Monday, January 30, 2012

European Socialists call for early elections in Romania [fr]

As protests against Romania's centre-right government and president continued for a second week, the Party of European Socialists called for a transitional government to be given the pivotal task of ensuring free and fair elections.

Protestors braved powerful snowstorms in Bucharest while Romanian President Traian Băsescu appeared on television yesterday (25 January), recognising that a fracture existed between him and some citizens.

Băsescu is the founder of the ruling Democratic Liberal Party (PDL), led at present by Prime Minister Emil Boc.

Băsescu appealed to the "civil society of good quality" which he said had been "hiding in its shell" in recent days. "It has to come back, otherwise its place will be taken up by impostors."

"I am by profession a ship captain, and I have never missed a course. I won't miss the course this time either," he said.

Băsescu, who was re-elected to a second 5-year term in 2009, served as merchant ship captain between 1981 and 1987.

Asked by journalists if he was going to resign, Băsescu replied that he never envisaged stepping down.

Romania's opposition Social-Liberal Union (USL) called Băsescu's televised appearance "hallucinatory" and "totally surrealist". The USL is a coalition of the Social Democratic Party of Victor Ponta and the centre-right alliance made up of the National Liberal Party of Crin Antonescu and the Conservative Party of Daniel Constantin.

Recent polls give show that half of Romanians back the USL while the ruling party's support stands at 18%.

Despite the fierce weather, as many as 1,000 protestors gathered in University Square - an iconic location of the Romania revolution of 1989 - chanting "Down with Băsescu" and "Boc - Instant Resignation".

Boc has made some concessions, including sacking Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi for making insulting remarks about protestors. However, there was speculation that Boc dismissed Baconschi so he could give his seat to Cristian Diaconescu, a member of a junior coalition partner, to strengthen support for his cabinet.

'International concern'

In Brussels, the Party of European Socialists condemned what it called the attempts by the centre-right European Peoples Party (EPP) to smother debate on the deteriorating political situation in Romania.

"The recent protests in Romania have become a cause of international concern about the erosion of democratic standards by the conservative PDL government. With cases of unpunished electoral fraud, media manipulation and anti-democratic reforms, President Traian Băsescu's increasing concentration of power have prompted people to take to the streets and call for early elections," PES said in a statement.

PES President Sergei Stanishev and Romanian Social Democrat leader Victor Ponta commented on the Romanian situation in a joint article and called for early general elections.

In order to achieve this, the socialist leaders demand a transitional technocratic government be given the pivotal task of ensuring the conduct of free and fair elections. “The EU must act decisively, collectively and most importantly - it must act now”, they write.

The EPP group hit back, saying that it need no democracy lessons from PES, and was supporting the "responsible and courageous policy of Prime Minister Boc and President Băsescu".

Stanishev was scheduled to meet Commission President José Manuel Barroso this morning. A debate on the situation in Romania is due in the European Parliament on 31 January.

The President and the Secretary General of the European People’s Party (EPP), Wilfried Martens and Antonio López-Istúriz reaffirmed in a statement "their full support for the efforts undertaken by the Romanian Government and its Prime Minister, Emil Boc, in view of consolidating the significant economic progresses achieved by Romania during this past year".

"We condemn the attempts of our Socialist and Liberal colleagues of using the protest in Romania for their own partisan ends, including by initiating an unfair and untimely motion for a resolution in the European Parliament. This serves only to further hinder a necessary dialogue between Romanian political forces across the political spectrum at a time when Romanian people expect real solutions to their problems. The EPP urges all responsible political forces in Romania to take popular discontent seriously and to seek genuine and constructive cross-partisan dialogue as a way of properly addressing their constituents’ needs. In times like these, political partisanship only leads to a fractured society", Martens and López-Istúriz conclude.

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