30th Nov 2023

Surprise coalition in Romania without former Renew's Ciolos

  • The Save Romania Union (USR) party of former Renew Europe leader Dacian Ciolos remains in opposition (Photo: European Parliament)
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A surprise new cabinet bringing together the former political foes of the National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Social Democrat Party (PSD) has been sworn in by the Romanian president, Klaus Iohannis.

The Save Romania Union (USR) party of former Renew Europe leader Dacian Ciolos remains in opposition.

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The new cabinet received a comfortable 318 votes in Romania's parliament, more than the required minimum of 234 votes for a new government to be invested.

Both the USR and the populist Alliance for the Union of Romanians (AUR) voted against.

The new cabinet is led by prime minister Nicolae Ciucă (PNL), a retired army general - who only recently promised that as a former military official he would never go into politics.

This new left-right governing alliance took most commentators by surprise, after the PNL opted for the social democrats as partners.

The centre-right USR party, PNL's former governing coalition partner, was excluded from the new cabinet.

The super majority formed between National Liberal Party and the Social Democrats leaves Ciolos' USR in opposition - which may regarding the new alliance as a move to marginalise the party.

Some believe that PNL feels more at home governing alongside PSD, rather than USR, because Ciolos' party became too scrupulous in scrutinising questionable political dealings.

"PNL renounced their liberalism today in the parliament, shaking hands with PSD, their so-called 'enemies'. The current coalition is about vested interests rather than helping Romanians and reforming the country", Anca Dragu, a USR senator, told EUobserver.

The new government comes into office more than two months after the reformist USR party left the former centre-right coalition with PNL.

USR cried foul then when its justice minister, Stelian Ion, was sacked by then prime minister Florin Cîţu after refusing to endorse a €10bn regional development programme.

USR called the dismissal of its justice minister "abusive and groundless" and dubbed the prime minister's investment plan as an attempt to buy local political support.

Cioloș was nominated to form a government but failed, lacking PNL and PSD support. He renounced his leadership from the European Parliament's Renew Europe group in order to take up his position as leader of the USR and planned to take centre stage in Romanian politics.

The unlikely alliance has left much of civil society in bewilderment, as the PNL previously built its platform on being strongly anti-PSD, accusing the social democrats of corruption and blaming it for Romania's poor economic development.

The social democrat PSD are regarded by many liberal voters as the cause of the 2017-2019 anti-corruption protests in Romania, after the party tried to change the penal code to help its party members escape corruption charges.

PSD attracted then ire from Brussels, which warned Romania was moving away from the rule of law and against EU norms.

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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