geoana posted a statement on his website, calling on the National Council to put an end to tensions within PSD. “Attacks between PSD colleagues will only result in weakening the people’s faith in our capacity to provide an alternative to the failure of the Basescu-Boc government,” he argued.