Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Referendum defeat shocks Romania’s ruling Liberals


Romania’s ruling Liberal Party said yesterday that it might go into opposition, triggering early elections, because of the overwhelming support for President Traian Basescu in an impeachment referendum on Saturday.

Exit polls showed that even Liberal supporters voted against impeaching Basescu, who has long been at loggerheads with Liberal Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu. “We are taking into consideration that we might go into the opposition,” Liberal vice-president Ludovic Orban told a news conference before starting a crisis meeting of party leaders.

Going into opposition would imply Tariceanu’s resignation and possible early elections. But other Liberal (PNL) figures signalled the party, which rules as a minority government, would try to cling to power.

Tariceanu said on Saturday that he was ready to co-operate with Basescu.
The European Commission urged Romanian politicians to bury the hatchet and forge ahead with much-delayed reforms, which have become hostage to months of bickering between the two men.

Their conflict came to a head last month when the Liberals and their Social Democrat (PSD) allies suspended Basescu and called the referendum, accusing the president of exceeding his authority and using secret services to spy on politicians.

No evidence of that has emerged, and many Romanians saw the charges as a smear campaign against the charismatic ex-sea captain and former mayor of Bucharest.
Surveys show young urban voters as well as poor country people see him a champion of the struggle against corruption whose plans to modernise Romania are being blocked by often corrupt political and business elites.

Some 74% voted against his impeachment, official results showed, meaning Basescu will be able to move back into his presidential palace in Bucharest later this week.

Basescu called on the political parties which opposed him to back his agenda of more judicial reform and electoral law changes which would make deputies more accountable to their constituencies.

Analysts say Tariceanu and the PSD, which have formed a loose coalition in parliament, will have to accept some of Basescu’s plans while trying to avert early polls.
“Even if the PNL are in a critical situation right now, they will not pull out from the government because this will trigger early elections,” said Mircea Kivu, former head of the IMAS polling institute.

“Early elections are not recommended after such a heavy blow,” he told Reuters.
The next elections are due in late 2008 and some analysts say Romania may remain politically deadlocked until then.

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