05BUCHAREST1557 / 2005-07-12 14:50:00
Embassy Bucharest
                C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BUCHAREST 001557 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/NCE - WILLIAM SILKWORTH 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/12/2015 
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, KDEM, SOCI, RO, Election 
SUBJECT: EARLY ELECTIONS?  BASESCU CONVENES SENIOR 
POLITICAL LEADERS 
 
REF: A. A) BUCHAREST 1529 
 
     B. B) BUCHAREST 1521 
     C. C) BUCHAREST 1511 
     D. D) BUCHAREST 1433 
 
Classified By: POLITICAL SECTION CHIEF ROBERT GILCHRIST FOR REASONS 1.4 
 B AND D 
 
1. (C) Summary.  President Traian Basescu convened senior 
politicians from both the opposition and governing parties 
late July 12 to discuss options following the July 7 
announced resignation of Prime Minister Calin 
Popescu-Tariceanu and his cabinet.  Although some Embassy 
contacts hold out the possibility that new elections will not 
take place, the majority continues to place odds in favor of 
an early poll.  Tariceanu has announced that his decision to 
resign is "firm and irrevocable."  Although clearly 
unenthusiastic, the EU has sent signals that snap elections 
would not necessarily be incompatible with Romania's hopes to 
accede in 2007.  End Summary. 
 
President Convenes Key Players 
------------------------------ 
2.  (C) President Basescu called a meeting of senior 
political leaders at 1700 on July 12 to fulfill his 
constitutional role as "mediator" between state powers.  This 
follows the July 7 announcement by Prime Minister Calin 
Popescu-Tariceanu and his government that they would resign, 
ostensibly in response to a Constitutional Court decision 
negating several key components of the government's judicial 
reform package (refs a and b).  According to Embassy 
contacts, Basescu convened at the meeting the Prime Minister 
and other key cabinet members, the presidents of both 
chambers of parliament, the leaders of the political party 
parliamentary factions, and representatives from the 
Constitutional Court.  The meeting was expected to continue 
throughout the evening. 
 
3. (C) Basescu's intentions for the meeting remain unclear, 
although Presidential Advisor Bogdan Chiritoiu told PolChief 
that Basescu was merely fulfilling what he saw as his 
constitutional obligation to consult with key powers.  With 
so many big players in one room, Chiritoiu expressed his 
personal opinion that it was unlikely there would be any 
definitive answer on elections.  Nonetheless, he opined, 
elections still appear to be "the likely option."  Chiritoiu 
pointed out -- as many contacts have in recent days -- that 
the key issue is whether the PNL-PD can secure a voting 
majority to force an early vote. 
 
Tariceanu Firm on Resignation, PNL-PD Barges Ahead 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
4. (C) In an attempt to quell press reports that he was 
reconsidering his decision to resign, PM Tariceanu's office 
issued a press release July 11 asserting that his decision to 
quit is "firm and irrevocable."  The actual date of his 
departure from office is uncertain but many GOR contacts 
believe it will occur Monday, July 18 after Tariceanu returns 
from a trip to Brussels to conduct meetings related to 
Romania's EU accession. 
 
5. (C) Meanwhile, leaders of the National Liberal-Democratic 
Party (PNL-PD) center-right Alliance are resolved to move 
ahead with snap elections, several PNL-PD sources told 
PolOffs.  Most insiders concur that a likely date for new 
elections would be mid-October, with Tariceanu publicly 
stating that the elections would take place prior to the 
October 23 release of the EU Country Report on Romania -- 
this would point most squarely toward Sunday, October 16. 
 
