Crin Antonescu is the new leader of the Romanian National Liberal Party (PNL). He defeated the incumbent Calin Popescu Tariceanu comfortably enough at the party’s congress today. He won 873 votes to Tariceanu’s 546.
Antonescu is an interesting character. He joined the National Liberals in the early 1990s. A former leader of the PNL parliamentary group he has been something of a back-room boy in the party and has been accused of lacking charisma. He has an interesting family story.
Tariceanu was Prime Minister, leading a minority PNL government, until elections last November. Now the National Liberals are effectively the only national opposition party after the largest parties on the left and right formed a coalition government. Tariceanu was originally associated with neo-liberal factions in the party and has long been associated with oil magnate Dinu Patriciu. Inevitably Tariceanu’s defeat will raise questions about Patriciu’s future relations with the party although Tariceanu himself has already wished Antonescu well in a show of solidarity.
The first big question will be how the result will affect the PNLs choice of candidates for the European Parliament elections in June. There will no doubt be plenty of people looking for reward for their support in the leadership election - and others who fear the consequences of backing the wrong horse. The National Liberals should be able to win at least 7 seats in the elections.
Then, of course, there will be the pretty thankless task of taking on President Basescu in the presidential elections this autumn. Ne vedem!