By Daniel Stroe – Bucharest
The Romanian PM Victor Ponta has today warned his ruling coalition partner, Crin Antonescu, leader of the National Liberal Party (PNL), not to take his party into the opposition because he will lose the support of the coalition for this fall’s presidential elections.
Ponta’s warning came as his party, the Social-Democratic Party (PSD), is at odds with the liberals over a nomination for a deputy-PM seat, which brought the ruling coalition on the verge of collapse. Klaus Johannis, the German ethnic of Sibiu, a city in central Romania, was proposed by the liberals for the position of minister of Interior, vacated after the resignation of the previous holder. But the liberals are also claiming a deputy-PM job which they had until a week ago, but which they lost after its occupant, former Finance minister Daniel Chitoiu was removed.
Ponta argues appointing Johannis in the deputy position involves changing the structure of the government since the job, by the current organizational chart, belongs to the Finance minister not the Interior minister. The liberals, led by Antonescu, do not want to give up the position.
The debate was set ablaze after Ponta’s social-democrats set up a new alliance with two small parliamentary parties, alluding they are seeking a new ruling coalition if the liberals withdraw. Ponta proposed the two parties also get a deputy-PM job along the liberals which the latter refused since they argue PNL is a big historic party, with large representation in the Parliament, and should not be placed on the same level with the other two lesser parties.
As neither sides showed any sign of ceding territory, Antonescu warned Ponta to make a decision by Monday or else he will withdraw the party from the ruling coalition. Ponta shrinks from accepting Johannis’ nomination for fear the German ethnic politician, the second most popular in Romania, according to the polls, may overshadow his performance at the helm of the government.
Today, meeting a group of party delegates, Ponta said the new alliance forged by PSD with the two small parties will nominate its own candidate for the presidential elections if Antonescu withdraws from power. So far, the agreement between PSD and PNL says the coalition’s candidate is Antonescu, even if some among the social-democrats seem reluctant to accept the liberal leader.
“We will have our won candidate who will be the person with the highest ranking in the polls” Ponta told his fellow party members. He is said to also have told them that Antonescu has already decided to run for the presidential elections from the opposition ranks. So far, the best placed in the polls is the prime-minister himself who seemed to have admitted he is interested in running for presidency, as his party wants. With the current poll rates, PSD may give both the president and the prime-minister after November’s elections.