The joint extraordinary Congress of the Popular Movement Party (PMP) and National Union for the Progress of Romania (UNPR) unanimously approved on Wednesday the merger protocol of the two parties giving birth to a party that has 2,518 local councillors, 51 county council members, 138 deputy mayors and the third-largest parliamentary group within the Lower Chamber.
The merger, which sees PMP absorbing UNPR, comes as a solution for both parties following the June 5 local elections, both of them seeking to have a better “starting line” in the autumn’s parliamentary elections.
Prior to that, the PMP Party Congress validated, in the presence of 2,000 delegates, the merger with and absorption of UNPR, and voted in favour of modifying the party’s statute in the sense of hiking the number of central leadership members. The party’s central leadership will grow by one executive president office and two first vice president offices.
Afterwards, over 400 UNPR delegates joined the PMP delegates for the joint validation of the merger.
The new PMP is born
In the local elections, the party led by Traian Basescu (PMP) won 18 city halls (0.56 percent), 1,315 local councillors (3.26 percent) and 41 county council seats. Where it did not run on joint lists with PSD, the “national interest party” (UNPR), whose leadership was recently taken over by Valeriu Steriu, won 26 city halls (0.81 percent), 1,203 local councillors (2.99 percent) and 14 county council seats (0.97 percent).
Following the PMP-UNPR merger, the new PMP, whose leadership consists of President Traian Basescu and Executive Presidents Eugen Tomac and Valeriu Steriu, will have 2,518 local councillors, 51 county council members, “this being the first condition for it to obtain party subsidies,” as well as 138 deputy mayors, according to a statement made by Traian Basescu. Likewise, thanks to UNPR, PMP will become the third-largest political force within the Lower Chamber until the parliamentary elections. Nevertheless, UNPR’s group within the Senate has been “decimated,” after most of its members defected to PSD, while leaders such as Serban Mihailescu and Gabriel Oprea chose to remain independent senators.
UNPR’s decision to merge with PMP comes against the backdrop in which UNPR had negotiated a merger with PNL too, right after the local elections, and in which it already had a partnership with PSD, a party with which it ran on joint lists in the local elections everywhere except in certain localities in which the PSD and UNPR branches decided to run on separate party tickets.
UNPR’s “haemorrhage” started with the negotiations that the “party of national interest” had with PNL, when several MPs defected to PSD, and continued after the decision to merge with PMP too, well-known personalities having announced that they will leave UNPR. Actor Mihai Malaimare left the party founded by Gabriel Oprea following the merger announcement, stating that he “was an idiot” since UNPR is only “a random party.”
Likewise, actors Alexandru Arsinel and Cezara Dafinescu announced their resignations from UNPR. Cezara Dafinescu stated that Traian Basescu does not represent her, while Arsinel said that he no longer considered himself party member the moment Gabriel Oprea left the party’s leadership.
UNPR Senator Ilie Nastase stated in his turn too that he will resign from the party, and told his colleagues that they should not rely on him for the merger with PMP, being of the opinion that “they are befriending the devil.”
UNPR has lost not only lawmakers but also a significant part of its Youth organisation. UNPR Youth leader Cezar Stancu announced at a joint press conference held with his Social Democrat counterpart Gabriel Petrea that “UNPR’s youth is deciding to join PSD and the Social Democrat Youth,” pointing out that he found out about the merger while watching television.
The merger was also criticised by former UNPR President Gabriel Oprea, the leader on which the party was centred during its six years of existence and whom Basescu had labelled “the head of Adrian Nastase’s personal mafia.” Basescu later reconsidered his view and promoted Oprea but later described the latter as being “Ponta’s lackey.”
Oprea, who recently resign from the office of party president, being probed in two cases and accused of plagiarism, stated that he feels sorry for UNPR, which is disappearing as an independent party, and that he would have liked to see UNPR continuing on its own instead of becoming “the dowry of a happenstance merger.”
UNPR was established in 2010 as “a political centre-left construct that has the national interest at its heart,” two years after several PSD, PC and PNL lawmakers left their parties and formed an independent group.
