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Ruling Romanian Party in Turmoil

After four years in power, Romania's main ruling party seems more concerned with internal divisions than fulfilling electoral pledges of economic prosperity.
By Marian Chiriac

The main party in Romania's ruling coalition is in turmoil after long simmering divisions boiled over last week with the resignation of ten senior members.

The resignations January 28 from the Christian Democratic National Farmers' Party (PNTCD) came after members met to overcome divisions and image problems in advance of parliamentary elections in November.

The ten rebels, allied to a faction loyal to former prime minister Radu Vasile, who was expelled from the party a month ago, intend to set up a group called the People's Party, with Vasile as leader.

The resignations could have grave consequences for the PNCTD and the ruling coalition, as they no longer have a parliamentary majority.

Political turmoil has long racked the party - twice contributing to the dismissal of prime ministers - Victor Ciorbea in 1998 and Vasile last December.

It was very different four years ago when the party swept to power as part of a liberal coalition, filling Romanians with hope of economic prosperity.

But political instability, delays in economic reforms, corruption and lack of effective government have disappointed many and undermined support for the party.

The meeting last weekend sought to breathe new life into the PNTCD by replacing the old-guard leadership with more youthful faces.

There was also a pledge to support President Emil Constantinescu's second term in office as the only way of securing full membership in the European Union.

In response, Constantinescu called on the PNTCD to rid their party of corruption and dedicate themselves entirely to resolving the country's daunting problems. "Do not seek your own good, but rather the good of the country," he urged.

Constantinescu admitted that the PNTCD had been faced with serious difficulties for the past three years. But he said "the building of a new Romanian home" matching European standards had begun. Blueprints have been drawn, pillars cast, walls built, said the president.

Though Constantinescu has never been a member of the PNTCD - except for a brief spell in 1996 when he had to join them in order to become their nominee in elections that year - he might seek to take over the party leadership if defeated in the forthcoming elections.

The PNTCD is determined to run for parliament under the same banner of the Democratic Convention (CDR) bloc, an alliance essentially consisting of themselves and the National Liberal Party (PNL), which won the 1996 poll.

The PNTCD will insist that the CDR post common slates for the local elections due sometime in the first half of this year. The PNTCD and the ruling coalition seem likely to survive until then.

Yet the PNL, its ruling partner, is planning to go it alone in the poll. Good results then might encourage them to part ways with the PNTCD in national elections.

Marian Chiriac is news editor of the MediaFax News Agency in Bucharest and editor of Foreign Policy, a quarterly published by the Romanian Academic Society.

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