PNL’s Antonescu steps out of presidential race and interim chairmanship

“I feel a great sadness and disappointment for a man who was my partner and friend in the most
spectacular political project after 1989!” said PM Ponta.

National Liberal Party (PNL) Chairman on Saturday announced his intention of not running for President in the elections this year, as a step towards speeding up the project of unifying the Right-Wing forces and for designating as soon as possible a single candidate of the Right-Wing to Romania’s Presidency. He told a press conference that he also decided to end his interim chairmanship of PNL.
“Today, there no longer is the danger that the leftovers of the PSD clan prevent PNL from going to the right direction. Today, the measures for building a great Right-Wing party in Romania have finally begun. That is why, I even end my interim chairmanship and on Monday I shall ask my colleagues of the Central Political Bureau to effectively take over all the duties that must be exercised this month which separate us from the Congress of June 28-29,” Crin Antonescu said, as quoted by Agerpres.
“I know I am the most powerful candidate the Right-Wing could have. I am saying this because I have the personality, the figure, the political experience necessary, the ideas, the vision and the capacity to fight so PSD cannot put its hands on Romania’s Presidency in autumn. (…),” Crin Antonescu said. He added that he could not disregard all those things. “I know true politicians are those who change the polls and not polls those which change true politicians. This will be proven in the future in the Romanian political life. I have all it takes for this battle. I have no time to breakdown fixations, I have no time to cure resentments, I have no time to widen the horizon of short-sightedness,” Antonescu said, adding that a Right-Wing candidate needed to be designated as soon as possible.

“Fully aware that the right’s effort toward unification must move forward as quickly as possible and the unified right must appoint a candidate as soon as possible, I am announcing my intention not to run for the Romanian Presidency and, thus, assist the speedy appointment by the end of the month or no later than July 15 of a candidate more easily accepted by all actual and alleged representatives of the right, all actual and alleged representatives of right-wing press, and by all those who wish to make Romania a country for pedestrians instead of tycoons,” Antonescu said further.
Most Liberals welcomed Antonescu’s decision, arguing that his announcement was not so surprising, as it is part of long-thought-out electoral strategy.
PNL resigning First Deputy Chairman Klaus Johannis, candidate to the party’s chairmanship, on Saturday said that Crin Antonescu’s withdrawal from the presidential elections race represented “the gesture of a great politician.” “I witnessed a unique gesture over the past 24 years, made by a politician with a very strong position, very well placed, who gave up all these in order to strengthen the party. Through his decision, Crin Antonescu proved that he put the interest of the party and of Romania before his own interest and his own political career,” Klaus Johannis said in a release remitted to Agerpres. Johannis believes Antonescu is “the most valuable person of the National Liberal Party.”
Liberal Vice-chairman Mihai Stanisoara believes Antonescu’s decision symbolizes the “reset” of the political class, a type of “ground zero” for all Liberals, whereas other Liberals such as PNL MEP Norica Nicolai say that although the former PNL chairman’s gesture is inexplicable and the reasons behind his decision unclear, everyone has “the philosophy of their own attitude.”
Vice-chairman of the Senate and Liberal Marius Obreja seemed willing to give his position over to Crin Antonescu. “In the Political Bureau meeting next Monday, I will be announcing the initiation of a voting procedure within PNL’s senatorial group which would allow Crin Antonescu to take over my position as Vice-chairman of the Senate,” Obreja said. “It all depends on Crin Antonescu’s decision, however,” he added.
All eyes on Klaus Johannis
Other Liberals are already thinking of Antonescu’s replacement in the presidential race and all thoughts go to Klaus Johannis. According to PNL Alba leader Teodor Atanasiu, the Liberals will recommend Johannis as presidential candidate to their PDL partners. Atanasiu expressed conviction that Klaus Johannis is the best option in this respect thanks to a unique quality that sets him apart from any other politician – being a man “of few words but many actions.” The PNL branch from Sibiu has already publicly issued its support of Johannis as a candidate in the presidential elections.
Ponta (PSD): A reasonable decision
Crin Antonescu’s decision to withdraw from the presidential race was, strictly politically, the only reasonable one, PSD Chairman, Prime Minister Victor Ponta, says in a post on his Facebook official page. “I found out about Crin’s decision to withdraw from the presidential race! Strictly politically, it was the only reasonable option, anything else would have meant only the accentuation of his political and personal disaster! But I feel a great sadness and disappointment for a man who was my partner and friend in the most spectacular political project after 1989!” Ponta mentions. He adds that he believed with all his heart that Antonescu “could have been a very good president of Romania, on condition he kept USL [the Social Liberal Union] and its founding principles, by all means.”
“In 2013, when his main advisers became misters Rosca Stanescu, Gusa and Rares Bogdan, I told him tens of times that these ‘councilors’ would push him slowly and surely on the road which only Traian Basescu wanted for Crin and for PNL, the road to USL’s destruction and to clearing the way for other persons who had been prepared and under cover for a long time in various laboratories! I am upset with myself that I did not have enough energy, time and patience to convince him of what is now obvious to everyone!,” the PSD Chairman says.
Deputies’ Chamber Speaker Valeriu Zgonea, at the Parliament House, on Saturday, said that Antonescu’s announcement of withdrawing from the competition for Romania’s Presidency was a natural one, taking into account the disintegration of the Social Liberal Union (USL), and that, at the same time, in his opinion the Liberal leader had been “dead as politician for a very long time.”
On the other hand, PSD spokesperson Catalin Ivan argues that Antonescu would not have received votes in the presidential elections not because he no longer had the backing of USL but because he did not have Traian Basescu’s support, as the President has opted for other candidates.
Before hearing about Antonescu’s decision, Social PSD Executive Chairman Liviu Dragnea in Alexandria, on Saturday, said that, in his opinion, Antonescu would be ‘a mere passer-by’ after the PNL Congress.
UDMR, as represented by Vice-chairman Laszlo Borbely, believes Antonescu’s withdrawal from the presidential race was the result of “pragmatic calculus,” but also “probably” the result of discussions with PDL.

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