Monday, April 13, 2009

Romania president, PM less popular as crisis bites

BUCHAREST, April 13 (Reuters) - Public trust in Romanian President Traian Basescu and his centre-left prime minister has fallen sharply since the start of the year as the deepening economic crisis erodes politicians' popularity across the board.

An opinion poll conducted nationwide by INSOMAR from March 26 to April 5 on 2,430 respondents for private television station Realitatea TV, showed that 53 percent of Romanians consider their country is heading in the wrong direction.

"This opinion explains the rapid fall in trust," INSOMAR said, adding that 80 percent of respondents believe the new EU member is mired in an economic crisis and 55 percent said their families' financial situation had worsened this year.

The survey showed public trust in Basescu, the country's most popular politician, had fallen about 15 percentage points since January to around 43 percent. Trust in Prime Minister Emil Boc fell 22 points to 28 percent.

The only top politician to become more popular was opposition Liberal Party leader Crin Antonescu, who doubled his rating to 31 percent. Antonescu recently announced he would run for president in elections later this year.

As the global crisis engulfs Europe, Romania has swung from being the fastest-growing EU economy to one of its most fragile, its private foreign-currency debt and a growing budget deficit exacerbating big external debts amid sour market sentiment.

Sources of funding have dried up, thousands of workers have been laid off and several leading factories have temporarily halted production in recent months.

The poll showed that 41 percent of respondents approve of the 20 billion euro IMF-led aid package Romania secured late last month.

Eighty percent of Romanians think the four-month-old cabinet should use the funds to create new jobs, raise wages and pensions and aid ailing agriculture.

Romania, whose 22 million people occupy the European Union's eastern frontier, is the third member of the bloc to be bailed out after Hungary and Latvia. (Reporting by Radu Marinas; editing by Tim Pearce)

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