Monday, October 5, 2009

Romania president to run for second term

BUCHAREST (AFP) - Romania's President Traian Basescu announced Saturday he would run for a second five-year term in the November 22 election, only days after the collapse of the ruling coalition.

"Yes, I will run for president," Basescu said during a meeting with villagers at Sannicolau Mare, 450 kilometres (280 miles) west of Bucharest.

"The best way for a president to check if he has done a good job is to ask voters for a second term in office," he added.

Basescu, 57, had said several times in recent months his decision on whether to run again depended on the performance of the economy.

The former Communist bloc country is expected to post an 8.5-percent contraction of the economy in 2009, after 10 years of solid growth.

The announcement came only days after the Social Democrats (PSD) resigned from the government to protest the sacking of the interior minister by their Democrat Liberal (PDL) allies.

During a meeting with investors, Basescu also called on the minority government led by PDL Prime Minister Emil Boc to carry on the reforms started under a bail-out agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

"The prime minister will go before parliament, when the time is ripe, in order to ask for a confidence vote on a new government," he said.

A former sea captain, Basescu was transport minister in the 1990s before being elected mayor of Bucharest in 2000.

In December 2004 he won the presidential election after beating Social Democrat prime minister Adrian Nastase.

According to opinion polls, Basescu would get 32 to 34 percent of votes.

Analysts say his main opponent in the November ballot will be Social Democrat leader Mircea Geoana who officially entered the race on Friday.

Geoana said Saturday Romania would stand by its commitments to reform the economy in spite of the government crisis and the "weakness" of its current administration.

"What we need to do is to reassure our international partners especially the European Commission, not only the IMF or the World Bank, even if this government is very weak, we'll stay on track," he said.

"Everybody knows that this government will be replaced in December. If Basescu wins he'll replace them, if I win, I'll replace them," he said speaking to members of the foreign press.

He said he would see to it that Romania had a new government "in Bucharest before Christmas".

Even though his party was now in the opposition it would also continue to back the March agreement with the IMF and the European Union under which the country's pension system must be reformed.

Geoana accused Basescu of causing the government crisis to improve his chances for a second term and said he would ask for non-governmental organisations, European observers and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe to monitor the November election.

He said everybody was to blame for a sharp drop in voter turnout in an EU-wide election in June when a massive 72 percent of voters abstained.

"If we look at the decline of participation, it's dramatic. We are all to blame for this," he said.

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