Romania’s Ex-Ruling Party Re-elects Leader

Vasile Blaga was re-elected head of the Democratic Liberal Party – but his victory won’t heal the splits that are hindering the former ruling party’s recovery.Vasile Blaga, 56, received around 51 per cent of the votes from delegates at the congress of the Democratic Liberal Party, PDL, which took place on Saturday in the Romanian capital.

In his first speech after being re-elected party leader, Blaga said the PDL had to stay united and boost its ratings ahead of the next elections.

“We have to reform the party and make it the most important right party in Romania. But we shall do this only if we stay united,” Blaga said.

Blaga was tipped to win the leadership race, mainly because he was supported by most of the party bigwigs. His main competitors were Elena Udrea, 40, a former Tourism Minister who was strongly supported by President Traian Basescu, and Monica Macovei, 54, a former Justice Minister and long-time anti-corruption campaigner.

Udrea challenged the results of the election, saying part of the votes were “expressed illegally”. Her complaint was officially rejected on Sunday by a PDL committee.

The most surprising comment on Blaga’s re-election came from President Basescu, himself a former leader of the party.

“It’s time to say good-bye to you, PDL. You have now your own way, but mine is from now on different,” Basescu said, in an unusual intervention posted on his Facebook page.

Basescu, who has said that he aims to continue a political career after finishing his second term as Romania’s President in 2014, added he that would then join a different centre-right party, without naming it.

The PDL won just 18 per cent of the votes in the December 2012 general election, well down on its 33 per cent showing in the elections in 2008. The ruling Social Liberal Union, USL, won around 56 per cent of the votes in the elections.

The party lost most of its support due to its pursuit of unpopular economic measures in its last two years in power, including cuts in public-sector pay and an increase in VAT.

In July 2010, the government cut civil servants’ wages by 25 per cent, thousands of state jobs were axed and VAT was increased by 5 per cent to 24 per cent.

Some analysts say that the PDL steered Romania out of a crisis, and that the measures taken by the party were correct. But few dispute that they have damaged the party’s image.

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