Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Left, right agree to form Romanian coalition government

BUCHAREST (AFP) -- Romania's leftist Social Democrats and right-wing Liberal Democrats agreed to form a new coalition government under Prime Minister Theodor Stolojan, two weeks after general elections.

""We are seeing an historic moment in Romania, where political forces with apparently nothing in common, have decided to join forces at a difficult time,"" Social Democrat leader Mircea Geoana said after signing the coalition deal.

""Our only objective is to form a stable and efficient government that will allow Romania to get through this period of crisis,"" added Liberal Democrat leader Emil Boc.

As the country faces the effects of the global financial crisis, the two sides vowed in their ""Partnership for Romania"" agreement to ""ensure the country's economic stability, protect jobs, gradually increase salaries and guarantee an independent justice system.""

The Liberal Democrats and Social Democrats, who finished neck-and-neck after November 30 general elections, hold 329 seats in parliament out of a total 471.

The signing of the coalition agreement comes three days after President Traian Basescu, a close ally of the Liberal Democrats, named the party's deputy president, economist Theodor Stolojan, as the new prime minister.

An alliance between Liberal Democrats and Social Democrats, who had been bitter rivals since the 1990s, would have been unimaginable only weeks ago and some members in both parties expressed their doubts Sunday about the new coalition.

Former president Ion Iliescu noted that the fate of the government would depend on Basescu's willingness to remain neutral, as is his duty under the constitution.

Both parties have cited the global economic downturn to justify their sudden willingness to work together and overlook past differences.

Under the coalition document, however, each party will have its own candidate in the presidential election in November 2009.

With Basescu planning to seek a second term, the Social Democrats had feared they might have limited chances at the ballot box.

The two parties already governed together in the 1990s, when they made up the National Salvation Front (FSN).

That group had taken power following the anti-communist uprising of December 1989 but split in the spring of 1992.

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