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PD-L – PNL, The way to reconciliation

Arthur SUCIU

All the recent opinion polls reveal the electorate’s desire to see an alliance of the Liberal Democrats (PD-L) and National Liberals (PNL) coming to power after the November 30 election. But is reconciliation between the two parties even possible? We notice that what the relations between PNL and PD-L or between Băsescu and Tăriceanu lack at this stage is a mediator, for the right to regain its unity and peace.

All the recent opinion polls reveal the electorate’s desire to see an alliance of PD-L and PNL coming to power after the November 30 election. Nonetheless, political analysts doubt that the Liberals and Liberal-Democrats may find common grounds. Could the two political parties govern together again, after their fallout in the first years of the D.A. Alliance rule?
The conflict between President Băsescu and Premier Tăriceanu trig­gered political disunion: the splintering of PNL and migration of a Liberal group to Traian Băsescu’s former party, the move to impeach the President, the Democrats’ leaving the Government and their motion to censure the Tări­ceanu Cabinet. Each side did its best to deepen the conflict, and none did any­thing to end it. So as far as the recon­ciliation of PNL and PD-L goes, there is a clash between the electorate’s posi­tive attitude and each of the two par­ties’ negative attitudes. The problem is not with their relations with the voters and a solution ought not to be sought there, but rather with the relation between the two parties and, more importantly, between their leaders.
Although the D.A. Alliance set up ahead of the 2004 election was made up of a right-wing party (PNL) and a left-wing one (PD), its ideology and govern­ment programme clearly indi­ca­ted both parties’ right-wing orientation. Indeed, PD had long ceased being a left-wing party, it had only been in power together with the right, and it officially shifted to the right later on. This autumn’s election will thus con­firm PD-L as a right-wing party for the first time, which will remove suspicions of a Liberal – Social-Democratic hotch­potch. Today more than in 2004, we see some ideological coherence or at least harmony between PNL and PD-L, which is quite important given that the fu­ture government will have to apply economic and social policies with whi­ch the ruling parties will have to fully agree.
The shift in the PD doctrine, initially viewed as a proof of political oppor­tu­nism, has its precedents, as I said, in the past political activity of this party, and has far-reaching consequences in the Romanian political arena. Basically, with PD shifting from left to right, the entire political spectrum has changed its orientation, so that, for the first time since the 1989 Revolution, the right has become prevalent. How­e­ver, it is not yet dominant, because its parties, PD-L and PNL, are fiercely com­peting with each other. The failure of their reconciliation is therefore a missed opportunity to inaugurate the domination of the right, which is badly needed after the long-lasting domination of the left.
Prior to 2004, indeed until the attem­pt to impeach President Bă­sescu, PNL was the chief right-wing par­ty. Meanwhile, things have chan­ged, as PD-L, held by Băsescu under his iron grip, has significantly outrun PNL in polls. Whatever the results of the November 30 election, PD-L will very likely get a better score than PNL. An alliance of the two should take this variable into account, plus another equally important one: the PD-L man, i.e. Traian Băsescu, will nominate the Prime Minister. Therefore, in a future PD-L – PNL government, PD-L should be the lead actor, and implicitly the main right-wing political party in Ro­mania. Will PNL accept these terms?
Judging by the current state of affairs, the PD-L offer seems unac­cep­table for PNL. The Liberal-Democrats nominated the ex-PNL president (Bă­sescu’s friend and Tăriceanu’s oppo­nent) Theodor Stolojan as would-be Pre­mier. Current PNL leaders, i.e. most members of the national leading struc­ture, are against Stolojan. Since a fresh nomination of Tăriceanu is out of the question, one prerequisite for reconciliation would be the nomination of a neutral third party, most desirably a Liberal close to Băsescu (the much-publicised case of Mihai Răzvan Ungu­reanu), or an independent (incumbent Cen­tral Bank governor Mugur Isă­rescu).
The rise to power of a PNL - PD-L alliance also involves a risk, resulting from the common past of the two parties, namely when PNL kicked PD out of the Government. But this risk may be reduced by the massive presen­ce of PSD in Parliament. In case of a new conflict with PD-L, PNL would have a permanent blackmailing instru­ment: it may always choose to leave the Government and immediately set up an alliance with PSD.
But the key stumbling block is the very bad relation between Băsescu and Tăriceanu. The two most impor­tant individuals in the equation of this alliance seem beyond conciliation. Still, the two will have different statuses after the parliamentary elec­tion. Tăriceanu will have completed his term in office as Premier, and will nego­tiate as president of PNL. Traian Bă­ses­cu will still be President, but in theory he will be bound to negotiate and ac­cept not only the demands of PNL, but of PD-L as well. The PD-L – PNL allian­ce will not be decided on by Băsescu and Tăriceanu, but by Tăriceanu and Boc. The key role will be played by the Liberals’ desire to stay in power, and, perhaps even more so, by the Liberal-Democrats’ desire to return in power. Traian Băsescu will come under heavy pressure from his own party, which will ask him to accept a major compromise for the benefit of the party. This com­pro­mise consists in accepting Tă­riceanu as a partner for dialogue and PNL as a ruling partner (which Băsescu said would never happen, but he meant Tăriceanu as a Premier, and not as a president of PNL). Traian Băsescu might regard the appointment of a Liberal like Ungureanu to lead the government as the first step towards a change in the attitude of PNL leaders.
If Traian Băsescu is to accept such a compromise, the Liberals should give something in exchange. As part of a ruling coalition with PD-L, PNL would have to back Traian Băsescu for a fresh presidential mandate. Is the recon­ciliation of PNL leaders with the Head of State even possible? This question may be the most difficult to answer. We notice that what the relations between PNL and PD-L or between Băsescu and Tăriceanu lack at this stage is a mediator. It takes a third for the right to regain its unity and peace. And this task might be undertaken by politicians in the two parties who understand that their leaders must overcome their personal hostility, so as to make sure that the right is prevalent not only among voters and in Parlia­ment, but also in the Government, and that the votes of a majority of Roma­nians are reflected in government policies. A PNL – PD-L alliance for a right-wing government requires a lot of political wisdom, so that bitterness and egotism may be overcome, and a lot of respect for the electorate, which, almost 20 years after the Revolution, has a right-wing majority.

By Arthur SUCIU
Publicat în : English  de la numărul 60


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