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September 18, 2019
POLITICS

PM-designate Victor Ponta unveils new government

Ungureanu Cabinet was unseated in a no-confidence vote on Friday. The new Cabinet will request the Parliament’s backing on Monday. Local currency in free fall amidst political instability, exchange rate reaches historical peak: 4.4168 RON/EUR. The central bank stops the series of key interest cuts at 5.25 pc.

After the previous Ungureanu Cabinet had been unseated in a no-confidence vote introduced by the Social Liberal Union (USL) on Friday, President Traian Basescu has nominated Victor Ponta as Prime Minster-designate, who disclosed his list of ministers Tuesday night and who expects a Parliament backing for the Cabinet on Monday, May 7. The only minister kept by Ponta from the previous Government is LEONARD ORBAN with the Ministry of European Affairs. Two new portfolios have been created – Administration, which, in the previous administration, was combined with the Home Affairs – and Economy, separated from the Ministry of Finance. Four new ministers delegate have been also nominated. The nominated Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister is FLORIN GEORGESCU, who’s returning to the Finance Ministry after 16 years (he served as Finance Minister between 1992 and 1996). Georgescu is expected to steer until the autumn parliamentary election a strategic ministry for keeping economic balances and relations with the IMF. Since October 2004, Georgescu has been a member of the central bank Board, Vice-President of the Board and First Deputy Governor of BNR. Since then he has also been a member of the Banking Supervising Board of the European Central Bank. The Interior Minister designate is IOAN RUS (PSD), who has held the same portfolio in the Nastase Cabinet as well, in 2000-2004. Since 2008, when he resigned from all positions he held in PSD, he has kept a rather low profile in the party, for which reason he is now being criticised even by some of his colleagues. While PSD National Council President Adrian Nastase says Rus is being denounced for having endorsed Mircea Geoana’s candidacy at the 2005 Congress, Constanta Mayor Radu Mazare yesterday said Rus was not entitled to the position because, in the last years, his presence in the party had been feeble, and that he was just Ponta’s ‘personal caprice’.Rus replies saying that Mazare is right and admitting to having been ‘rather lazy in the party lately’. On the other hand, former PDL Interior Minister Traian Igas praised Rus, stating that, during his previous term, the ministry had been headed ‘with a strategy and a direction’ in mind.

Victor Ponta said on Tuesday that his initial proposal had been Liviu Dragnea, but he had decided to focus on USL’s election campaign instead. Ponta noted that both Rus and Georgescu had been appointed for only six months, upon his express request. The nomination for Minister of Justice is TITUS CORLATEAN (PSD), although he made his debut as a diplomat in the Foreign Affairs Ministry, starting from the position as PM Adrian Nastase’s private adviser. Since 2009, Titus Corlatean has been the chairman of the Senate Foreign Policy Committee. PDL campaign chief Vasile Blaga said yesterday that Corlatean was ‘a random nomination’ because he wanted very badly to be at the Foreign Ministry and that it will be seen if he was named in that position just so that Romania doesn’t enter the Schengen Area, ‘and so that the Mechanism of Cooperation and Verification is not terminated.’Another surprise is the nomination of the former Rector of the Cluj-Napoca Babes-Bolyai University, Liberal ANDREI MARGA, whose name had been mentioned in connection with the Ministry of Education which he had headed between 1997 and 2000, in the Victor Ciorbea, Radu Vasile and Mugur Isarescu Cabinets. At the time, he was a Traian Basescu colleague in the Cabinet, the president having been very critical of the Liberal back in 2010 over the reform he had implemented in the late 1990s.USL’s nomination for Minister of Economy is PNL MP DANIEL CHITOIU, who, in 2004-2008 headed the National Tax Administration Agency (ANAF). The Transport Minister nominee, Liberal OVIDIU SILAGHI, was a Minister for the SMEs in the Tariceanu Government and member of the European Parliament. The Environment Minister designate is ROVANA PLUMB, President of the PSD Women’s Organisation and MEP. MARIANA CAMPEANU, PNL, is proposed for the position of Labour Minister, which he held before, for two months, just before the 2008 parliamentary election. Her announced priorities are the return of the illegally retained health insurance to retired people and the relaunching of social dialogue.  The Agriculture portfolio was reserved for the Conservative Party, actually to its President DANIEL CONSTANTIN. He is 33 years old and was promoted in politics by Dan Voiculescu. He is an agriculture engineer and headed the Agency for Payments and Interventions in Agriculture (APIA) from April to October 2009. The proposal for the Ministry of Tourism is Liberal EDUARD HELLVIG, known as ‘Crin Antonescu’s man’. Aged 37, he is PNL Secretary General and in 2009 co-ordinated the PNL presidential election campaign. Another Liberal has been nominated for the Defence Ministry, General CORNELIU DOBRITOIU, who has been Secretary of State with the MoD and, for a short period, in September 2006, acting Defence Minister following Teodor Atanasiu’s suspension from office.PSD Vice-President DAN NICA returns to the Ministry of Telecommunications he used to run as a member of the Nastase Government in 2000 – 2004. He was Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Administration and Interior in 2009, in the Boc I Cabinet. His dismissal triggered the departure of his party, PSD, from the Government. Iasi doctor VASILE CEPOI is the nomination as Health Minister in the Ponta Cabinet, four months after being named as Secretary of State at the same ministry, but as a member of the Boc Government. In 2003 he was Secretary of State in the Ministry of Health, in the Nastase Government, but in February 2004 he was dismissed following a conflict with PM Nastase.The last two ministers, proposed for Education, and Culture, are facing accusations of incompatibility. CORINA DUMITRESCU, proposed for the Education Ministry, is the wife of PSD Deputy Cristian Dumitrescu and rector of the ‘Dimitrie Cantemir’ Christian University. She faces accusations of incompatibility, after she was elected as CSM member representing the civil society. Also, she was accused by Monica Macovei of being among the “PSD acolytes” that became a Notary Public without passing an exam. In his turn, PNL Senator MIRCEA DIACONU, proposed for the position of Culture Minister by nominated PM Victor Ponta, has a dispute in court with the National Integrity Agency (ANI), which accused him of being in a situation of incompatibility, generated by his dignity of Senator and the position of manager of the Nottara Theatre of Bucharest, which he resigned from. ANI president Horia Georgescu said that the institution sued Diaconu for allegedly facilitating his wife to obtain the position of director with the Nottara Theatre. Prosecutors confirmed Diaconu faces criminal charges of conflicting interests, but the popular actor defended himself saying that the file has not reached the court yet and ANI only relied on presumptions when it accused him. Ponta and Antonescu jumped to his defence, with Ponta saying that Diaconu is a reliable person that will certainly be cleared by the court, as dictated by common sense, and Antonescu adding that his party trusts him and nominated him with unanimity of votes.VICTOR ALISTAR, proposed as delegate minister in charge with government strategies, transparency and relations with the civil society, is another case of incompatibility, as he did not challenge in court a decision made by ANI in his case. Alistar however denies being under any interdiction now. Nominated PM Ponta said yesterday that, together with the law experts of USL, he is analysing the documents related to Alistar and, if there are unclear or controversial elements, he will nominate someone else.Independent economist LUCIAN ISAR (35), lecturer with the Academy of Economic Studies, was proposed as delegate minister in charge with the business environment. The leader of PSD deputies, Mircea Dusa was proposed as delegate minister in charge with the relation with the Parliament, while the leader of the Free Trade Unions Federation of the Education Sector (FSLI), Liviu Pop was nominated as minister for Social Dialogue. Pop is accused of receiving, in 2010, an income from FSLI that was four times his salary of Mathematics teacher in a high-school.First intended measuresThe new Cabinet yesterday announced the first measures it intends to take, if voted by the Parliament. Nominated Premier Victor Ponta announced that the state secretaries and prefects will be replaced, because they work with the government which they represent. Political changes will however stop at this level, he added. “It is normal, European and conform with all democratic standards that ministers and state secretaries represent the political parties that form the government,” Ponta said. In his turn, PNL leader Crin Antonescu announced that, in its first meeting, the Ponta Cabinet will cancel the Government Decision about UMF Targu Mures. Asked if USL does not risk blocking any future collaboration with UDMR by such a move, Antonescu said: “We do not make decisions depending on the support or collaboration of UDMR, UNPR, PSD or PNL.”

