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May 12, 2021

PNL – one foot outside governance

Antonescu: If PNL’s proposals are not accepted, the liberal ministers will resign. PSD puts an end
to USL, to launch own candidate in presidential elections, denounces PNL President, also calling for early elections, if USL breaks up and Government reshuffles.

PNL President Crin Antonescu yesterday gave an ultimatum to the social-democrats, warning that if they do not accept the proposals made by the liberals for the government until today, the ministers of PNL will resign from the Ponta cabinet.
The liberal leader added that the mayor of Sibiu, Klaus Iohannis, whom many do not want as vice-premier today, will be premier “sooner or later.” “We gave no ultimatum. Mr. Ponta said that he is waiting for our proposals until Monday and, in our turn, we told him that he knows our proposals and we are waiting to see them enforced by Monday. If not, we will end this matter, because we cannot be caught endlessly in this game, because we did not play a game, did not want to break the USL and blame it on PSD,” Antonescu said in the ‘Dupa 20 de ani’ show on Pro TV. Asked if the PNL ministers will resign from the government, he answered: “Yes, but I hope this will not be the case.”
Antonescu accused PM Victor Ponta and PSD of orchestrating “a terribly propaganda” which says that he is the ally of President Traian Basescu, while Klaus Iohannis is attacked, which proves that PSD wants to break USL because it does not want Iohannis in the government and in order to have enough time to prepare its own presidential candidate. “PSD terminates the USL because it does not want Iohannis in the government and it does not have enough time to prepare its own presidential candidate and starts an overt campaign saying that I formed an alliance with Traian Basescu,” Antonescu mentioned, adding that, for a last year, PSD has given hints about preparing its candidate for the Presidency, against his candidacy. The leader of PNL said that he has no advisor, compared to Victor Ponta who has “counsellors generously paid by the state.”
According to the PNL leader, the USL alliance will break not because of positions in the government, but of actions and infringed principles. Antonescu affirmed that, in practice, Victor Ponta tended to act like he led a single-colour government and that the measures proposed by PNL, such as lowering the social security contributions (CAS) paid by employers by 5 per cent points and tax exemption for the reinvested profit were delayed.

