Weekly review: a country in search of a government

Weekly review: a country in search of a government


By Daniel Stroe – Bucharest

Romania has left the impression it has been an ungoverned country over the past two weeks ever since a crisis erupted in the ruling social-liberal coalition (USL), with the entire resources of the two sparring side’s politicians being put into a patience game which has only proved again Romania is led by an overall irresponsible political class.

Against a backdrop of incessant negotiations between USL’s two main parties – the social-democrats (PSD) and the liberals (PNL), on Monday President Traian Basescu warned PM Victor Ponta, PSD leader, he may file a criminal complaint for corruption and abuse of office, exposing another side of the Romanian politics: a resurging political conflict between the two arch-rivals, sharpened by the forthcoming presidential elections this fall which will see Romania voting for a band new president. Basescu’s second term ends early December, marking an end to a 10 year period which has left a visible mark on the country’s post-communist history.

Basescu alleges Ponta has broken the law by erasing state debts for a large oil company, approving a land swap for a local social-democrat leader and passing several state companies under his direct control which the president says it is unprecedented.

Romania was dealt another image blow on Monday when the lawmakers refused to allow anti-corruption prosecutors to arrest a social-democrat MP suspected of corruption, along his father.  Vlad Cosma and his father, Mircea Cosma, are accused they asked for bribes amounting to 4.4 million lei (about 1 million Euros) from local companies in the county administered by his father. Also arrested, Mircea Cosma was soon released on medical grounds. They promised in return they would use their influence to grant the companies state contracts, such as public roads maintenance, but most of these contracts had been over-evaluated so that the final sums also covered commissions the two pretended.

On Monday, an ultimatum given by the liberals to the social-democrats passed without any effects. PNL had warned PSD to accept the German ethnic mayor of Sibiu, Klaus Johannis, as a deputy-PM, which Ponta refuses.  As the liberals refuse to back down, the two parties have been embroiled over the past two weeks in the same negotiation marathon on this proposal whose refusal Ponta has not been able to properly explain other than clinging to some bureaucratic procedures. It turns out Ponta shrinks from appointing Johannis by his side for fear the latter may eclipse his image in a crucial electoral year. This may again confirm Ponta is looking into running for presidential elections this fall, though, in theory, USL’s candidate is Crin Antonescu, the liberal leader.

Ponta has already confirmed to his party members on Thursday night he is already considering proposing a candidate from within the party “with the highest ranking in the polls”. Since at this point Ponta has the highest approval rate in the country, followed by Johannis, it goes without saying the PM is seriously contemplating running for president so his party control both the presidency and the government.

The liberals warned again they would withdraw from the ruling coalition unless Johannis is appointed deputy-PM and gave Ponta the last ultimatum till Monday. But the liberals are reportedly preparing to leave the coalition. A liberal senator, Teodor Atanasiu, has on Friday warned PNL may file a no-confidence vote if the coalition breaks up. “It is like believe in marriage while showing up accompanied by the mistress” he said, referring to PSD’s decision to form another coalition with two smaller parties to ensure a slim majority in the Parliament even if the negotiations with the liberals were not over yet.

The past week was best described by President Basescu in a talk show. “Two immature politicians are playing governing when we have an open conflict on our borders” Basescu said referring to Ponta and Antonescu and the crisis in Ukraine. “It is very easy for analysts to include Romania in an area of instability because Ponta and Antonescu cannot easily find a solution by giving up their prides” he added. “Appoint Johannis as deputy-PM once and for all and end this crisis” he concluded. This is why analysts urge USL to find a solution, with many saying the break up seems to be now in the best interest of the country, unless another crisis can come up if the narrow majority new coalition cannot govern properly.

Outside the political mire Romania is submerged into these days, good news came this past week when a Romanian corporation, Petrom, registered the largest profit ever in the country’s history – 1.1 billion Euros.