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Romania’s PM Ponta to resign after mass protests – ruling party

Thousands of people rally demanding government resignations as the death toll from a night club fire at the weekend reached 32

By Radu-Sorin Marinas

Romania’s Prime Minister Victor Ponta resigned on Wednesday, in a surprise move just hours after mass protests demanding cabinet resignations as the death toll from a Bucharest nightclub fire reached 32, his ruling leftist party said.

Ponta, the country’s only sitting premier to stand trial for corruption, had been under pressure to resign from President Klaus Iohannis, who defeated him in last November’s presidential election.

Ponta’s departure may lead to a political realignment in Romania, where a coalition of three parties form a majority in parliament.

President Iohannis, the former opposition leader, has said his aim was to bring his former Liberals to power.

“Victor Ponta is giving up his mandate. Someone needs to assume responsibility for what has happened. This a serious matter and we promise a quick resolution of the situation,” Dragnea told reporters in parliament.

“You probably noticed thousands of people last evening and what they demanded,” the head of the ruling leftist Social Democrat Party Liviu Dragnea said.

As of 0850 GMT the leu had fallen 0.3 percent on the day to 4.4435 to the euro.

Ponta had repeatedly ignored calls to resign and vowed to serve out his term until the end of 2016, when the country is currently scheduled to hold its next parliamentary elections.

“I can carry any political battles but I can’t fight with the people,” Ponta, who will probably remain in his post with his cabinet until the president nominates a replacement, told reporters.

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