05BUCHAREST1433 / 2005-06-24 12:59:00
Embassy Bucharest
                C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BUCHAREST 001433 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/NCE WILLILAM SILKWORTH 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/24/2015 
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, KDEM, SOCI, ECON, RO, political assessment, Constitutional Law, biographic information 
SUBJECT: NEW ROMANIAN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS? MAYBE... 
 
REF: BUCHAREST 1378 
 
Classified By: POLITICAL SECTION CHIEF ROBERT GILCHRIST FOR REASONS 1.4 
 B AND D 
 
1.  (C) Summary:  President Traian Basescu continues to push 
for early parliamentary elections, asserting that they would 
allow the center-right government to gain a clear majority. 
The National Liberal-Democratic (PNL-PD) party alliance is 
divided over the issue, with the PNL and Prime Minister Calin 
Popescu-Tariceanu especially chary of new elections.  The two 
junior members of the coalition, the ethnic Hungarian party 
(UDMR) and the Conservative Party (PC), fear new elections 
might eliminate their parties from parliament.  While new 
elections may not occur anytime soon, Basescu may continue to 
invoke their possibility as a strategy to keep the fragile 
center-right coalition in line.  Given that the Romanian 
constitution does not outline a clear formula for the 
dissolution of parliament and new elections, post provides an 
overview of the constitutional obstacles faced by Basescu 
should he desire to go in that direction.  End Summary. 
 
Basescu,s Repeated Call for New Elections 
----------------------------------------- 
2.  (SBU)  President Traian Basescu,s surprise victory in 
the fall 2004 presidential elections was the catalyst 
permitting the PNL and PD to cobble together a fragile 
center-right coalition which included the UDMR and the PC, 
both erstwhile Social Democratic Party (PSD) allies.  Barely 
a week after the PNL-PD-led government took office December 
29, 2004, Basescu sent shock waves through the political 
class when he declared himself in favor of new parliamentary 
elections.  True to form, Basescu did not pull his punches, 
asserting that Romania needed new elections to permit the 
center-right to gain a clear majority in Parliament and carry 
out their reform oriented agenda.  Basescu characterized the 
presence of former PSD ally PC, as &immoral,8 implying that 
the PC was a Trojan horse in the coalition.  Basescu 
continued his campaign in February when he described the four 
party coalition as &too broad8 and &lacking coherence8 
necessary to carry out the PNL-PD,s campaign pledges.  He 
has also remained perpetually irritated that the two top 
positions in the Parliament -- the presidents of each Chamber 
-- remain in the hands of former PSD prime ministers Adrian 
Nastase and Nicolae Vacaroiu.  The parliamentary vote for 
these positions was held in December 2004 before PNL-PD 
sealed its coalition with the UDMR and PC. 
 
3.  (C) The safe return to Romania last month of three 
Romanian journalists kidnapped in Iraq boosted Basescu,s 
approval ratings, with one recent poll result showing that 
the president enjoys a roughly 70 percent approval rating 
(ref).  Sources close to Basescu have told the Embassy that 
the successful conclusion of the hostage crisis has 
emboldened the president and provides him the time and energy 
to focus on domestic issues; he continues to want "snap" 
elections. 
 
PM Tariceanu says &NO8 to Snap Elections. . . 
--------------------------------------------- 
4. (C)  PM Tariceanu and other National Liberal Party (PNL) 
leaders have publicly and privately expressed reservations 
about early parliamentary elections.  Shortly after the May 
29 French referendum on the European constitution, Tariceanu 
publicly stated that early elections could &call into 
question8 Romania's slated EU accession in January 2007, and 
senior EU officials based in Bucharest have confirmed to us 
that the EU looks dimly on snap elections.  PNL 
parliamentarians have privately told Embassy Officers that 
new elections would probably weaken the overall parliamentary 
position of the PNL, while strengthening an emboldened and 
increasingly popular PD riding Basescu,s coattails. There 
remains an assumption that if the PNL and PD ran again on a 
common list, as they did in November 2004, PD would seek to 
renegotiate the terms of the alliance.  This would no doubt 
mean a significantly larger percentage for the PD of seats 
won in Parliament for the alliance.  It would also mean more 
PD representation in the Cabinet. 
 
5. (C) One senior PNL deputy went so far as to &pencil out8 
for PolOff possible configurations of a new parliament, 
finally concluding: &No matter what happens, PNL won,t 
gain, and could lose seats.8  In fact, the constitution 
provides that dissolving parliament and holding new elections 
requires the active support of the PM, a point Basescu 
acknowledged when he publicly stated June 22 that early 
elections can be organized only if PM Tariceanu agrees. 
Basescu also conceded June 13 that &because PNL does not 
want early elections, it is impossible to organize them.8 
 
... Junior Coalition Partners Balk 
----------------------------------- 
6.  (C)  An almost certain loser in new elections would be 
media magnate Dan Voiculescu,s PC, which, based on current 
poll soundings, would be unlikely to obtain the five percent 
of the vote required nationwide to enter parliament.  The 
UDMR, which has traditionally been able to count on a 
disciplined ethnic electorate, would probably cross the five 
percent threshold for parliamentary admission, but fears that 
new elections that would strengthen the PNL-PD would, ipso 
facto, significantly diminish the UDMR,s influence within 
the coalition. 
 