“These are delayed measures that should have been negotiated in a firmer voice with the IMF,” he stated.
Early elections possible
Crin Antonescu also told ProTv private television channel on Sunday that if the current Government was reshuffled, then Prime Minister Victor Ponta would have to resign, and the most appropriate path would be that of organising early elections, but he admitted that such a step would be very difficult to carry out because of the very complicated international context.
‘If our Government does not go further – and it will not go – because Mr Ponta does not want Mr Iohannis as minister, where we want him, not where he wants, then Mr Ponta would have to resign and afterwards, backed by the most powerful party, by this possible majority that we are talking about, he could ask for a new mandate, let alone the early elections, which would be the most appropriate, but maybe not recommendable in a quite complicated international context,’ Crin Antonescu told  the talk-show. He believes the early elections will, most likely, not be agreed by any party and that they could not be organised at the same time with the elections to the European Parliament, as the European rules do not allow such a process.
Asked if PNL’s withdrawal from the government would leave the government led by Victor Ponta illegitimate, the PNL leader gave an affirmative answer. “It is illegitimate, as Mr. Victor Ponta is prime minister today because he was backed by a coalition named USL.” Antonescu also warned PSD, Thursday evening, that if it decides to remove the liberals from the government, then PNL will not enter the opposition for the next 4 years, and if PSD will not win the presidency, it will also lose the government.
Iohannis-premier, sooner or later
Antonescu also warned Ponta that Iohannis, whom many do not want as vice-premier today, will be prime minister “sooner or later.” “I convey a very simple message to Mr. Victor Ponta: he should accept what is our right now and what is also to his benefit, having Klaus Iohannis as vice-premier, than seeing Klaus Iohannis become premier sooner or later, obviously instead of him,” Antonescu warned, adding that after a split of USL, Ponta will not be able to remain premier for a long time.
The National Liberal Party leader said on Saturday as well that this Tuesday ‘Romania will either have a USL Government with Klaus Iohannis as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, or will have no USL Government at all, so that Mr. Ponta will have what to do some patching on. ‘This is a deeply deceitful campaign targeted at me and Klaus Iohannis, which clearly shows us where the issue resides. The problem is simple: they do not want to accept Klaus Iohannis into the governing lineup,’ Antonescu, adding that he had unsuccessfully tried to get in contact with Victor Ponta to see if it is necessary to have another meeting. Crin Antonescu, who is the Senate Speaker, is due to start today a two-day visit in Austria.
Ponta calls for moderation and dialogue to save USL
On the other side of the barricade, the social-democrat leader, PM Victor Ponta, took no position on Friday, instead he posted on Saturday on Facebook a message, calling anew for moderation, dialogue and wisdom for saving USL. ‘I am still hoping that in the coming days we will be able to find solutions to continue the USL governing! I call on all PNL and USD leaders to take action to this effect! If all of us sincerely want this, we can succeed! But I must firmly condemn as counterproductive, unfair and irresponsible the statements made by Senator Teodor Atanasiu (whom PNL proposed, and whom I accepted for Minister of Economy in the Government of Romania). I am asking all those who want USL to do well to display more moderation and honesty in their public statements!’ Victor Ponta also wrote on Facebook.
While in Chisinau on Friday, he voiced his belief that there are still chances for the Government to continue in the current formula of the alliance of the Social Liberal Union (USL). ‘I think there are still chances for us to continue in the current USL formula, from my part there is all willingness and availability. … I would very much want our Liberal colleagues to decide to stay in power by our side,’ said Victor Ponta. The Prime Minister added that vice-chairman of the National Liberal Party (PNL) Klaus Iohannis was welcome in the Government and that he would appoint him at the helm of the Ministry of the Interior this very day. ‘Mr Iohannis is welcome in the Government, be it on the position of Minister of the Interior, or as head of the Finance Ministry. If there is another calculation, I am not in it,’ Ponta said. On the other hand, the premier voiced his opinion that Liberal leader Crin Antonescu ‘had long before decided to break up the USL’ and what the alliance is experiencing now is just ‘a scandal-plagued divorce.’ Asked about the possibility of a new Government being formed, Ponta said that it is Parliament that will decide ‘in whatever variant’ will be chosen.
In his turn, Conservative Party (PC) chairman Daniel Constantin said on Saturday in Cluj-Napoca that if there is still one chance for the alliance with the National Liberal Party (PNL) to be saved, it should be used. The Conservative leader said that PSD, UNPR and PC running on joint lists in elections had been established a long time ago and that the matter had been also discussed in the presence of the Liberal leaders. ‘That PSD, UNPR and PC are running on joint lists was known for long. We also discussed the matter in the presence of both Mr. Antonescu and Mr. Iohannis. The fact that this alliance and the joint lists have a name, and it’s USD, is that they had to be named somehow. I think this was just a pretext and I don’t want to comment on it anymore, because any comment now threatens to deepen this crisis we are wading in. And I think that if we have just a one percent chance to stay together, we should exploit it,’ said Constantin, adding that at this moment everyone is waiting for ‘Mr. Antonescu to make a decision.’
PDL courts PNL
With the breaking of USL expected soon, the democrat-liberals and the newly-founded People’s Movement already started to court the liberals, in order to attract them in their respective camps. PDL MEP Theodor Stolojan said that the variant of a common candidate of the right in the presidential elections will be discussed after the ballot for the European Parliament and PNL too can be taken into consideration if it breaks from USL and solves some backlog issues. In his turn, PDL vice-president Ioan Oltean stated that PDL wants to create a big right-wing party as alternative to USD, which could “discuss” with PNL after it leaves the ruling coalition, “makes penitence for its sins and proves it is sorry for having lied to the people.”
Deputy Elena Udrea said Saturday in a press conference held at Craiova that the People’s Movement Party (PMP) considers the idea of PNL supporting the candidate of this party in the second round of presidential elections at the end of this year.
Liberal president Crin Antonescu however said that, if USL breaks-up, PNL and PDL or another opposition party can act together only following the principles of defending the rule of law, supporting the right-wing economic measures, but the liberals surely do not intend bargaining with the democrat-liberals for “any kind of construction.”
UDMR, closer to the government
In these conditions, there are clear signals that, if USL breaks and PNL leaves the government, PSD could look for new allies in order to consolidate its majority in Parliament, the only party which it could possibly co-opt being UDMR. The leader of the ethnic Hungarian party, Kelemen Hunor said Saturday that there is no talk about UDMR joining the government, as he did not meet Victor Ponta and there is no reason for such an invitation, as long as there is “a coalition, there is USL,” despite all tensions. Kelemen nonetheless stated that, if USL breaks, a new government will probably take shape soon, with a different support, but “with legitimacy in Parliament.” From the camp of the opposition, PDL vice-president Ioan Oltean had mentioned Friday that UDMR, “the way it plays now, has the cards already arranged with PSD in order to join the government.”


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