6. (C) Over the next several days, the government is resolved 
to pass emergency legislation to reform Romanian electoral 
law.  Proposed changes would include limiting the electoral 
campaign period to two weeks, establishing a mandatory voter 
i.d. card, and increasing the number of locations overseas 
where expatriate Romanians could vote.  The voter identity 
card provision reflects PNL-PD allegations that the former 
ruling center-left Social Democratic Party (PSD) organized 
widespread fraud in which single voters voted in multiple 
locations (so called "electoral tourism") in last fall's 
parliamentary and presidential elections.  The PNL-PD also 
favors expanding opportunities for overseas voters since a 
sizeable majority of expatriate Romanians tends to favor the 
center-right. Another possible change under discussion would 
be to reduce the parliamentary access percentage from five to 
four or three percent, making it easier for smaller parties 
to enter parliament. 
 
Who Wants New Elections and Why 
-------------------------------- 
7. (C) Influential PNL deputy Cristian Boureanu told PolOff 
July 12 that until last week many within the PNL's leadership 
opposed or had major reservations about new elections, 
fearing in part that PNL's overall "weight" within the 
Alliance would diminish compared with the PD.  However, PNL's 
leaders held a lengthy debate early July 7, in which they 
agreed to join PD leaders (who had already agreed to back new 
elections) in supporting new elections.  According to other 
opposition sources, PNL and PD leaders have grown 
increasingly frustrated in the past several months by PSD 
attempts to block PNL-PD initiatives.  As Boureanu observed, 
without new elections that would provide the Alliance a clear 
parliamentary majority "we won't be able to do what we 
promised" during the campaign "even though we will try to 
move ahead with reforms, especially economic reforms." 
 
8. (C) Boreanu confirmed that the PNL and PD have agreed to 
divide deputies equally between the two parties within a new 
parliament, observing that PD "has the leader (Basescu) and 
we don't have the national leader" who can attract votes.  He 
also noted that PNL-PD are entering this period of political 
uncertainty with "much confidence" -- "we have 65 percent 
approval ratings but only 35 percent of parliament." 
 
9. (C)  Numerous contacts have commented to post that the PSD 
remains "disorganized and divided by internal dissent." 
According to media sources, PSD leader Mircea Geoana favors 
new elections as an opportunity to weed out PSD deputies who 
remain loyal to former President Ion Iliescu and the party's 
"old guard."  However, UK Ambassador told Charge that Chamber 
of Deputy president and former PM Adrian Nastase told him the 
PSD would very much to avoid elections.  (Note: Nastase 
stands to lose much with early elections, including his key 
position within the parliamentary leadership.  End Note.) 
 
What about the Hungarians? 
--------------------------- 
10. (C) The ethnic Hungarian party (UDMR) leadership, 
meanwhile, is debating whether to urge the PNL-PD to move 
ahead with plans to adopt emergency legislation to lower the 
threshold for entrance into Parliament. Privately, UDMR 
leaders are worried that the party may not be able to garner 
five percent in elections, especially if the campaign lasts 
only two weeks, vice one month as in past elections.  UDMR 
Senator Peter Eckstein-Kovacs told EmbOff that the UDMR does 
not like the idea of new elections but must "go along with 
the tide" since the opinions of small parties like the UDMR 
and Conservative Party (PC) "no longer matter." 
 
11.  (C) Comment.  Following an initial flurry of excitement 
after the government's announced resignation on July 7, the 
political parties and many in the media are now wondering 
what comes next. Basescu's recently expressed reservations 
about the desirability of new elections have cast some doubts 
(ref D).  However, he is on record repeatedly and strongly 
calling for an early poll.  As one senior journalist told 
Poloff, "elections are likely, but nothing is certain in 
Romanian politics." 
 
12.  Comment Continued: The UK Ambassador signaled to Charge 
that while the EU is "not thrilled" with the prospect of new 
elections, it will "not stand in the way."  Meanwhile, local 
press reported that head of the EU Commission Enlargement 
Department Fabrizio Barbaso told Tariceanu July 11 that the 
EU "does not interfere in internal politics of member 
countries," stressing that Romania's EU accession in 2007 is 
"still possible."  End Comment. 
 
13.  (U) Amembassy Bucharest,s reporting telegrams are 
available on the Bucharest SIPRNET Website: 
www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/bucharest 
TAPLIN 

            
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