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December 6, 2021

USL officially broken

The Social Liberal Union (USL) no longer exists,  Crin Antonescu said Tuesday evening.
Antonescu: PNL calls PM Ponta to resign
Former Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu at the end of the meeting of National Liberal Party’s (PNL) Standing Delegation said he voted against withdrawing from the Government, arguing it is ‘a slightly hasty attitude.’
‘I personally did not vote for withdrawing from government, I voted against, but it was a long meeting, there were not very interesting debates, an expeditious solving was rather sought. I believe it is a tough decision, a complicated decision that should have been better analysed, better considered. I believe it is a slightly hasty (…) decision, I do not want to use some qualifiers that might disturb my colleagues, because I believe each one of us has the right to his/her own option, for which we should not be judged in any way,’ Tariceanu said, Agerpres informs.

Several draft laws have failed to pass through the Senate’s plenum yesterday after the Liberals voted against them. PSD has already started talks with UDMR in order to win the latter’s backing in Parliament, however UDMR joining the government is clearly forecast.

The Social Liberal Union (USL) has officially split, yesterday being the first time when the Social-Democrats and Liberals voted differently in Parliament, the result being the blocking of draft laws. Thus, in the Senate the plenum was unable to approve a series of draft laws that had received favorable reports from the special commissions, including the draft law on insolvency, an emergency ordinance and the draft law on the financing of political parties.
Thus, the draft law modifying the law on the financing of political parties, a draft that would have allowed the parties to contract loans, was rejected after it obtained only 74 votes in favor, with 58 Senators voting against and two abstaining. This draft law had been signed by the leaders of PSD’s and PNL’s parliamentary groups. A draft organic law modifying the local public administration law and stipulating the participation of county council chairmen within intra-community development associations was also rejected. At the same time, emergency ordinance 114/2013 concerning the modification of the holders of the right of administering buildings that are part of the state’s public and private domain was not adopted because of insufficient votes, although it had received a favorable report from the defense commission. Moreover, the draft law initiated by the government and concerning the procedures of preventing insolvency and the procedures of insolvency was rejected in the plenum. The only draft law adopted by the Senators was the one modifying the statute of soldiers, offering to the soldiers declared unfit for service the possibility of rejoining military structures or of holding civilian positions.
Although the situation was tense, there were no blockages within the Lower Chamber, the ordinance concerning the hiking of the salaries of mayors starting on July 1 being adopted by the Lower Chamber MPs. PNL MP Victor Paul Dobre stated that the Liberals support these stipulations because the salaries of commune mayors, not those of municipal and city mayors, will grow and because commune mayors have a more difficult job.
George Scutaru, the leader of PNL MPs within the Lower Chamber, nevertheless informed the Lower Chamber’s plenum after the final vote on several draft laws that this is the last time when PSD and PNL are on the same side of the barricade and that starting next week the Liberals will be in the opposition. “This vote is the last moment when PSD and PNL are on the same side of the barricade. We were honest partners of the USL Government in Parliament and in the government and we regret the fact that you refused to nominate a man such as Klaus Iohannis,” George Scutaru stated from the rostrum. Subsequently, Valerius Zgonea, the Lower Chamber’s Social-Democrat Speaker, pointed out that the statement made by George Scutaru, the leader of the Liberal group within the Lower Chamber, a statement concerning PNL’s move to the opposition, was emotional and was made in the heat of the moment, emphasizing that he wants USL to continue as before. Nevertheless, threatened by Scutaru’s message, the PSD MPs met within their group’s room, being summoned there in order to analyze the way in which they can ensure presence within the plenum in the future and the number of votes needed within the joint plenum in order for the future government to pass, in view of the imminent resignations of PNL ministers from the Ponta Government. At this moment USD and UDMR would total 30 votes more than the 288 votes needed to validate the government.
Start of negotiations with UDMR
The stakes are as good as laid down in what concerns co-opting UDMR within the government. PSD and UDMR have not wasted time, having already started talks yesterday over the issue of UDMR’s support for a new government, sources familiar with the talks revealing for Mediafax that UDMR will receive an office of Deputy Prime Minister and two ministerial portfolios. Thus, UDMR President Hunor Kelemen will be Deputy Prime Minister and Culture Minister at the same time, a ministry he led before too. In what concerns the second ministerial portfolio, the negotiations lean towards UDMR taking over either the Health Ministry, in which case the UDMR minister would be Cseke Attila, who was Health Minister before too, or the Environment Ministry, in which case the UDMR minister would be Attila Korodi, who previously headed that ministry too. Former UDMR Senator Gyorgy Frunda, the Premier’s advisor, stated that “it is in the interest of the Hungarian community for UDMR to be actively involved in governing,” namely by having ministers within the government, adding on Saturday that a decision has to be taken on whether UDMR will join the government or not.
Leader of Social Democratic Party (PSD) Senators Ilie Sarbu  also said on Tuesday that the protocol signed by PSD and the Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania (UDMR) in December 2012, based on which the Union would have obtained two portfolios in the Government, was still valid, and if UDMR still endorses it, negotiations could be resumed. Sarbu said that until the National Liberal Party (PNL) does not make a firm decision on the future of the Social Liberal Union (USL), PSD will not hold discussions with UDMR on co-opting the party headed by Hunor Kelemen to the ruling coalition. “There is a protocol we signed in December 2012. It’s also signed by Mr Antonescu and Mr Ponta. … As far as we are concerned, it [the protocol] is still valid. If UDMR wants to to make a change, if they come up with other proposals, these will be negotiated at that moment, our negotiating team will hold talks with their team. The protocol concerned UDMR being co-opted within the government. It was not about parliamentary support. Basically, ministers in the Government,” Sarbu said at the Parliament Palace. The Social Democrat also said that UDMR being assigned the Culture Ministry portfolio would be another possibility.  At the same time, Ilie Sarbu ruled out the possibility of the above-mentioned protocol being interpreted as a threat to the Liberals.
On the other hand, Sarbu reiterated that PSD will not challenge the office of Speaker of the Senate held by PNL President Crin Antonescu and will leave to him all the privileges that go with it (villa, protocol house, cars, advisors), adding nevertheless that it would be normal for him to resign after leaving the government, “provided he has honor.”
Prime Minister Victor Ponta said late on Monday that he is counting on the votes of the ruling Social Liberal Union (USL) parliamentarians if forced to ask Parliament for a vote for a new Cabinet, provided that the PNL ministers decide to pull out of the incumbent Government.
A Permanent Delegation with expected finale
The PNL’s Permanent Delegation meeting was scheduled to take place late yesterday evening, the decision anticipated by party leaders being the withdrawal of Liberal ministers from the government. The Liberal leaders of territorial branches also jointly expressed themselves in favor of PNL leaving the government. PNL Cluj interim president Horea Uioreanu stated that he was about to support within the Permanent Delegation meeting the withdrawal of Liberal ministers from the government. The same opinion was shared by the leaders of PNL branches from Arad, Arges, Botosani, Bistrita, Buzau, Constanta, Sibiu and Vaslui. PNL spokesperson Cristina Pocora stated in her turn that “the idea of continuing the USL’s governing program is a diversion just like the issue of appointing Klaus Iohannis.” As for PNL president Crin Antonescu, he told representatives of the Romanian community in Austria on Monday evening that if the Liberals were to leave the Government, there would be no political crisis; his regret being that the Social Liberal Union (USL) project “has cost PNL a lot.”

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