05BUCHAREST199 / 2005-01-21 15:41:00
Embassy Bucharest
                C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BUCHAREST 000199 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/21/2015 
1. (C) Summary.  The formerly ruling center-left Social 
Democratic Party (PSD) is roiled by internal divisions and 
faces a leadership struggle, with former President Ion 
Iliescu and ex-PM Adrian Nastase the principle contenders to 
lead the party.  The PSD recently reestablished its 
"Permanent Delegation," most of whose members are 
long-standing Iliescu allies.  After four years in power, the 
PSD faces an identity crisis as it attempts to redefine 
itself as an opposition party.  End Summary. 
Jockeying for Position in Former Ruling Party 
2.  (C) The PSD first tried to take stock of itself after it 
suffered surprising losses in major urban centers in June 
municipal elections.  Arguably, the attempt to reinvent 
itself as a more vigorous, younger, less arrogant and less 
corrupt party failed.  The voters' verdict in parliamentary 
elections in November gave a slight majority of Senate and 
chamber seats to non-PSD parties, and with Bucharest mayor 
Basescu soundly defeating ex-PM Nastase in the race for the 
Presidency.  The knives have been out ever since and the 
number of explanations for the PSD's loss of power are 
numerous.  According to PSD insiders, the party will likely 
hold a congress in April to elect the party's leaders and 
restore a semblance of unity.  PSD members paint a picture of 
a party divided into several factions, with the principal 
contenders for the party's leadership being former President 
Ion Iliescu and ex-PM (and losing 2004 presidential 
candidate) Adrian Nastase. 
3.  (C) Iliescu has publicly declared that he offers the 
party "experience and credibility."  Rather less believably 
he also claimed to represent "new thinking," since his 
presidency over the past four years supposedly kept him above 
the party fray.  Iliescu's supporters include many 
influential, long-standing PSD local politicians - referred 
to derisively by ordinary Romanians and the independent media 
as the PSD's "barons."  A senior PSD politician told PolOff, 
however, that many rank and file PSD members are furious at 
Iliescu for his decision just before the expiration of his 
mandate to pardon notorious miners' leader Miron Cozma (Ref). 
 Another commonly heard criticism of Iliescu, both within and 
without the PSD, is that he represents the "old face" of PSD, 
attracting mainly older and rural voters and not appealing to 
younger, urban citizens.  Iliescu recently publicly called 
efforts to reform the party "crude" and "primitive," while 
offering no obvious alternate vision. 
4.  (C) The loose faction clustering around Chamber of 
Deputies President and ex-PM Nastase probably has less 
influence within the party than the pro-Iliescu group; some 
PSD members opine that his loss to Basescu in the 
presidential contest disqualifies him from leading the party. 
 Many Embassy interlocutors have also noted that Nastase 
lacks the personal appeal that Iliescu has with voters in the 
rural portion of the country -- one contact asserted that 
Iliescu has an image as "Romania's collective grandpa," while 
Nastase's alleged possession of multiple homes and luxury 
cars, together with habitually prickly reactions to 
criticisms, contributed to his image as "aloof and corrupt." 
Although Nastase has attempted to keep his hat in the 
political ring by launching a steady stream of criticism 
against President Traian Basescu and PM Calin 
Popescu-Tariceanu, recent press reports have mocked Nastase 
for reportedly maintaining a staff of 46 "assistants," noting 
that such a large contingent is more suitable for a PM than 
the President of the Chamber of Deputies.  Incoming PM 
Tariceanu also complained that Nastase and his staff prior to 
their departure had basically cleaned out much of the prime 
ministerial palace of furniture and equipment, even removing 
telephones and canceling service in many offices. 
PSD Reform Movement? 
5.  (C) Meanwhile, a January 10 gathering of fourteen party 
leaders from Transylvania, coordinated by ex-Interior 
Minister Ioan Rus, called for internal reforms and 
democratization of decision-making processes within the PSD. 
