05BUCHAREST371 / 2005-02-10 15:22:00
Embassy Bucharest
                C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BUCHAREST 000371 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/10/2015 
1.  (C)  Summary.  Delegates to the congress of Romania's 
center-right National Liberal Party (PNL), the largest party 
in the governing alliance, strongly endorsed Prime Minister 
Tariceanu's bid for PNL President.  Delegates also turned 
down for the time being a proposed merger with the Democratic 
Party (PD). Contrasting sharply with PNL party unity 
displayed during the congress, PD has gone through a period 
of internal discord following President Train Basescu's 
constitutionally required departure from the party upon 
becoming president.  End Summary. 
Liberals confirm Tariceanu and his team... 
2.  (C) The PNL,s February 4-5 party congress in Bucharest 
gathered more than 1500 PNL activists from across Romania. 
Delegates resoundingly endorsed PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu as 
PNL President with a vote of 1,110 &yea8 to 161 &nay.8 
The vote underscores the fact that Tariceanu, who ran 
unopposed for the party presidency has consolidated his 
leadership position within the PNL following former PNL 
leader and presidential candidate Teodor Stolojan's 
resignation in 2004.  With Tariceanu's stamp of approval, the 
PNL congress also endorsed a slate of five vice-chairmen, 
eight Central Permanent Bureau members and three 
&alternate8 bureau members.  The vice chairmen include 
leading PNL figures such as Culture Minister Mona Musca, 
Agriculture Minister Gheorghe Flutur and Senate Vice 
President Teodor Melescanu.  One of the three &alternate8 
Central Permanent Bureau members is Foreign Minister Mihai 
Razvan Ungureanu, initially touted by the media and analysts 
as a political independent, but later revealed to have 
&discreetly8 been a PNL member. 
... But fail to endorse merger with Democratic Party 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
3.  (C) Delegates overwhelmingly rejected outspoken party 
member and former PNL President Valeriu Stoica,s call for a 
PNL merger with its smaller governing ally, the Democratic 
Party (PD).  Although a PNL-PD merger was touted by several 
PNL and PD activists prior to national elections this fall, 
plans to further consolidate the PNL-PD governing alliance 
are on hold for now.  PNL leaders assert publicly, and tell 
Embassy officers privately, that they ultimately favor a 
merger with the PD ) but just not right now.  Both PNL and 
PD are focused instead on consolidating the newly elected 
PNL-PD alliance government.  According to PD interim 
President Emil Boc, "We have different priorities now.  The 
PNL-PD Alliance...should focus on observing the governing 
program, signing the EU accession treaty set for April and on 
keeping the pledges made during the electoral campaign." 
Indeed, during the party congress Tariceanu suggested that 
the PNL would be in favor of a merger at some later date if 
the PD agrees, although one PNL deputy emphasized to PolOff 
that any merger with the PD would have to "take into account 
PNL,s larger membership." 
4. (C) PD leaders, on the other hand, are more skeptical of a 
merger, especially given the PNL's relatively strong 
bargaining position based on its size.  One PD insider 
recently told PolOff that although  "top level" PD leaders 
agree with the merger concept, PD local representatives will 
likely squawk loudly at any merger plans, seeking to preserve 
their political turf at PNL's expense.  Political observers 
also note that &cultural8 considerations may also come into 
play: the PNL tends to attract rather more polished, urban 
businesspersons and intellectuals, while the rough-hewn 
Basescu sets a more populist tone for the PD. 
5.  (C) There have also been debates both between and within 
PNL and PD on the character of a unified movement and over 
which bloc the new party would align itself with in the EU 
Parliament.  Some vocal PNL members have staunchly defended 
PNL's "liberal tradition stretching back 130 years" and have 
compared abandoning the party's ideals to apostasy.  Others 
have advocated merging with PD and Romania's now small 
Peasants-Christian Democratic Party (PNTCD) into a large, 
center-right populist movement aligned with the European 
People's Party in the EU Parliament.  In contrast, in a 
conversation with PolChief, one PD leader envisioned the two 
parties remaining separate, with PNL remaining on the 
center-right and PD eventually eclipsing the opposition 
Social Democratic Party (PD) as the primary party of the 
center-left.  Nearly all agree, however, that barring 
near-term elections, a decision over a merger can be delayed 
for now.  One PNL-oriented think tank in Bucharest released a 
report rejecting the idea of merger this year, as the new 
government should focus on "keeping its campaign promises." 
