Rivals Battle Over Romania’s Ex-Ruling Party

The struggle over who should lead the former ruling Democratic Liberal Party is unlikely to restore its standing with the electorate.With around one month to go before crucial internal elections on March 23, the Democratic Liberal Party, PDL, Romania’s biggest opposition party, remains divided by disputes and between its main leaders.

The current party leader, Vasile Blaga, 56, on Monday said he intended to continue reforming the party, and would not enter into coalitions with any of the ruling parties, as some PDL members have accused him of wanting to.

“I reject all accusations about alleged plans to be a future partner of a party from the ruling coalition. Such rumours are only spread by colleagues in direct competition with me,” Blaga said on Monday.

His statement came soon after the former Tourism Minister, Elena Udrea, announced her own intention to enter the race to lead the PDL.

Instead of presenting her own platform for reforming the party, Udrea focused on attacking Blaga’s record.

Udrea, 40, has attracted media attention throughout her political career. She once posed for a fashion magazine in an issue dedicated to powerful women after catching the public eye with an expensive outfit during a TV show and a press conference.

Her taste for high fashion has been both criticized and lauded, and she has publicly stated a belief that politics can be “done in high heels”.

In an unusual intervention, President Traian Basescu, a former leader of the party, on Sunday expressed his support for Udrea’s candidacy.

“She learned politics from me,” he mused.

“She can acquire the profile of party leader … but she has to leave the expensive purses she had when she entered politics and get cheaper ones. And she must give up on her high heels now and then,” Basescu added.

Analysts say the current disputes inside the PDL are not helping the party regain public support.

“The PDL needs reform, and the current disputes are just harming its credibility. Basescu’s intervention in support of Udrea is not a good idea either, as both of them have a controversial image,” journalist Dan Turturica says.

Unpopular measures taken in 2010, when the PDL was in power, included a 25-per-cent cut in public sector pay and a 5-percent increase in VAT.

The PDL won just 18 per cent of votes in the December 9 parliamentary elections, well down on the 33 per cent that it won in the elections in 2008.

The ruling Social Liberal Union, USL, got around 56 per cent in the elections.

Many economists say the PDL steered Romania out of the worst of the crisis and the measures taken by the party were broadly correct.

At the same time, they damaged the party’s following and were ultimately responsible for the lower number of votes it received in recent elections.

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