The inevitable has occurred. Antonescu: “USL no longer exists”

The Social Liberal Union, USL, broke following yesterday’s decision of the Liberal wing of withdrawing from the governing alliance. The Permanent Delegation of the National Liberal Party, PNL, met Tuesday evening when adopted a resolution to support the Liberal ministers’ withdrawal from the Romanian Government given the crisis which has sparked inside the union and lead to bitter disputes amongst its leaders.

Crin Antonescu, President of PNL and head of the Senate made the announcement during a press conference held once the party’s leadership meeting ended, saying that their decision was not easy at all: “It is a decision made after an overwhelming vote, but it is a decision not easily made. It is a decision which I did not want, a decision which we tried to avoid (...)”.

He further explained that this outcome was pushed by PSD and Victor Ponta, implicitly, who breached the union’s political agreement: “By Prime Minister Victor Ponta’s repeated and flagrant infringement which reached an unacceptable level in terms of some aspects of the political agreement concerning the governmental structure, the National Liberal Party decided to end a crisis artificially prolonged by two weeks by the PM, Mr. Victor Ponta (...), to withdraw its ministers from the Cabinet, along with the resignation of all PNL’s officials and I mean all secretaries of state, all heads of agencies, positions related to secretaries of state and therefore, political”.

At height yesterday, the political crisis emerged about two weeks ago subsequent to PNL’s proposals for a Government reshuffle that has not been agreed by PSD, namely Victor Ponta. Then, the Liberals announced changes in four of the ministries they manage: the Ministry of Finance (following Daniel Chitoiu’s resignation), the Ministry of Economy, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Radu Stroe stepped down after the scandal on the plane crash in the Apuseni Mountains), and the Ministry of Health. The issue causing this struggle was with the nomination of Klaus Iohannis as Minister of Internal Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister which has not been accepted by Ponta who aimed at appointing him at the Ministry of Finance, though an official refuse statement has not been made.

A catalyst of this internal crisis was the formation of the USD, the Social Democrat Union established by PSD, UNPR and PC, criticized by Liberals for whom that move was an intimidation message meant to determine them to accept the conditions imposed for the changes within the Cabinet, as their representatives declared.

Given the circumstances, PNL will go into opposition, asking Ponta’s resignation – “Victor Ponta received the mandate and then was invested as Prime Minister while being the head of a USL government, of which we were part, following the vote of Romanian citizens, an overwhelming vote, a major one, a political alliance in which we were included, a political programme to which we also contribute. From this point of view, the natural reaction subsequently to the withdrawal of liberal ministers, namely almost half of the Government, the natural reaction of Mr. Ponta, politically speaking (...) should be, in our view, his resignation”, Antonescu said at the press conference.

In his turn, PM Victor Ponta said that he would consider stepping down from his position, only provided President Traian Basescu resigned himself which is obviously an utopian condition. As for the Parliamentary majority, with the new-established alliance, they assured more than half of the MPs votes, USD accounting for some 55 percent of them.

The USD will, therefore, appoint its delegates for the vacant positions within the Government, the expected deadline for submitting the Parliament the nominees is March 4, 2014. A day before, PSD convened the party’s National Executive Committee in order to assess the current political situation and decide on what needs to be done in this respect, as Ponta stated.

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