And Opposition Prefers Status Quo 
--------------------------------- 
7.  (C) The two parliamentary opposition parties, the 
center-left PSD and extreme nationalist Greater Romania Party 
(PRM), have been preoccupied by internal squabbles and the 
threat of schism since last fall,s elections.  According to 
recent polls, if new parliamentary elections were held now, 
the PNL-PD alliance would get a comfortable absolute majority 
) at the expense of both the PSD and PRM ) which explains 
why both parties are content with the status quo.  One PSD 
insider recently told us that PSD officials have been meeting 
privately with discontented members of the PNL, PC and UDMR. 
While acknowledging that the imminent split up of the 
center-right coalition is highly unlikely, he underscored 
that many members of the center-right are discomfited at 
Basescu,s repeated calls for new elections.  Although PRM 
leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor has publicly stated he supports 
new elections, some political contacts tell us that PRM 
rank-and-file are concerned about the party's poor showing in 
recent polls. 
 
8.  (SBU) Many parliamentarians across the political spectrum 
are also leery of new elections, given the personal cost 
associated with running a successful campaign and the fact 
that, as one operative told us, &many are tired and broke 
after a year of local, parliamentary and presidential 
elections.8  Additionally, political appointees at all 
levels would risk losing their posts if the cabinet were 
dissolved as a precursor to new elections. 
 
How To Organize New Elections: A Constitutional Primer 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
9. (C) A Bucharest-based political analyst recently observed 
that &the new constitution (as amended in 2003) was designed 
to increase political stability, not diminish it.8  Besides 
the strong resistance of key political players, Basescu 
recognizes that his quest for new elections requires him to 
leap a series of constitutional hurdles.  Political 
operatives across the spectrum have underscored to us, 
however, that if Basescu pushes hard enough for new elections 
and wins over PM Tariceanu he could, in essence, use 
constitutional mechanisms to force new elections. Post 
provides below a brief outline of the constitutional 
provisions and accompanying circumstances that could lead to 
new elections. 
 
10. (SBU) The first step, under the Constitution, to permit 
new elections is the removal of the incumbent PM.  Although 
the Constitution explicitly prevents the President from 
firing the PM (Article 107.2), the PM can voluntarily resign 
(Article 106).  Constitutional scholars and political 
analysts point to the precedent of PM Radu Vasile,s 
resignation under pressure in December 1999 as a prime 
example of how an incumbent PM can be removed at the 
initiative of the president.  The Constitution also envisages 
circumstances in which the PM is unable to fulfill his 
duties, e.g. because of health reasons or because most of his 
cabinet resigns. 
 
11. (SBU) A second scenario that would permit dissolution of 
the government would be a parliamentary motion of censure 
supported by a majority of MPs (Articles 113 and 114).  The 
government is dismissed by law if parliament also refuses to 
accept proposed organic changes in the new government, i.e. 
refuses to grant a new vote of confidence to a structurally 
reformed government (Article 85.3). In any of the above 
situations, the government is &dismissed8 and the process 
of naming a new PM and forming a government begins from 
scratch (Article 110). 
 
12. (SBU) Removal of the PM and consequent dissolution of the 
government does not immediately lead to the dissolution of 
the parliament.  Initially, the president, after 
consultations with the leaders of the parliamentary parties, 
picks a candidate for PM (Articles 85 and 103.1). The new PM 
candidate (who might even be the outgoing PM) has ten days to 
put together a new governing team and to draft a new 
governing program, appear before parliament and request its 
vote of confidence.  If the PM candidate fails to do so 
within the constitutional limit of ten days or the parliament 
refuses to grant its confidence to the new government, the 
whole procedure starts again with the selection of a new PM 
candidate. 
 
13. (SBU) The Constitution provides that if successive PM 
candidates are unable to form a government or the Parliament 
refuses on at least two consecutive occasions to grant its 
confidence to the proposed government over a period that 
could last up to sixty days, then ) and only then - the 
President can dissolve the Parliament (Article 89.1), after 
consultation with the presidents of the two chambers of the 
Parliament and with the leaders of the parliamentary parties. 
 The dissolution of parliament would permit new elections. 
 
14. (C) Comment.  The only almost certain winner in new 
elections would be Basescu,s PD, which has been energized by 
his popularity.  His ultimately successful handling of the 
hostage crisis coupled with his insistence that the 
government should aggressively attack corruption have boosted 
his standing with ordinary Romanians.  At the same time, the 
PD, which holds its national convention June 25, has matured 
as a party in the past few years and can claim several 
prominent and effective national leaders, including Bucharest 
Mayor Adriean Videanu, Cluj Mayor Emil Boc and Interior 
Minister Vasile Blaga.  New elections may not happen soon, 
and the path to getting them is fraught with constitutional 
hurdles, but the savvy Basescu may eventually get what he 
wants.  At the very least, his repeated call for new 
elections is a not-so-subtle reminder to wavering coalition 
partners to stay in line.  End Comment. 
 
15. (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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