UNPR betrays PDL and backs Ponta Cabinet

The National Union for the Progress of Romania (UNPR), PDL’s partner within the ruling coalition, switched sides yesterday, surprisingly signing a protocol with PSD, the party it vehemently criticized until recently, and committed itself to supporting the Ponta Government. Designated Premier Victor Ponta and UNPR President Gabriel Oprea signed yesterday the protocol that stipulates that UNPR will vote in favour of investing the new government in Parliament and will collaborate with PSD’s Parliamentary groups. The protocol also stipulates the introduction of a solidarity tax on the very rich, the adoption of the purely uninominal voting system and support for the hiking of salaries and pensions. On this occasion, Ponta stated that USL will have a “stable” majority with the support of UNPR and of the ethnic minorities. “USL currently has 229 MPs. Plus 17 MPs from the minorities, plus 27 from UNPR, that’s a majority of 43 MPs which is surely desirable,” Ponta explained. In what concerns the Democrat-Liberals, Speaker of the Senate Vasile Blaga announced yesterday that they will be present when the new government is put up for vote in Parliament, however they will vote against it. “PDL’s position is that we’re not voting any government we’re not a part of,” Blaga stated, pointing out that PDL has no reasons to vote for the new government because it has not seen its governing programme and the proposed ministers have compatibility issues. “The formula seems completely uninspired to me and can’t be backed by PDL,” PDL Secretary General Ioan Oltean stated in his turn. On the other hand, the Democrat-Liberals criticized UNPR’s move. Senator Radu Berceanu stated that it does not seem “normal” for relations between PDL and the parties that supported the Boc and Ungureanu Governments to end after the latter was toppled, however he did not seem surprised with the decision. PDL MEP Monica Macovei stated that the Voiculescu-Ponta-Antonescu trio toppled Ungureanu because the latter was growing in the polls, and claimed that Victor Ponta “is starting off by using lies” because he proposed ministers that are incompatible with their offices. PDL Bucharest President Elena Udrea criticized on her blog the fact that the proposed government is the largest in post-1989 history. UDMR did not express a clear position concerning the vote, the leader of UDMR Senators stating that they are willing to discuss with Ponta but that they are interested more in the governing programme and less in the proposed ministers.

Contradictions over suspending Basescu

As for other intentions, such as suspending President Traian Basescu and the speakers of the two houses of the Parliament, there are some contradictions inside USL. While the honorary president of PC, Dan Voiculescu said, shortly after the list of ministers was announced, that Traian Basescu will be suspended in the next months, if he does not resign within 30 days from the investing of the new cabinet, the leaders of the Union yesterday hinted that this is not a priority for USL. According to Antonescu, suspending Basescu and replacing Chamber of Deputies speaker Roberta Anastase are matters of interest for USL, but do not represent an objective of the new Cabinet. In his turn, nominated PM Victor Ponta said that he will not resume his dispute with Anastase, because revoking her is the job of the Parliament, rather than of the prime minister. Liberal vice-president Sorin Frunzaverde stated that the Union had no formal discussion about suspending the president, as this is not a priority, especially as Basescu lost much of his legitimacy anyway.

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