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Romanian Political Stress Mounts With Coalition Near Breakup

Feb. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Political tensions in Romania are rising with the ruling coalition on the verge of a breakup as its two leaders are failing to agree on proposed government changes months before presidential elections this year.

A debate on the cabinet’s structure and ministerial appointments is becoming less likely to be resolved by the Feb. 24 deadline, Crin Antonescu, head of the junior Liberal Party, said on Realitatea TV late yesterday. Prime Minister Victor Ponta told reporters today that Antonescu, whose party is the second-biggest partner in the coalition, is angling to run for president from the opposition this year.

Romania’s four-party ruling coalition, which has a two-thirds majority in parliament, started bickering over a plan to change the government’s structure, with the liberals seeking to replace four ministers and a deputy premier. That would require a parliamentary vote at which Ponta may seek to increase the number of ministries and deputy premiers, to the disapproval of the Liberals.

“My personal impression is that Antonescu wants to run for the presidency without taking responsibility for governing the country,” Ponta said today.

‘In Vain’

Antonescu said Ponta’s statement shows that “the Liberals are waiting in vain for a resolution on Monday as the intent is to close a chapter on the current coalition, without having the courage to say it.”

The leu weakened to the lowest level in almost a month, depreciating to 4.5223 per euro at 3:12 p.m. in Bucharest today. It’s down 1 percent this year. The yield on Romania’s 2024 dollar-denominated bonds fell six basis points, or 0.06 percentage point, to 4.73 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“The political situation in Romania has become more complicated and the likelihood of the current coalition breaking up has increased,” Dan Bucsa, an economist at UniCredit Bank AG in London, said in a note today.

Romania will hold European Parliament elections May 25 and a presidential ballot Nov. 2. Ponta’s Social Democrats and the Liberals will run separately in the EU vote, while both parties had previously said they will support Antonescu for the presidency.

Antonescu is leading in presidential polls with about 26 percent of the vote, according to an Avangarde poll of 1,500 people in January. Ponta would get 22 percent if he decided to run. the survey has a margin of error 2.5 percentage points.

“If the coalition splits, the Social-Democrats could form a government with the other two smaller allies,” Bucsa said. “Lawmakers from ethnic minorities could lift the new alliance to a parliamentary majority of approximately 54 percent, which would still be sufficient to govern.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Andra Timu in Bucharest at atimu@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net

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