Romanian president weighs options for PM after vote

Mon Dec 10, 2012 9:06am EST
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By Luiza Ilie and Ioana Patran

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romanian President Traian Basescu was left little choice on Monday but to reappoint rival Victor Ponta as prime minister after the leftist's party won an election resoundingly.

Ponta's Social Liberal Union (USL) won up to 60 percent of votes in Sunday's parliamentary election, results showed. The electoral system could give it an even bigger share of seats in the Balkan country's parliament, putting Ponta in a strong position in a power struggle with the right-wing Basescu.

Basescu had said he would not ask Ponta to be prime minister again after the USL failed to impeach him in July and while he has since softened his tone, he could try to split the USL by naming someone else from the alliance of leftists and liberals.

Any uncertainty over a new government would delay talks over a new deal with the International Monetary Fund to replace a 5 billion euro ($6.5 billion) agreement expiring in early 2013. The leu currency and Bucharest stocks were a touch lower and bond yields rose slightly, but dealers said they may rally if a new government is in place quickly.

"The USL, which holds a clear majority in parliament after yesterday's vote, has a clear proposal...that Victor Ponta should be prime minister," co-leader Crin Antonescu told reporters. "There is no possible other combination."

Basescu has not yet commented on the election result. Ponta has said he hopes the vote will end the political "civil war".

Ponta's party has promised to roll back the previous centre-right administration's austerity policies by cutting taxes and raising salaries, though it has limited room to do so given expectations of growth this year of just 0.4 percent.

For its attempt to impeach the president, the USL came in for harsh criticism from the European Union and United States, which accused it of undermining the rule of law. Political analysts say that could discourage it from more radical steps.   Continued...

Romania's Prime Minister Victor Ponta heads a government meeting at Victoria palace in Bucharest December 10, 2012. REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel