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17th Jan 2022

No confidence vote looms in Romania, as Covid cases spike

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With a surge in new Covid-19 cases and the second-lowest vaccination-rate in the EU, Romania's current political mess could not come at a worse time.

The government is bleeding political support and heading towards a vote of no confidence as the Save Romania Union party (USR PLUS), the second-largest governing party, quit the centre-right coalition on Tuesday (7 September).

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  • Prime minister Florin Cîţu. The Save Romania Union party, the second-largest governing party, quit his centre-right coalition on Tuesday (Photo: Wikimedia)

This came after USR PLUS, a reformist party running on a pro-European and anti-corruption platform, cried foul when it's justice minister was swiftly sacked by prime minister Florin Cîţu, of the National Liberal Party (PNL).

The PM argued that Stelian Ion, the ousted justice minister, blocked an investment program worth €10bn, designed to revamp the country's poor infrastructure and increase local development.

"I will not accept ministers in the government who oppose the modernisation of Romania", Cîţu said.

The former coalition party responded by calling for Cîţu to resign, calling the dismissal of the justice minister "abusive and groundless" and that the prime minister's €10bn investment plan was merely an attempt to buy local political support.

Cîţu is competing for the PNL party leadership - and needs the support of mayors and powerful local PNL leaders to win that vote.

With the PM refusing to resign, USR PLUS, together with the help of the right-wing populist and nationalist Alliance for the Union of Romanians (AUR) initiated a motion of no confidence.

This prompted Cîţu and his backers to try to block the procedure - by claiming the signatures gathered were fake, and complaining to Brussels that that "the alliance between USR-PLUS and AUR creates the premise for bringing a neo-fascist party to power".

The largest opposition party – the Social Democrat Party (PSD) – claims it is staying out of this political battle. But analysts say that PSD is covertly backing the incumbent Cîţu, in order to gain leverage and secure their own rise in the polls - without having to govern in the middle of a pandemic.

Speaking to EUobserver, Iulius Marian Firczak, an MP representing the national minority group in Romania's parliament, said of the attempt of some PNL and PSD representatives to block the motion of no confidence on the prime minister that "there has to be limits to how far politicians can go in fulfilling party agenda.

"The right of an MP to initiating a motion of no-confidence is essential to the function of democracy. Respecting the constitution, the institutional and democratic framework represent limits that can't be crosses by any person or party."

Later this week, a plenary session of both chambers of parliament is expected to debate the motion of no confidence tabled by USR PLUS and AUR.

The motion needs to be backed by 234 MPs. That means USR PLUS and AUR would require significant support, mainly from the opposition Social Democrats, which has the largest number of MPs.

Regardless of the outcome, this political gridlock is hampering the authorities' ability to fight the coronavirus, as well as rising gas and electricity prices, plus a gaping public deficit.

Meanwhile, daily new Covid cases have jumped from less than 100 during the summer, to over 2,000. The outgoing minister of health, Ioana MIhăilă, warned that many hospital intensive care unit across Bucharest are full, while some frontline medical workers have not been paid since May.

The country's low vaccination rate compelled authorities to sell another batch of jabs (over 1.5 million to South Korea), after a previous sale of close to two million to Denmark and Ireland, and a donation of another million to neighbouring countries .

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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