Ponta tightens party grip after Romanian presidential election defeat

By bne IntelliNews November 28, 2014

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The ruling Romanian Social Democrat party (PSD) has expelled three senior members and will reshuffle its cabinet ministers in response to the defeat of leader Victor Ponta in the presidential elections earlier this month.

After more than six hours of debate on November 27, the national political bureau of the PSD decided to expel Mircea Geoana, Marian Vanghelie and Dan Sova, on a proposal by Ponta.

The PSD leadership also announced that the party's National Council and  Congress would be held no sooner than next spring, Adevarul daily reported.  

The government reshuffle will include finance minister Ioana Petrescu, economy minister Constantin Nita, minister of education Remus Pricopie,  minister delegate for scientific research Mihnea Costoiu, and minister delegate for diaspora Bogdan Stanoevici, according to unofficial sources quoted by the daily.

The moves strengthen Ponta's position in the party after his election defeat but fall short of calls by his closest supporter - Sebastian Ghita, a businessman, media group owner, and MP - for more radical steps. He proposed that Ion Iliescu – the founding member of the party and honorary president -  should no longer be “the symbol of the party”. He also argued that all PSD members under investigation for corruption should step down from their positions. This would prevent the PSD from being seen as a party of former communists and corruption, Ghita explained.

The presidential election has also had repurcussions in the PSD's coalition partners. The leaders of the ethnic Hungarian party in Romania, the UDMR, has decided to pull out of the  coalition, the daily Bursa reported. However the regional leaders have to endorse the decision on December 13 to make it effective.

UDMR leader Kelemen Hunor explained that the move was not designed to generate political instability, as the government can operate without support from the party, rather it was a response to ethnic Hungarians who voted overwhelmingly for the opposition candidate in the presidential elections.

Hunor said that no negotiations have so far taken place with the main opposition PNL. Vice president of the PNL, Alina Gorghiu, said that negotiations with the UDMR over the formation of a new parliamentary majority coalition will start only after the Hungarian party's decision is validated by regional representatives on December 13.

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