Virtual EU Members? 
6.  (C) Former European Parliament Romania Rapporteur, 
outspoken British Baroness and Liberal EU Parliament Member 
Emma Nicholson, delivered one of several opening speeches at 
the PNL congress, declaring that, despite its 2007 accession 
goal, Romania is &virtually8 a member of the EU already. 
Alluding to President Basescu,s references to a 
&Bucharest-London-Washington8 axis, she asserted that 
Romania should consider itself as part of an axis that 
includes Brussels as well as Bucharest, London, and 
Washington.  Nicholson also encouraged PNL to align with the 
Alliance for Liberals and Democrats bloc in the EU 
Parliament.  The delegates politely applauded Nicholson, who 
is widely known in Romania for her strident criticism of 
international adoptions.  During her trip, Nicholson also met 
with Basescu, Tariceanu, and others in the new government. 
PNL insider Christian David, now a cabinet member, noted to 
PolChief that Nicholson remains close with many at the top of 
the PNL and has promised to advocate for the new government 
in Brussels. 
PNL Praise for Stolojan, Commitment to Alliance 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
7.  (C)  PNL Congress delegates broke into a lengthy and 
spontaneous ovation for outgoing PNL President Theodor 
Stolojan when Humanist Party (PUR) founder and leader Dan 
Voiculescu effusively praised his effective stewardship of 
the PNL.  Within the PNL, Stolojan is credited with 
successfully uniting the hitherto fractious party.  Other 
keynote speakers included PD Deputy Prime Minister Adriean 
Videanu and ethnic Hungarian Party (UDMR) Senator Peter 
Eckstein-Kovacs, the outspoken leader of UDMR,s "liberal 
faction" oriented towards reform and free market economics. 
Videanu, Eckstein-Kovacs, and Voiculescu all delivered the 
same implicit message: that the PNL-PD-UDMR-PUR governing 
alliance remains united.  Voiculescu,s (PUR) presence at the 
podium also tacitly reinforced the message that his party 
intends to remain a member of the governing alliance, despite 
earlier reports that its loyalty might be wavering. 
8.  (C) PNL insiders confide to us that despite the PNL 
congress' public display of unity, unresolved tensions  still 
exist.  Stoica, who leads the movement for prompt merger with 
PD and has criticized the party's leadership, remains a 
public voice of dissent.  Another potential catalyst for PNL 
discord comes from Rompetrol owner Dinu Patriciu, a vocal 
critic of the alliance with PD.  Stoica and Patriciu joined 
forces in September 2004 to lobby for "more effective" party 
leadership. In addition, anticipating a Nastase win in the 
December 12 second round of presidential elections, Patriciu 
was rumored to have entered discussions with senior leaders 
of the PSD to discuss a potential PSD-PNL coalition or other 
alliance.  The rumored talks reportedly soured relations 
between Basescu and Patriciu, which were already strained. 
The PNL congress, however, was a time for burying divisions 
within the party.  And despite the sometimes divisive views 
of Stoica, Patriciu, and others, all unified in supporting 
Tariceanu's candidacy as party president. 
Democratic Party Discord 
9. (C) Contrasting sharply with PNL party unity, the PD over 
the same period entered a phase of internal discord played 
out publicly in the press.  The conflict lay fundamentally in 
a vacuum at the top of the party left by Basescu's departure 
for the Romanian presidency.  Under the constitution, the 
president is forbidden from being a member of any political 
party.  Cluj mayor, and former PD parliamentary leader, Emil 
Boc remains acting chairman and is held in very high esteem 
by Basescu and most within the PD, although his verbose and 
occasionally abrasive style antagonizes some within the 
party.  Moreover, his physical distance from the capital and 
the day-to-day dealings in the parliament have, in the words 
of one junior PD member, left the PD "without a rudder" in 
10. (C) PD deputy -- and former Social Democratic Party (PSD) 
insider -- Cozmin Gusa has been among the most strident in 
seeking a top leadership position in the party.  Gusa was a 
senior member of the campaign team and played a key role in 
naming a large number of young and inexperienced PD activists 
to the party list to enter parliament.  However, since the 
elections he has found himself out of favor with Basescu and 
with more senior members of the PD.  Expecting nomination as 
PNL-PD candidate to replace Basescu as mayor of Bucharest, he 
found himself with no formal leadership position in the 
government or the party.  Gusa confided to PolChief that 
"Basescu stopped returning calls."  According to the press, 
this fallout may surround Gusa's potential links with Moscow 
and the KGB.  While still a PSD member, Gusa traveled to 
Moscow in 1992 to propose a protocol between Moscow and the 
PSD.  The media has also alleged that he had a special 
relationship with former Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) 
Chief (1990-1997), Virgil Magureanu.  Well aware of these 
allegations, Gusa approached us in recent days in an attempt 
to discount these suspicions.  In Gusa's telling of the tale, 
his supposed Russian "contacts" were embellished by ex-PM 
Nastase in an attempt to diminish Gusa's attractiveness 
within the Social Democratic Party (PSD.) 
