INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Basescu Starts On a Conciliatory Note

Published: Thu 17 Dec 2009 01:54 PM
VZCZCXRO9272
PP RUEHIK
DE RUEHBM #0840 3511354
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 171354Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0168
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC PRIORITY
UNCLAS BUCHAREST 000840
DEPT FOR EUR/CE ASCHEIBE, EEB/IFD
SENSITIVE, SIPDIS
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ECON RO
SUBJECT: BASESCU STARTS ON A CONCILIATORY NOTE
REF. BUCHAREST 834 AND PREVIOUS
Sensitive But Unclassified; not for Internet distribution
1. (SBU) Summary. After the Constitutional Court certified his
victory on December 16, incumbent president Traian Basescu adopted a
new conciliatory tone, pledging improved performance in his second
term and announcing "state modernization" as his main priority.
Basescu declared his commitment to having a government by Christmas
and a CY2010 budget adopted in early January. Basescu once again
nominated acting PM Emil Boc to form a new government. Boc should
have a slim if confirmed parliamentary majority consisting of his
own Democratic Liberal Party (PDL), the Hungarian Ethnic Party
(UDMR) and a group of "independents" who split off from the
opposition Social Democrat (PSD) and National Liberal (PNL) parties.
End summary.
2. (SBU) The results of the December 6 presidential election were
finally settled December 16, when the Constitutional Court solemnly
validated incumbent Traian Basescu's re-election. Basescu took the
opportunity to reinvent himself as a conciliatory politician ready
to leave behind the old, conflict-prone Basescu. He thanked his
supporters for their trust and those who did not vote for him for
"teaching him a lesson." Basescu acknowledged that this second term
brings greater responsibility because he must build on past
experience and learn from his mistakes. Later in the day, he
stressed that this new mandate would be entirely dedicated to
Romanians (and not to narrow party objectives) as he has no plans to
run for office again.
Boc Reloaded
3. (SBU) On December 17 Basescu re-nominated acting PM Emil Boc for
Prime Minister in the new administration. Basescu praised Boc as a
"man of dialogue" and tasked him to assemble a Cabinet and win
parliamentary approval by December 23. Basescu explained the
urgency in terms of the need to comply with IMF requirements. He
suggested that the new cabinet must submit a draft budget to
Parliament before Christmas. The Parliament would then be called
into extraordinary session in early January 2010 to analyze, amend
and vote on the budget by January 17, in order to allow the IMF
Board time to approve release of the remaining two installments of
financial assistance to Romania one month later. Basescu disclosed
that half of the USD 2.3 billion expected from the IMF will go as
normal to the National Bank, the other half to the Ministry of
Finance to cover the state deficit.
PDL Parliamentary Majority
4. (SBU) The major opposition parties PSD and PNL announced they
would not support a cabinet led by Boc. However, PDL has managed to
win the crucial support of the UDMR and has attracted a critical
mass of defectors from the PSD and PNL caucuses. Since the
election, half a dozen PSD and PNL MPs left their parties and joined
a group of Parliamentary "independents" with clear pro-PDL,
pro-Basescu inclinations. With the 18-vote support of the group of
ethnic minorities, this provides PDL a fragile working majority of
241 out of the 470 seats in Parliament.
5. (SBU) There is much speculation over the make-up of a Boc
government, but the PM-designate has yet to name any names. Given
Basescu's timetable, he will likely unveil the ministerial line-up
within days. In exchange for their political support, UDMR can
expect to get a deputy PM slot and two or three ministerial
portfolios, likely regional development, communications or SMEs.
Gabriel Oprea, the most senior PSD defector and leader of the
"independents," will likely receive a senior portfolio such as
Defense or Interior, the latter of which he briefly held in early
2009. PDL "heavyweights" Vasile Blaga and Adriean Videanu will
likely continue in senior posts. If Parliament can convene on
December 21 to hear Boc's program and vet the individual ministers,
it is quite possible that Basescu could get his wish of having a
functioning Cabinet in place before Christmas.
6. (SBU) Comment. With validation of his re-election, Basescu is
genuinely "back in power." He is trying to present himself as
having learned from his mistakes and willing to seek compromise and
reconciliation over conflict. Nonetheless, he will clearly remain a
"hands-on" president exercising tight control over the government,
as shown by his unsurprising renaming of the ever loyal Boc. With
the slim parliamentary majority that PDL has cobbled together, Boc
now appears to have enough support to gain quick approval of his new
cabinet. This comes largely at the expense of PSD and PNL, which
are both rent by internal divisions and still trying to recover from
their recent electoral defeats. The eternal question remains
whether Romania will finally have a government more concerned with
governing than politicking. End comment.
GITENSTEIN
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