Romanian PM woos ethnic Hungarian party with posts


ROMANIA: Romania's designated Prime Minister, Mr Calin Tariceanu, has granted the country's ethnic Hungarian party four cabinet posts in exchange for their support in forming a government after inconclusive polls.

The centrist alliance leader is struggling to forge a majority in parliament after recent elections failed to produce a clear winner. He has about 10 days to present his team for a vote of confidence in parliament.

Romania, which recently wrapped up EU negotiations, needs a strong government to lead it through difficult reforms required in the next two years if it is to join the bloc in 2007. The outgoing ex-communist PSD government ruled for four years with backing in parliament of the ethnic Hungarian UDMR.

The PSD won almost a similar number of seats in the new parliament with the centrist alliance of Liberals and Democrats in last month's election.

UDMR switched sides to the alliance after the newly elected President, Mr Traian Basescu, made it clear that he would call snap elections rather than give the PSD a mandate.

Mr Basescu's presidential victory on December 12th tipped the scales for the alliance, with parties formerly backing the PSD switching sides or reconsidering their stance.

"We progressed smoothly in talks with the UDMR and we decided to grant them four posts, including one deputy prime minister [ for the UDMR leader, Mr Marko Bela]," Mr Tariceanu said.

The UDMR held three ministerial posts in the centrist coalition government which ruled Romania between 1996 and 2000.

Yesterday the centrists also held talks with a group of 18 ethnic minorities, who also became kingmakers as both the alliance and the PSD would need them to form a parliamentary majority. The group is expected to take a decision next week.

The alliance was to hold talks later with the PSD's election ally, the small Humanist PUR party, which has said so far that it is still considering its options.

Analysts say that, even if Mr Tariceanu manages to lure PUR to his side and wins a confidence vote in parliament, his government will be fragile and at the mercy of the PSD.