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January 31, 2023

USL in disarray as leaders take tougher stands, confusion reigns

PNL warns: PSD will have to choose between PC and PNL. Dragnea (PSD): Mathematically speaking, USD could govern without PNL.

Social–democrats and Liberals clashed once again yesterday on the governance issue, with PSD hinting it can provide government in PNL’s absence and Liberals giving PSD  an ultimatum to choose between them and the Conservative Party (PC). Moreover, President Traian Basescu once again stepped in the dispute, calling on USL leaders to find solution to current argument in order to avoid political crisis.
The Social-Democrat (PSD) Executive President Liviu Dragnea said on Thursday the USD – the Social Democrat Union, an electoral alliance of the PSD, the National Union for the Progress of Romania and the Conservatives – can provide the governing act in the absence of the National Liberal Party (PNL), arithmetically speaking. ‘We do not want to exclude the PNL, but to answer your question I can say that strictly arithmetically speaking, the answer is yes. We do not wish to get to that point,’ said Dragnea, after attending the Bucharest Romanian Business Leaders Summit. When asked if he thinks the Liberals want to break up the USL at this moment, the PSD senior leader said: ‘I should hope not. If they want to do it, let them do it quicker. Days are passing by and there are important decisions to be made. This government must start functioning as it had been functioning very well until a few days ago’.
Moreover, the executive chairman of PSD reprimanded the Liberals for viewing the talks between PSD and PNL as a negotiation of positions, pointing out “the Government is not a market place” and stressing the PM’s proposal in fact referred to a new government structure with an additional deputy prime minister, rather than taking a position from another party. Liviu Dragnea claims PNL will be forced to propose ministers based on the current Government structure, if it refuses the Prime Minister’s proposal to appoint four deputy prime ministers; otherwise, he continued, “anything could happen.”

