Romania’s parliament topples Citu’s minority government

No confidence motion filed after Prime Minister Florin Citu’s coalition unravelled last month over development fund dispute.

Romania's Prime Minister Florin Citu attends a vote of no confidence session at the Romanian parliament [George Calin/Inquam Photos via Reuters]

Romania’s parliament has toppled the nine-month-old minority government of Prime Minister Florin Citu in a vote of no confidence, deepening a continuing political crisis.

The motion on Tuesday was filed by the opposition Social Democrat Party (PSD) and supported by former coalition partner USR-Plus, and the far-right AUR party. It passed with 281 votes; only 234 were needed.

Romania, one of the European Union’s poorest member states, has been locked in a political impasse for a month, threatening its economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to reduce large twin deficits.

Citu, leader of the National Liberal Party, will stay on as caretaker prime minister until a new prime minister wins parliament’s confidence.

His coalition unravelled last month after the centrist USR, a relatively new grouping, withdrew its ministers in a dispute about a regional development fund, stripping him of a parliamentary majority. USR then filed a no-confidence motion, refusing to return to the government until Citu was toppled.

President Klaus Iohannis called on political parties to hold consultations next week on forming a new government before he nominates a new prime minister, most likely from the ranks of his ally, Citu’s centrist Liberal Party.

“Romania must be governed. We are in a pandemic, an energy price crisis … and now a political crisis. We need more than ever a mature [political] stance,” Iohannis told reporters.

“To give parties more time to come up with a solution, I will call for consultations only next week.”

An early election is unlikely as parliament would need to reject two consecutive proposals for premier by Iohannis within 60 days, and coalition parties have said they are bent on rebuilding a government quickly, given the current economic challenges.

Iohannis and coalition partners including the ethnic Hungarian UDMR and the USR have said the current, three-party reform-minded political set-up is the best recipe for Romania, overseeing a 29.2-billion-euro ($33.9bn), EU-backed recovery plan.

The most likely outcome is a restoration of the previous coalition that had a 57 percent majority, but with a different prime minister, in keeping with the USR’s sole condition for rejoining government.

“We’re open to rebuilding our centrist ruling coalition,” USR senior Dan Barna said.

The continuing crisis could hamper Romania’s efforts to tackle an alarming surge of COVID-19 infections in the nation of 19 million, which is currently putting the country’s hospitals under serious strain.

On Tuesday, Romania recorded its highest number of daily COVID-19 infections – 15,037 cases – since the pandemic started.

Romania’s vaccination campaign has meanwhile lagged behind many other EU countries, with only a third of the population fully vaccinated.

Source: News Agencies