The May 2010 party conference resulted in a party leadership that consisted of President Marian Sarbu, Honorary President Cristian Diaconescu and Executive President Gabriel Oprea (whose friendship with Elena Udrea was well known).
UNPR joined PD-L and UDMR in the Emil Boc Government, Gabriel Oprea being appointed Defence Minister and Cristian Diaconescu Foreign Minister.
After the Boc Government resigned in February 2012, UNPR ensured the parliamentary majority and joined the government led by Mihai Razvan Ungureanu.
After the Ungureanu Government was toppled, Marian Sarbu resigned and the party’s presidency was taken over by Gabriel Oprea.
Oprea’s party parted ways with PD-L after that, turning back toward PSD, the party whose members most of UNPR’s leaders had been at one point, forming along with it the Centre-Left Alliance (ACS). UNPR later joined USL.
The PSD-UNPR Alliance prompted Cristian Diaconescu’s resignation. Diaconescu was appointed Traian Basescu’s presidential aide in 2012 and later joined PMP.
In December 2012 there were talks of a merger with PSD, however the overtures fell through.
Running on USL’s list in December 2012, UNPR won 10 seats in the Lower Chamber and 5 seats in the Senate, UNPR MPs joining the groups of PSD MPs since the limited number of seats would not have allowed them to form their own parliamentary groups.
UNPR was also part of the Ponta Government, Gabriel Oprea being appointed Deputy Mayor. In June 2015, UNPR absorbed the People’s Party – Dan Diaconescu (PP-DD). UNPR left the government in November 2015, after Premier Victor Ponta resigned against the backdrop of the Colectiv nightclub fire tragedy.
During the same period, Gabriel Oprea became the target of several protests following the death of police officer Bogdan Gigina. The latter died on duty while being part of the Deputy Premier’s motorcade.
In March 2016, Gabriel Oprea announced his resignation from the office of UNPR President, because he was the target of two criminal probes. He appointed Valeriu Steriu as his successor, the latter being elected UNPR President. In July, Oprea left the party and announced he will remain an independent Senator but would no longer run for a new tenure.
“Oprea will carry out the orders, just as he did when he was member of other alliances,” Traian Basescu summed-up his experience with Gabriel Oprea.
Starting on Thursday, the entire party that Oprea founded will carry out Basescu’s orders, a Mediafax analysis concludes.
Valeriu Steriu: PMP has showed us respect and this is the main reason we are joining forces
“The Popular Movement Party has showed us respect and this was the main reason why we are joining forces,” UNPR President Valeriu Steriu stated on Wednesday at UNPR’s extraordinary party congress.
He pointed out that the party’s National Executive Committee validated the merger with PMP last week.
“The reason why this was done is that neither PSD nor PNL showed us the respect UNPR deserves. I cannot, with a clear conscience, accept a political option in which you, UNPR’s strength, would not be shown the respect you deserve. I cannot, with a clear conscience, accept the option of merging with PSD, which says we will do the merger on their terms and they will choose whom to keep and whom to kick out of the party. I cannot, with a clear conscience, accept the lack of seriousness of PNL, which says one thing and does something else one hour later. UNPR caters to no one and is at no one’s behest, it’s a party that has the strength and manliness to sit on its own feet. We are not expecting charity from no one and we are not asking anyone for favours, we are only asking for respect. PMP has offered us this respect and this was the main reason we are joining forces,” Valeriu Steriu pointed out.
He added that PMP and UNPR add up to 15-20 percent, are parties with dignified and courageous members and their merger is taking place on a 1:1 basis that will see the equal sharing of the burden and will result in almost 100 parliamentary seats in the autumn.
“PMP could back Ciolos for another term in office if ideas converge”
UNPR President Valeriu Steriu stated on Wednesday that PMP could endorse Dacian Ciolos at the helm of the government that will be formed after the parliamentary elections, provided “the ideas converge,” stating that they will decide after the elections whether they will join the government.
