Romanian ruling coalition wrangles over presidential contender

Romanian ruling coalition wrangles over presidential contender


By Daniel Stroe – Bucharest

The social-democrats and the liberals, the main parties of the three party ruling coalition in Bucharest (USL), started trading barbs over the candidate the three parties are supposed to support for the presidential bid late 2014, even though the coalition agreement already has the answer to this question, showing new rifts among the ruling partners.

USL had already agreed on supporting Crin Antonescu, the liberals’ leader and speaker of Senate, for the 2014 presidential elections. But the latter’s unexpected opposition to the Rosia Montana gold mining project has raised brows among the social-democrats, the largest party of the coalition led by PM Victor Ponta, who started voicing doubts over Antonescu’s candidacy next year.

Antonescu also put Ponta in a hot spot over his opposition to the mining project since the coalition had agreed late August to support it. But amid wide street protests, Antonescu backed down and said the government should heed the voice of the street which caught Ponta unawares.

Asked last night during a TV debate whether USL still supports Antonescu for the 2014 elections, Ponta said “until the day before yesterday I would have told you without any emotion that it was Crin Antonescu, but I have realized he is no longer interested in being USL’s candidate. Maybe he has changed his mind”.

The prime-minister admitted that Antonescu’s recent public statements have angered many in PSD, Ponta’s party, and hinted the social-democrats may choose his own candidate. “We decided to support Crin Antonescu, but if he no longer wants so, we cannot do it forcibly” Ponta underlined as quoted by B1 TV, adding Antonescu started talking “a la Traian Basescu”, the current president and USL’s political rival.

Ponta’s remarks infuriated Antonescu. “If I find myself in the position of being some sort of object, a puppet at the mercy of PSD, then I will not run anymore (…) If you want to support me, fine, if not, as I said it before, politely, traditionally, thank you for your collaboration and good bye” he reacted.

With PSD leading by a wide margin in the polls and the liberals trailing behind, it is likely the social-democrats will propose their own candidate in 2014, taking advantage of this wave of popularity. Ponta reaffirmed last night he is not interested in running for the first job in the country, partly because USL is now seeking to amend the Constitution and pass more presidential prerogatives to the head of government. But judging by the post-communist political tradition in Romania, ruling coalition never last the full four years electoral cycle, which supports even more the scenario of a social-democrat candidate in 2014 to have a full social-democrat