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"The USL claims the right to form a government. Will Romania avoid a new crisis?" wonders Romanian daily România Liberă following the December 9 legislative elections. The centre-left USL (Social Liberal Union) of Prime Minister Victor Ponta won with a clear lead, taking nearly 60 per cent of the vote. The Right Romania Alliance (ARD) of President Traian Băsescu lagged behind with 17 per cent of the electorate while Dan Diaconescu's People's Party netted a surprising 14 per cent.

Five months after having survived an impeachment attempt, Traian Băsescu has suffered a setback. Yet, says România Liberă, the president –

could be the major winner, or the major loser, of these elections. If Victor Ponta continues to be the USL candidate for the post of prime minister and if the president does not appoint him, the latter runs the risk of being suspended once again. His only true realistic option, in order to continue playing a positive role in society, is to remain within the bounds of the Constitution – as he has promised. If he is suspended while battling to defend what Romania has gained in recent years, his exit will be triumphant. And his defeat temporary. Because it is unimportant if those that want to make Romania leave Europe as well as the partnership with the United States will feel like winners, in the end they will lose.

As for conservative daily Jurnalul Național, it hails the "crushing defeat of the oranges," or the Democrat Liberal Party, the ARD partner associated with Băsescu. For the Jurnalul

the observation that this vote was a sort of run-off of this summer's referendum [on impeaching the president] is correct. Many people think that they have not finished settling scores with the man. This is his last chance to give it all he's got. If he bends at the knee, he will be history.

The new Parliament "will be no better than the last," notes news website Gândul. "It will include a few exotic characters," such as Diaconescu or populist Gigi Becali, "but no [one of] greater competence." Nonetheless, says the website –

The situation is clear and the camps are delineated: it is the USL versus the rest of the world. But the leaders of the Union must understand that in the USL Republic, they carry the burden of their electorate's expectations. And that, lacking rapid action from the new government, their euphoria could be short-lived.

Meanwhile, in this election with a 60 per cent abstention rate, *România L**iberă*notes that the most significant fact is the breakthrough of Dan Diaconescu, the media mogul who recently entered politics. The emergence of his new political force, considered to be populist, may be –

seen as another joke in poor taste by its leader Dan Diaconescu. Yet, it was efficient when it came time to get out the vote of the most disappointed and rebellious Romanians.