“If the ideas converge, those that will stem from the government platform we will write this summer, and if they would be able to coalesce in the same line of thought, this option has very high chances. But, first of all, the purpose of this merger is to build a party that would win 20-30 percent in the next four years, initially to enter Parliament with 15 percent. From that moment on we will see whether we plan to enter the government. For the time being, building this party takes priority,” UNPR President Valeriu Steriu said when asked whether he backs Dacian Ciolos for the future government.
Valeriu Steriu also stated that the future government needs political backing, pointing out that “it will definitely be a political government.”
A few hours later, however, Steriu has reconsidered his statement in terms of the party’s support for the prime minister office and said the PMP president, Traian Basescu, is the party’s proposal for this office after the general elections in the fall. He added that first of all is needed the preparation of a governing programme.
Traian Basescu: I have the best Premier’s profile
PMP President Traian Basescu stated on Wednesday that he allegedly has the best Premier’s profile when asked whether he agrees with Valeriu Steriu’s statement that they could back Ciolos for a new term in office.
“PMP’s objective is 15-20 percent in the parliamentary elections. I can agree with anything, but I have the best Premier’s profile,” Traian Basescu stated smilingly after the party conference in which his party absorbed UNPR.
Likewise, referring to the fact that several of UNPR’s youth organisations have decided not to join PMP, Traian Basescu said that “a merger is something the sides consent to. Those who want to ahead with it do so; those who don’t, do not.”
The PMP President also pointed out that the leadership of territorial branches will be allocated depending on the local elections results.
“The territorial branches are merging strictly on the basis of election results. Thus, where UNPR’s county branch scored better, it takes over the party branch’s presidency; where PMP won, PMP takes over the presidency,” the PMP leader added.
The ex-president of Romania explained to the delegates present that the new party’s priorities have to do with a new healthcare law that PMP filed in Parliament as early as 2015.
“In the winter of 2012 this law brought people out onto the streets in Bucharest. And in 2012 the modernising of the healthcare system was already late, but since there is obstinate refusal the healthcare system’s depreciation will continue,” Basescu said.
The education sector has to be another objective, namely reverting to the initial form of the education law drafted by the commission led by Mircea Miclea.
Likewise, the new PMP wants logging banned for any purposes other than the production of furniture and firewood for the population.
Traian Basescu added that the defence budget should be 2.2 percent of GDP next year, emphasising that there are modernisation projects but they lack financing.
Traian Basescu also stated that in rural areas there are still blank spots where both PMP and UNPR lack local branches, stating that the territory is generally covered.
The PMP-UNPR merger will form a third political force, apart from PSD and PNL, something that will lead to the consolidation of Parliament’s democratic capacity, PMP President Traian Basescu stated on Wednesday.
Basescu: The third political force appears today
“Following the decision we took today, a third political force is emerging, which has consistent territorial presence and the outlook of obtaining a very good score in the general elections. This will mean the consolidation of the Romanian Parliament’s democratic capacity, because the decisions will not be played between Modrogan and Kiseleff, they will have to go through Nicolae Iorga too,” Basescu stated after the vote that saw UNPR merging with PMP.
According to the PMP President, a series of “pragmatic results” have been obtained following the merger.
“PMP won 1,320 local council seats, UNPR 1,200, which means jointly we surpass 2,500. PMP won 18 city halls, UNPR won 26, so jointly we have 44. PMP won 37 county council seats, UNPR won 14. Jointly we have 51 county council seats. And, finally, County Council Deputy Chairmen. PMP has 6 and jointly with UNPR we will have 8,” he explained.
Basescu also presented the local elections results that the two parties registered in Bucharest.
“In Bucharest, where the situation is distinct, PMP has 13 district councillors, UNPR has 22. So jointly we have 35. (…) And, finally, within the General Council, PMP has 4 seats, UNPR has 2, so it becomes very interesting for the 6 general council members to discuss Tudy’s replacement,” the PMP President stated.
In his turn, UNPR President Valeriu Steriu stated that the merger with PMP brings about “a modern political pole” that will lead to the creation of a strong party capable of winning hundreds of thousands of votes in the parliamentary elections, votes that will be reflected in measures for the betterment of Romanians’ lives.
Steriu labelled the political agreement he reached with Basescu as “a very intelligent start.”