MP Valeriu Steriu was elected national leader of the National Union for Romania's Progress at a convention of the party's National Conference on Saturday in Bucharest.
Steriu garnered 339 votes, while the other two candidates, Senators Iulian Cristache and Ioan Iovescu, got 22 and 5 votes, respectively. Four votes were annulled. Casting ballots were 370 UNPR members of the party's 401 National Conference members.
Steriu said his mission is to bring the party to rule and turn it into a central component of Romanian politics as well as a core for any political coalitions.
"I do not want us to align ourselves with just anyone (...) Our objective should not be a targeted party; it should be more important and it should not miss from ruling," Steriu added.
The convention of the UNPR National Convention was unfolded in the absence of Gabriel Oprea, the founder of the party who resigned UNPR chairmanship on March 3, 2016 amidst legal controversies. Attending the conference were 400 delegates.
At the same event, Gabriel Oprea was designated the founding chairman of UNPR following a unanimous amendment of the party's statutes.
Several UNPR officials praised Oprea and Neculai Ontanu, the party's acting national chairman after Oprea's resignation, who on March 25 was placed under pre-trial detention for bribe allegations. Oprea and Ontanu also got repeated rounds of applause from the attendees.
"Mr Ontanu, we love you (...) and we need you here with us," said UNPR leader Gheorghe Bica.
UNPR was officially launched on May 1, 2010 as a breakaway from the Social Democratic Party (PSD) upon the initiative of then PSD member Gabriel Oprea.
In a letter to the party on his resignation day, Oprea said his pick for the office of UNPR national leader is Valeriu Steriu, about who he said "is a man whose professionalism is acknowledged by all parties, and also a leader with high potentials."
Valeriu Steriu, 50, is a graduate of the Polytechnic Institute, with a degree in machine-tool engineering. He also holds a doctor's degree in agricultural sciences and attended postgraduate classes in national security and defence according to his resume posted on the website of the Romanian Chamber of Deputies.
Steriu is a second-time MP, while in 2001-2004 he was a secretary of state for European integration and international affairs with Romania's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
In 2002, he was awarded a Fore Merit National Order in rank of Cavalier.
Steriu was a PSD member until 2010, when he resigned to join the newly established UNPR.
The UNPR convention on Saturday witnessed a small incident as during the vote a floodlight above an empty stage burst, spreading sparks around. Nobody was hurt. AGERPRES (RO — author: Madalina Cerban, editor: Florin Marin; EN — author: Corneliu-Aurelian Colceriu)