The Social Democrat Deputy Prime Minister said PSD is still waiting for PNL to schedule another meeting to continue talks about reorganizing the Government and expressed hope that the meeting would be held on Monday and talks would reach a conclusion.
On the other side of the barricade, Liberals are setting an ultimatum for their coalition partners, urging them to choose between them or the Conservatives. National Liberal Party (PNL, at rule) First Vice President Klaus Johannis on Thursday in Sibiu told a press conference that the Social Democratic Party (PSD) will have to choose between the Conservative Party (PC) and PNL, adding that the Liberals do not accept a Conservative as a deputy prime minister. “PSD will have to choose between PNL and PC. We cannot accept to be on equal terms”, Johannis warned. Yet, he said there have been no talks about PNL pulling out of the ruling alliance. Johannis also issued a point-by-point response to Dragnea’s statement that PSD could govern with PC and UNPR alone, pointing out this would be possible statistically speaking, but it would also be “forced governance,” adding, “In other words, it’s tough to make ends meet with little means.” “Mathematically speaking, Mr. Dragnea’s calculations need to include UDMR, otherwise the math is wrong. In theory, all kinds of scenarios can be devised,” the First Vice President of PNL said.
Senate Speaker – instrument of blackmail?
In the midst of all the tension and bellicose statements, an idea has taken shape – that PSD and PC could remove Antonescu from his position as Senate Speaker. According to sources within USL cited by ‘Romania Libera’, leaders of PC presumably forced the Liberals to choose one of two options: either PC leaves ACD (the alliance between PNL and PC), which would break USL (comprising of PSD and ACD), or USL is spared, but PC invokes the ACD’s right to appoint the chairman of the Senate. In other words, if backed by PSD and UNPR, PC could remove Crin Antonescu from the helm of the Senate.
In turn, Ilie Sarbu, leader of PSD senators, warned Antonescu that USD has Senate majority and could thus replace him with a PC candidate. “We have absolute majority; we can make any changes. Don’t count on the senators,” he emphasized. PSD Deputy Prime Minister Liviu Dragnea stated yesterday that PSD has not discussed the position of Senate Speaker, currently held by Antonescu, because it is a matter for the ACD PNL-PC agreement and it is unsure whether the parties will comply with it.
Dispute also in the second echelon
The dispute also continued behind the trenches of the two parties, with the spokespersons of PSD and PNL, as well as lawmakers from both parties coming with accusations. PSD spokesman Catalin Ivan said Thursday that PSD must not choose between PNL and PC, and Klaus Iohannis was not a member of the USL in 2012. “PSD must not choose between PNL and PC! People voted us in 2012 as the Social Liberal Union and PSD chooses this formula. Mr. Klaus Iohannis is making an excusable error, because in 2012 he was not in the USL, and he even competed against USL in Sibiu,” the spokesman of PSD stated.
In her turn, PNL spokeswoman Cristina Pocora claims that the representativs of PSD must “clearly and openly” say if they no longer want the existence of USL.
The PNL deputy of Arad, Mihaita Calimente says that the liberals do not intend leaving the government, but if PSD wants to oust PNL from the government and rely on a different majority, “it can do it,” as the new USD “wants to impose its will in USL, which is unacceptable.” The leader of PNL Suceava, deputy Alexandru Baisanu said that, if USL breaks, PSD must bear the blame for it. Several PNL senators, in their turn, expressed their discontentment toward PSD. The PNL senators of Bihor, Cristian Bodea and Valeriu Boeriu, consider that PSD is forcing the liberals to leave USL, an “alliance confiscated by Ponta,” adding that the social-democrats created USD as a “political oddity, a plagiarism like Adibas and Mike,” meant to trick the electorate. In these conditions, they consider that PNL would better enter the opposition.
Ponta wants to continue governing in the USL formula
As for the leader of PSD, Premier Victor Ponta, he said Thursday that he wants to continue to govern “in the USL formula,” and he and PSD will do everything to help the Union get over this crisis. “I want for us all to be in the government, not just in the morning and afternoon, while in the evening some are in the opposition, because this is what happened with CDR and the DA Alliance and things did not end well,” the PSD leader added. He explained on Antena 3 that the seeds of discontentment planted by Basescu in the minds of some people give fruit. As a conclusion, Ponta mentioned that he intends meeting with Crin Antonescu again when the liberal leader will return to the country.
Basescu calls on USL to avoid political crisis
All in all, President Traian Basescu has called on the leaders of the ruling Social Liberal Union (USL) to immediately find a solution to current disputes inside their alliance in order to avoid a political crisis. ‘Romania needs stability and a fully functional government that can efficiently manage the country’s affairs and secure good governance. The dysfunctions of late in the ruling alliance following the announcement of the resignation of many ministers of the National Liberal Party (PNL) as well as the intention voiced by Prime Minister of Romania’s Government Victor Viorel Ponta to change the current composition of the Government have generated instability that threatens to affect the country’s credibility, public institutions, the business environment and the citizens,’ reads a press release issued by the Presidential Administration and posted on the Administration’s website.
Asked to comment the statements of the president, liberal Johannis said that he can “reassure” Basescu, because “there is no state of instability” and the “ministries are technically operational,” but “a governmental crisis has appeared.” “There are ministers, some interim, some who resigned, but the people of ministries are there. The cabinet meetings are held. People are working. The state of instability does not exist. We are far from the ideal situation of having a government that works in focus, attracts European funds and is efficient in encouraging investors and the real economy. We are not there because there is a state of tension,” Johannis mentioned.
In the camp of PSD however, vice-premier Dragnea said that he will ignore the words of the president, given that now he lashes out at the government, and the next day he appeals to responsibility.
The reactions of the opposition
The first vice-president of PDL, Catalin Predoiu said Thursday in a press conference that Victor Ponta and Crin Antonescu behave these days “like two drunken surgeons who fight for the scalpel in the operation room, while the patient dies” and added that USL is “a political fraud.” In his opinion, PNL cannot make opposition now, because they, too, must take “the responsibility of cheating the Romanians.”
In his turn, the political vice-president of UDMR, Laszlo Borbely, mentioned that the Union is worried about what is going on in Romania and expressed the hope that PSD and PNL will have the wisdom to make peace, “but not one that will last two hours.”

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