Romania's governing alliance breaks as Liberals withdraw from union with Social Democrats at height of political struggles
USL formed more than two years ago as the PNL and USL, then in opposition, joined forces to stand against President Basescu and his Democratic Liberal government. USL, led by PSD's Ponta and PNL's Antonescu and joined by the Conservative Party, a lesser but very influential partner who controlled one of the country's major media groups, ascended to power in spring 2012 and reported a landslide victory in elections later that year.
The coalition, though, has been focusing more on its struggles with President Basescu, with corruption cases and various other scandals. Starting late last year, the major forces of the USL came to clash each other over various political issues, while the Conservative Party changed sides, dropping the partnership with the Liberals in favor of the Social Democrats in preparation for the upcoming European elections.
The last blow to USL was a political confrontation sparked by a government reshuffle in which the Liberals claimed certain key positions, but were resisted by PM Ponta and his Social Democrats.
And on Tuesday evening, Crin Antonescu announced that PNL decided to put an end to an "artificially extended crisis" by withdrawing their ministers from the government and the resignation of all Liberal officials in the government. He also demanded that Victor Ponta resign as prime minister.
Antonescu said after a PNL leadership meeting that unless Ponta resigns - which he didn't expect to - PNL would turn to opposition. He said, though, that at local level Liberal officials of any relevant rank are left to run whatever alliances they want with other political parties, for the better of their local communities.
Despite staying at odds with the Liberals until the very last minute and even mocking Crin Antonescu in TV talk-shows, PM Victor Ponta held a press statement on Tuesday afternoon, before the meeting of the PNL leadership, urging PNL to save the USL political project and stay in the government along the Social Democrats. Ponta said a decision to dismantle USL would be a mistake after years working together in the opposition and then in a "good government".
Ponta said he was fully available to discuss with PNL leaders any sort of solutions to continue the USL project and that he was willing to name all PNL nominees for government positions.