Party activists have told us that many PSD leaders, 
especially those from Transylvania, are dissatisfied with the 
choice of either Iliescu or Nastase to lead the party and 
would welcome a "reform" leader.  Names bruited include Rus, 
former FM Mircea Geoana, and ex-Justice Minister Cristian 
Diaconescu.  One PSD insider described Rus, despite his 
popularity among PSD members in Transylvania, as lacking the 
political will to mount a leadership struggle against Iliescu 
and Nastase. 
6.  (C) Although both Diaconescu and Geoana are personally 
popular within the party, especially among younger members, 
neither man has the backing of a powerful local machine.  Nor 
do they have noticeable support from those in the party with 
access to resources or influence outside of Bucharest. 
Additionally, the party's senior leaders will insist on an 
open ballot leadership vote at the April party congress, in 
lieu of a secret ballot, and few rank and file members will 
dare to publicly challenge the barons' "recommendations." 
Finally, PSD sources tell us that Iliescu and Nastase are 
discussing a possible compromise under which Iliescu would be 
elected PSD "Founder and President" and Nastase would be 
elected PSD "President."  Leadership questions aside, local 
PSD activists are impatient with the PSD's "top-down" 
management style.  One bone of contention among the rank and 
file was the party's "primaries" last year, derided as a sham 
process in which senior leaders selected the PSD's 
parliamentary candidates, despite public proclamations that 
the process would be transparent and democratic.  This 
dissatisfaction could spill over into the party congress. 
Return of the Barons (They Never Really Left) 
7. (C)  According to reliable reports, PSD's senior leaders 
have decided to reestablish the party's so-called "Permanent 
Delegation," essentially a steering committee of the party's 
most senior leaders.  In an attempt to whitewash the party's 
image following the PSD's surprisingly poor results in June 
2004 local elections, party elders replaced the Permanent 
Delegation with a "Coordinating Bureau" that excluded some of 
the PSD's most notorious local leaders (although they 
continued to play key behind the scene roles).  The new 
Permanent Bureau comprises 23 prominent PSD members.  Most 
are long-standing Iliescu allies (read: barons) and many cut 
their political teeth during the communist era.  The 
Permanent Delegation's members include reputedly corrupt 
figures, such as former Transport Minister Miron Mitrea and 
former Tourism Minister Dan Matei Agathon.  Other key Iliescu 
allies among the 17 member Bureau include respected former 
Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu and former Trade and 
Economy Minister Dan Ioan Popescu.  The minority of 
non-Iliescu supporters includes ex-FM Geoana, ex-Interior 
Minister Rus, and ex-FM Mihai Tanasescu.  Most analysts 
conclude that the re-establishment of the Permanent 
Delegation and its majority make up of Iliescu hands amounts 
to a tactical victory for Iliescu in his ongoing struggle 
with Nastase for control of the party. 
8.  (C) Comment.  The former ruling PSD faces an identity 
crisis as it comes to grips with the unpleasant reality that 
after four years of governing it must now decide who will 
lead it in opposition.  Many rank and file PSD members have 
expressed hope that the party would reinvent itself as a more 
modern social democratic movement.  However, the persistence 
at the core of the party of local barons and former senior 
communist officials, including in the reestablished permanent 
delegation, gives little hope for real reform in the short 
term.  One Basescu advisor told PolChief that the PSD is 
banking on eventual failure by the Basescu and Tariceanu-run 
government and in a few years hopes to return to power, as in 
2000, as the voters' "only option."  The advisor said Basescu 
is "absolutely committed" to preventing this scenario.  Over 
time, the PSD has attracted modernizers or technocrats such 
as Geoana, Rus, and Diaconescu.  However, despite popular 
support, thus far such members have failed to capture control 
of critical levers of power within the party.  Therefore, 
true reform will likely be delayed. End Comment. 
9.  (U) Amembassy Bucharest,s reporting telegrams are 
available on the Bucharest SIPRNET Website: 

CRJI by crji.org is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License if not otherwise stated. Based on a work at crji.org. This web application is Free Software (AGPLv3+), the source code is available on GitHub and waiting for contributions.