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30th Oct 2020

Romania government collapse - electoral ploy or progress?

  • Romania's Ludovic Orban pictured last month with EU Commission president Ursual von der Leyen. After three months and one day he is out of office - or is he? (Photo: EU Commission)

Three months and one day is how long Ludovic Orban's Romanian minority government managed to stay in power after losing a no-confidence vote brought about by the leftist parliamentary majority on Wednesday (5 February).

The vote was backed by 261 lawmakers, surpassing the 233 threshold.

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The no-confidence vote opens the door to a possible snap election that will actually favour the toppled governing party, as recent data shows.

The opinion poll published earlier this week puts Orban's National Liberal Party (PNL) at 47 percent, way ahead of the main opposition Social-Democrat Party standing at 20 percent.

Orban's party came to power last November after the previous no-confidence vote ousted the former ruling Social Democrat Party (PSD). PNL managed to form then a slim majority based on support from the centre-right Save Romania Union Party and MPs from other parties.

The present no-confidence motion was put forward by the Social Democrats and the ethnic Hungarian UDMR Party as response to Orban's push for electoral law reform.

The two parties have been staunchly against moves to alter the electoral law ahead of local elections this summer, as they fear being disadvantaged by the two-round voting system, instead of the current first-past-the-post-system.

Changes to the present voting system might mean that both PSD and UDMR could end up losing seats in town halls and local county councils across the country, as centre-right candidates will be able to regroup and form alliances in the second round of the vote.

President Klaus Iohannis and Orban have previously discussed the likelihood of early general election that could take place at the same time with the local vote.

Iohannis said in a press conference he wishes for a new parliamentary majority that will push for reforms blocked by the social-democrats.

He added that following last year's EU parliamentary election results and the outcome of the anti-corruption referendum, the PSD should step aside and join the opposition ranks.

Triggering a snap vote might help the ruling PNL turn its advantage in the polls into a parliamentary majority but that would require the dissolution of parliament before calling an early election.

It will be the first time Romania goes through such a process in its 30 years since the fall of communism.

According to the Romania constitution, the parliament can be dissolved by the president if within 60 days MPs reject two cabinet proposals.

It is believed that PNL boss, Orban will again be proposed as prime minister and come before parliament for a vote of confidence.

The liberals are expected to vote against their own PM to help trigger snap election as stated by Orban himself.

The Social Democrats (PSD) are also preparing their game plan. Party head Marcel Ciolacu told the social democrats that there will be no snap election.

To prevent early election, PSD would either have to vote in president Iohannis' prime minister proposal or delay parliamentary procedures long enough that a snap parliament election couldn't take place together with the local election, pushing the general vote to the end of the year when scheduled to happen.

The previous general election took place in December 2016 and marked a landslide victory for the social democrats.

PSD is still reeling from almost three years of protest in Romania against the attempts of the former governing party to water down anti-graft rules and change the justice system.

The European Commission said in its annual report that the changes brought upon by the former ruling coalition constitute backtracking by the Romania authorities on judicial progress.

Orban will remain as caretaker PM until the new cabinet will be voted in, meaning that he could be in office until the snap election takes place.

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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