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27th Sep 2020

Coronavirus

Romania's Orban sworn in again amid corona emergency

  • The emergency parliamentary session took place in a disinfected room, where MPs, wearing surgical masks and disposable gloves, entered one by one to cast their votes.

Romanian MPs have given Ludovic Orban's interim cabinet a vote of confidence - following a speedy appointment and teleconferenced hearings in a process the country has never witnessed before.

The self-quarantined PM and almost all cabinet members did not attend the parliamentary vote after a senator from the ruling party was confirmed to have been infected with coronavirus.

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Ending a political stalemate which began early February when lawmakers toppled Orban's minority Liberal government, parliamentary parties voted for Orban with near-unanimous support on Saturday (14 March), giving now the former interim cabinet full powers to address the coronavirus epidemic.

The emergency parliamentary session took place in a disinfected room, where MPs, wearing surgical masks and disposable gloves, entered one by one to cast their votes.

"I voted as if I were in a contaminated area, wearing protective gear and with the conviction that it is my duty to invest the government with full powers so that it can help citizens fight the coronavirus pandemic," Vlad Alexandrescu, Romanian parliament senator, told EUobserver.

"It was a vote carried under extraordinary circumstances, where there was no room for opposition or debate, although many things could have been said about this procedure", Alexandrescu added.

MPs, who got tested for COVID-19 before the vote started, were able to question via phone or videoconference the upcoming members of cabinet about their ministerial plan.

Romanian parliament regulations do not allow for remote voting, yet measures were taken so that future exceptional situations will permit an online vote.

The majority of the Liberal ruling party MPs skipped the vote, together with the newly-appointment cabinet, finding themselves under quarantine.

The swearing-in ceremony of the new government which took place soon after the parliamentary session, with the Romanian president in attendance, amid unprecedented safety measures.

Each cabinet member, disinfected and face mask on, entered through a special corridor, so as to block interaction with other ministers or staff members. After taking the oath of office, ministers were required to quickly leave the room, without shaking hands or coming within five metres of president Klaus Iohannis.

State of emergency

On Monday (16 March), the Romanian president issued a decree instating a national state of emergency for the next 30 days.

The move is expected to help free up government funds and simplify acquisition procedures for the national health system and security institutions in the fight against coronavirus.

No restrictions of movement have been announced, yet the decree allows for limiting or forbidding people from going in or out certain areas.

Also, pending decisions of the National Committee for Emergency Situations, bars, restaurants and gathering areas could be closed.

The gradual closure of borders, with measures to cap prices for drugs, medical equipment, food and public utility services are powers available during the state of emergency.

Author bio

Cristian Gherasim is a freelance journalist contributing to EUobserver, Euronews, EU Reporter, Katoikos, Von Mises Institute, and bne IntelliNews, with a particular focus on European and regional affairs.

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