Thursday, May 24, 2007

Early elections for Romania? Not so fast...

NOTE: The story below is from a personal blog and not from a media outfit. Although we do not publish stories from other blogs, this is an exception as it is an insightful analysis of the Romanian political situation.

Frank's RamPage blog by Frank Sellin.

Post-referendum Romania is abuzz with the possibility of holding early elections or adopting a new coalition government. Getting to either outcome, however, would require a spectacular change in the Party of Social Democracy (PSD, led by Mircea Geoana).

The Democratic Party (PD, Traian Băsescu's support base, though the president is forbidden party membership under the constitution) is riding high with polling support of about 52 percent and would benefit heavily from early elections. PD doesn't have nearly enough MPs in both houses (51 MPs in the lower house of 337 total, and 22 senators in the upper house of 137) to pull that off by themselves.

So, unlike 2004 campaign promises not to negotiate with PSD, PD is doing just that -- albeit with firm conditions, given the antipathy of a lot of the PD electorate to PSD. PD president Emil Boc has said that for a new governing coalition to work, PSD has to reform itself. Translation: Geoana, Ion Iliescu, and Viorel Hrebenciuc better walk the plank or at least out the door, so that PD can collaborate with the "Cluj group" around Ioan Rus. Otherwise, no deal.

Since we know that PSD's current president, its spiritual founder, and one of its leading operatives (who is also party group leader in the lower house) will not go quietly despite an embarrassing referendum defeat and vehement fingerpointing inside PSD, the question then becomes how to pull off early elections. Theoretically, PSD could agree to vote no confidence in the Tăriceanu government in return for sharing in a governmental coalition with PD after the elections. A no confidence vote also depends on getting at least 13 more votes out of other parties or unaffiliated MPs.

But once again, Geoana, Iliescu, and Hrebenciuc don't have much visible interest in doing so. Not only are they the prime targets of calls for taking responsibility for the failure of the referendum, they would effectively assume more responsibility for halving the party's strength relative to 2004, if current poll numbers hold up. Such an electoral showing would endanger Geoana's position heavily after the fact, and the prospect of it would be powerful motive for a relatively proportional number of PSD's parliamentarians to push him out, thereby pre-empting threats to so many faceless non-entities warming vulnerable seats.

So if Geoana, Iliescu, and Hrebenciuc aren't likely to shuffle off stage to permit a new government to form, or risk suicide through early elections, PSD would have to split in order to make a new government or early elections work. And splitting PSD's parliamentary cohort may well render either scenario moot.

The only way out of this that I can see requires PD to relax its insistence on the exit of the three amigos, and possibly some internal fighting in PSD that dumps Geoana but preserves one or both of Iliescu and Hrebenciuc to make the deal more palatable.

Otherwise, if either PD or PSD balks, the Tăriceanu government stands good chances of survival in the short run, despite the apparent loss of support of nearly all its erstwhile friends.

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