05BUCHAREST1245 / 2005-05-26 13:13:00
Embassy Bucharest
                UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BUCHAREST 001245 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/NCE - WILLIAM SILKWORTH 
 
E.O. 12958, AS AMENDED: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, KDEM, SOCI, ECON, RO, political assessment 
SUBJECT: ROMANIAN POLITICAL PARTIES SEARCH FOR AN IDENTITY 
AS THEY PREPARE FOR EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT MEMBERSHIP 
 
REF: BUCHAREST 0716 
 
1. (SBU) Summary.  Two of the six parties in the Romanian 
parliament have explicitly redefined themselves as "popular" 
or "conservative" this year and President Basescu's 
Democratic Party (PD) is considering a similar move.  Their 
motive is to curry favor with the European Popular Party 
(EPP), a heavyweight in the European Parliament (EP). 
Starting in September, Romanian political parties 
represented in parliament will send a total of 35 observers 
to the EP.  How the parties define themselves will determine 
their affiliations within the EP, where, after Romania's 
likely EU accession in 2007, Romania will send full-fledged 
MEPs.  End Summary. 
 
Rightward Trend for President's Party 
------------------------------------- 
2. (SBU) Senior leaders of President Basescu's Democratic 
Party (PD) have confirmed to Embassy officers that the PD is 
on the verge of formally redefining itself from a "social 
democratic" to a mainstream conservative party.  Former 
Minister of Defense Sorin Frunzaverde characterizes the 
expected move as an attempt to allow the PD to affiliate 
itself in the European Parliament with the center-right 
European Popular Party (EPP).  Frunzaverde, who publicly 
acknowledges that during the PD June 25 national convention 
that he will throw his hat into the ring for party 
president, describes the PD as essentially a center-right 
party, with an urban, middle class constituency.  Other 
senior PD officials have told us that a formal break with 
left-of-center social democratic ideology would allow the PD 
to distinguish itself more clearly from its arch-rival -- 
the former ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD), from whose 
predecessor the PD split in spring 1992. 
 
3. (SBU)  PD leaders took the first public steps to break 
the party's formal ties with the center-left when they 
decided May 7 to allow candidates for the party's leadership 
positions to run on platforms that do not espouse social 
democratic values.  Although the Constitution required 
President Basescu to resign his party membership when he 
assumed the presidency (based on the premise that the 
nation's president should abandon partisan politicking), the 
combative Basescu will probably dictate the PD's future 
ideological course - and its key leadership positions. 
 
4. (SBU) One clear indicator of the party's probable future 
direction:  Basescu, party leaders and ordinary rank and 
file members are still smarting at the Party of European 
Socialists (PES) May 19 decision to "postpone" the PD's 
membership bid - and to grant the PSD full membership.   The 
PES acerbically concluded that the PD still needs to define 
its ideological stance.  PES representatives also visited 
Bucharest May 10-11 in an (entirely unsuccessful) attempt to 
reconcile the viscerally opposed PD and PSD.  Acting PD 
president and Basescu confidante Emil Boc drove a stake 
through the heart of Romanian social democratic unity, 
however, when he declared May 11 that the PD "cannot shake 
hands with the PSD, a corrupt, anti-reformist and communist 
party."  Additionally, relations between PD and the 
international socialist movement have been chilly ever since 
the Socialist International openly backed PSD in the 
December 2004 parliamentary and presidential elections. 
Although many PD leaders and members would be relieved to 
finally sever their international social democratic ties, 
old habits die hard and some PD loyalists may still be wed 
to a vaguely left-of-center philosophy.  Indeed, during a 
recent visit to Parliament, PolOffs observed PD deputies and 
staffers wearing lapel pins featuring the party's initials 
atop the socialists' trademark rose. 
 
