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Romania's Basescu Mulls Ways To Deny Premiership To Hated Rival

A victorious Victor Ponta must still overcome an antagonistic Romanian President
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 12/11/2012, 11:09 PM

Victor Ponta
Victor Ponta
Reuters

Normally an election that results in a blowout victory of 59% versus 17% should produce political certainty, at the very least, but this may not prove the case with Romania.

Although the center-left Social Liberal Union of Prime Minister Viktor Ponta emerged victorious over the center-right grouping tied to Romanian president Traian Basescu, it is not clear that President Basescu will call upon Ponta to form a government.

Basescu had pushed through austerity measures resented by the Romanian populace, including a 25% wage cut for the civil service workers. When Ponta took power, he tried to impeach Basescu, employing questionable legal tactics that aroused criticism in the European Union and the US.

Basescu survived the attempt, but barely, and has it in for the prime minister whom he refers to as an ogre, a pig and other pleasantries.

The question is whether Basescu's hand are tied by the vote and by the express wishes of members of the victorious coalition that Ponta be appointed prime minister or whether he has some wiggle room as long as he appoints somebody from the winning coalition.

Ponta has already warned that the president would face another impeachment vote if he tries to ignore the result of the vote. He is also confident that this time around he will enjoy the backing of the European Union as the outright winner of a democratic vote.

Ponta is also negotiating with a party that represents the country's Hungarian minority. If he succeeds in winning their support, he will secure the necessary two thirds majority for making constitutional changes to short-circuit the Romanian president.

As the phrase goes, when two people fight the third person makes hay. The beneficiary of the Basescu-Ponta feud was media tycoon Dan Diaconescu, who flamboyantly drives around the country in a white Rolls-Royce. His people's party garnered nearly 15% of the vote on the basis of promises to cut the sales tax by more than half and back every would-be entrepreneur with an amount equal to $26,000.

Diaconescu promises to find the capital for such largess by preventing the Romanian political class from stealing the people's money and distributing the savings.