Monday

18th Feb 2019

Romanian PM resigns in spat with convicted party leader

  • Mihai Tudose (l) stepped down as prime minister (Photo: European Commission)

Political turmoil in Romania has forced the prime minister to step down, the second time in seven months, amid a spat with the governing social democrat leadership.

Prime minister Mihai Tudose tendered his resignation on Monday (15 January) after losing the support from his Social Democratic Party (PSD).

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"I leave with my head held high," he told reporters.

An ongoing dispute with convicted fraudster and PSD boss Liviu Dragnea erupted following demands by Tudose for the interior minister to step down over a separate police child abuse scandal.

The interior minister, who is a Dragnea ally, refused. Tudose had also been seeking to reshuffle his cabinet.

"The party decided that a different government is needed, with a different type of approach," said Tudose.

It is unclear who will fill the now vacant post.

Dragnea has been barred from taking the prime minister's seat given a criminal conviction for electoral fraud. The ballot rigging comes on top of allegations that he illegally siphoned off EU funds during his time as a local politician.

Dragnea maintains his innocence.

The PSD came to power following December 2016 parliamentary elections. The country has since been beset by a number of protests following attempts by the leadership to curtail corruption probes.

People took to the streets late last year given PSD efforts to decriminalise corruption offences for which the damage is under €200,000. This included, among other things, abuse of power and sexual favours.

A similar decree in early 2017 sparked the largest nationwide protests in decades.

The parliament had also in December demanded to overhaul the judiciary, which critics described as an affront to democracy.

The reforms grant the parliament more power over the judiciary and the anti-corruption directorate, posing larger questions over their respective independence.

The controversial reforms have yet to be signed into law by Romania's centre-right president Klaus Iohannis, who himself has spoken out against it.

"These attempts to control the judicial system don't make it better, but make it worse," he had said last month.

Tudose's predecessor Sorin Grindeanu stepped down following a no-confidence motion last summer.

Romania searching for EU respectability

Ten years after its accession and a year before holding the EU presidency, the fastest-growing EU economy wants to "engage" more with its partners. But concerns over the rule of law continue to give the country a bad image.

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