Opportunist "Humanists" Turn "Conservative" 
------------------------------------------- 
5.  (SBU)  Over the same period, the PD's tiny governing 
coalition partner, the Romanian Humanist Party (initially a 
self-avowed "social-liberal" party and the smallest of the 
six parties represented in parliament) decided May 7 to 
change its name to the Conservative Party (PC) and to take 
steps to affiliate the newly named CP with the EPP.  Media 
magnate, party president, and chief source of party funds 
Dan Voiculescu proposed the move to the party's congress, 
which dutifully followed his "suggestion."  Voiculescu, 
unsurprisingly reelected as party president by the congress, 
declared that "only a right-wing identity" can boost the 
party's sagging poll standings.  He asserted that "striking 
similarities" exist between the humanist and the 
conservative doctrines - citing respect for private 
property, a hesitant attitude toward government meddling in 
the economy, and respect for family values, the Church, the 
armed forces and the nation.  Many analysts view 
Voiculescu's move to redefine his party as the death throes 
of a dying - or at least very ill - political party:  recent 
polls give the PC (vice PUR) less than a two percent 
standing in the polls.  In any event, all independent 
political analysts and most ordinary Romanians recognize the 
PC as exactly what it is - a creation of tycoon Voiculescu 
lacking a meaningful ideological orientation, despite its 
attempts to paint itself as a reformist movement. 
 
EPP's other Romanian Buddies 
---------------------------- 
6. (SBU) The ethnic Hungarian party (UDMR), the fifth 
largest of the six parliamentary parties and a member of the 
center-right coalition, has been affiliated with the EPP 
since October 1999.  The tiny Christian Democrat National 
Peasants' Party (PNTCD), with a modest support base in 
western Romania, is also an EPP member.  The PNTCD decided 
March 5 to change its name to the Christian Democrat Popular 
Party (PPCD), in an attempt to curry favor with the EPP 
following its consecutive failures (in 2000 and 2004) to 
gain enough votes to enter parliament.  Traditionally, the 
PNTCD has been the party in Romania most closely identified 
with the EPP; the PPCD's fragile electoral existence coupled 
with the move of more mainstream parties to the right calls 
into question the continuity of this relationship. 
 
7. (SBU)  Many political analysts deride as sheer 
opportunism the recent attempts of extreme nationalist 
Corneliu Vadim Tudor to reshape his Greater Romania Party 
(PRM) as a mainstream conservative party, redubbed March  12 
as The Greater Romania Popular Party (PPRM). (Ref) The "new" 
PPRM, which has on paper shed Tudor as its leader, also 
approached EPP for support - but EPP rejected the request. 
PNL and PD deputies told PolOffs May 24 that PPRM appears to 
be a party on a steady downhill spiral, as its most hardcore 
backers, including ex-members of the notorious communist-era 
"Securitate" secret police die off and its "new" message 
attracts few, if any, voters.  Nonetheless, the PPRM remains 
a force on the political scene, virtually tied for third 
place in Parliament with PD and having shown itself willing 
to enter into de facto alliances of convenience with the PSD 
in parliament against the PNL-PD-led center-right coalition. 
 
The Big Question: Where to Sit at the European Club? 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
8. (SBU) Comment.  Ideology counts for little on the 
Romanian political scene.  As one senior PD politician 
recently told us, Romanian parties are "pragmatic."  A more 
jaundiced observer would describe them as "wholly 
opportunistic."  In any event, a road-to-Damascus conversion 
to free market principles and limited government a la 
Margaret Thatcher does not underlie the migration by several 
parties toward the right of center mainstream.  Rather, the 
driving force is Romania's road to Brussels following its 
April 25 signature on the EU Accession Treaty, which 
entitles Romania to send 35 "observer" MPs to the European 
Parliament in September of this year.  These observers will 
become full-fledged Members of the European Parliament 
(MEPs) upon Romania's almost certain EU accession on January 
1, 2007.  This means that each party in the Romanian 
parliament needs to decide, literally and figuratively, 
where it will sit in the European Parliament. 
 
9.  (SBU)  Hans-Gert Poettering, an EPP German leader, 
announced May 21 that EPP will hold a special meeting of its 
leadership in Bucharest on June 2-3 to review the 
applications of Romanian parties.  Assuming the PD moves 
definitively to the right, that party looks like the EPP's 
best bet, given that the PNTCD is nationally insignificant, 
the UDMR and PC are relatively minor parties and the PPRM 
remains an extremist masquerading as a moderate.  Of the 
mainstream conservative wannabes, only Basescu's PD brings 
real muscle to the EPP.  End Comment. 
 
10. (U) Amembassy Bucharest's reporting telegrams are 
available on the Bucharest SIPRNET Website: 
www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/bucharest. 
 
DELARE 

            
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