11. (C) At the same time, Gusa's perceived opportunism and 
outspokenness earned him few allies among more established 
members of the alliance.  Many PNL-PD members blame him for 
the election of former PSD Prime Minister Adrian Nastase as 
president of the Chamber.  While the vote for that position 
was being carried out, Gusa instructed PNL-PD deputies to 
leave the Chamber in the belief that the vote was being 
rigged in favor of Nastase.  A number of PNL-PD deputies now 
believe that Nastase would have been defeated had they 
remained and voted against him. 
12. (C) Sensing his proverbial fall from grace and attempting 
to flex his muscle in the party, Gusa made a bid for the PD 
leadership.  A group of seventeen of his junior supporters, 
including several MPs, signed a document in early February 
purportedly backing Gusa for the PD presidency.  The bid 
resulted in a public backlash from more senior PD members, 
including Minister of State Adriean Videanu and former 
Industry Minister Radu Berceaunu, who accused Gusa of working 
outside of normal party procedures. Gusa's core of young 
supporters retorted that Gusa represented young Romanians and 
would lead the party "in the tradition of Basescu."  The 
public disagreement led Basescu to intercede by stating 
publicly that "gangs have no place in the PD," a clear 
reference to Gusa and his cohorts. 
13. (C) Gusa took the disagreement further.  He denounced 
Basescu in a February 7 interview with leading Bucharest 
daily "Ziua" for &interfering8 in the party,s activities 
and claimed that Basescu is being blackmailed for alleged 
collaboration with the communist-era secret police )- 
allegations Basescu hotly denies. Boc accused Gusa of 
political &immaturity,8 claiming that he is seeking 
&publicity at any price.8  Gusa and two of his prominent 
supporters responded by resigning February 8 from the PD 
Standing Bureau. PD is expected to vote within the next few 
days to expel them. 
14. (C) One young PD member confided to post that the 
conflict within PD over Gusa has left many in the party, 
particularly young members, even more confused about PD's 
direction.  Gusa is also expected to remain in the Parliament 
as an independent, a position from which many are concerned 
he will continue to launch potentially damaging allegations 
at Basescu and Tariceanu.  In addition, the expulsion of Gusa 
and the two other MPs will reduce by three the coalition's 
already narrow majority in parliament. 
15.  (C) Comment.  Prior to PNL-PD's electoral victory in 
December, a standard accusation against the parties of the 
center-right was that they would lapse into infighting if 
elected to government.  Indeed, this was the fatal flaw of 
the 1996-2000 center-right government - a point the PSD 
successfully stressed during its "comeback" presidential and 
parliamentary election victories in the 2000 elections and 
also highlighted during the 2004 elections.  Thus far, PNL 
and PD have not fallen into that trap, and the alliance 
between them remains strong.  However, some political 
observers have pointed out that the two parties' 
vulnerability may not be fighting between them, but from 
within - each is comprised of a number of strong 
personalities and party discipline remains weak when compared 
with that of the opposition PSD.  Deferment on a decision to 
merge removes one potential disruption for the alliance, at 
least for now.  In addition, the distribution of new 
positions in government and parliament has kept many top and 
mid-level members content and relatively quiet.  With time, 
however, cracks within the alliance may become apparent -- 
some PNL-PD insiders have expressed concern that Gusa's fall 
from grace was merely the first.  End Comment. 
16.  (U) Amembassy Bucharest,s reporting telegrams are 
available on the Bucharest SIPRNET Website: 
www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/bucharest . 

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