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Romania’s main party wants wide backing for new PM (Update 1)

Romanian PM Ponta addressing Parliament before a non-confidence vote in Bucharest

By Radu-Sorin Marinas

Romania’s ruling political party will stop short of proposing a new prime minister to replace Victor Ponta, the party’s leader said, and wants any nominees to have wide political backing.

Ponta quit on Wednesday in a surprise move, after thousands of protesters across the country demanded resignations over a deadly fire in a Bucharest nightclub.

“We won’t focus on a name for a new premier … The president must be helped to reach the most efficient solution,” Liviu Dragnea, the leader of the Social Democrats (PSD), said after consultations with President Klaus Iohannis.

“We should first agree on a package of political goals for the upcoming period and make sure Romania’s progress is continued … and avert seeing a nominee knocking on the doors of parties to try to garner support.”

Dragnea’s party is ready to agree either to a cabinet led by a technocrat with “expert ministers” or to a broad-backed “national unity government,” he said. It would even back early elections if that’s the consensus among political leaders.

Holding a snap election would be a first for Romania. It would need either volunteer resignations by all of parliament’s political groupings or two consecutive votes of no-confidence against two prime minister nominees within 60 days of the first nomination, a difficult requirement to meet.

Regular parliamentary elections are scheduled for December 2016.

Among all political parties, the opposition Liberals have said explicitly they want early elections and told Iohannis so during today’s consultations.

Holding such elections would probably delay adoption of a new budget until April, a threat to the country’s economic stability, Dragnea said.

The Romanian economy is expected to grow 3.5 per cent in 2015 and 3.7 per cent in 2016, according to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. That is some of the fastest growth forecast in south-eastern Europe, the EBRD said.

Earlier in the day, Iohannis appointed outgoing Education Minister Sorin Cimpeanu as interim prime minister to replace Ponta. The former prime minister quit as some 25,000 people in Bucharest and thousands more in other cities held mass protests over the Bucharest nightclub fire, which killed 32 and injured hundreds on Friday.

The protesters said the government’s resignation should be just the beginning of widespread reforms in a political system widely seen as corrupt.

“I have an important message to make for you: I saw you, I heard you, your demands matter to me,” Iohannis said.

Most commentators expect Ponta’s resignation to produce a new cabinet, probably led by a technocrat, in the coming weeks. Iohannis will consult with political parties and the civil society on a new premier, in meetings that run until Friday.

“Our base case is for a caretaker government with broad political backing until late 2016 elections, which means that Romanian leu weakness could prove short-lived,” ING Bank analysts in Bucharest said in a note.

Among the names advanced by some politicians are Dacian Ciolos, a former European agriculture commissioner; Vasile Dancu, a sociologist; and Florin Georgescu, first deputy governor of the central bank.


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