The most toxic government in recent history, the Chernobyl of Romania, has been relegated to history. These are just some of the qualifiers the Romanian national press decorated the incumbent government with, giving a clear opinion about the performance of the Social Democratic Party’s (PSD) rule.
The fact that the downfall of the government took so long is mainly because some things need time to come to a head. In the barely thirty years of modern, post-Communist Romanian democracy, this was the fourth cabinet ousted with a motion of no confidence. While it only required 233 votes to pass, eventually 238 representatives and senators of the bicameral Romanian parliament voted against the government of Viorica Dăncilă.
Opposition blamed the now-incumbent cabinet for not putting the dividends of economic growth into structural investments, depleting state coffers, and financing populist wage rises with loans that will remain a burden for a long time to come.
They also blamed the government for worsening crime statistics, saying that it had tailored the justice system so as to best defend its own corrupt leaders. The most prominent of them, Liviu Dragnea, has begun his two-and-a-half-year jail sentence for corruption this May. But this government has survived three previous motions of no confidence. So what changed? On the face of it, the critical factor was that the liberal-democrat ALDE alliance left the government, taking with it the votes necessary for a majority.
But things are rarely that simple in Romania, where political migration across party lines has led to a state of confusion in which mathematics no longer apply: two plus two rarely ever equals four. Besides the loss of the votes, perhaps the crucial factor was that the government has simply run out of fuel -– be it in manpower or political or financial resources.
The PSD came to power on January 4, 2017, following the December 2016 legislative elections and have since had four prime ministers (one of them only acting) and replaced 78 cabinet ministers.
The Social-Democrats may be down, but they mostly certainly aren’t out. Former Social-Democrat prime minister Victor Ponta makes no secret of the fact that he intends to lead the country again by winning next year’s parliamentary elections. But until then, there will also be a presidential election this November. The clear favorite is current liberal president Klaus Iohannis and the outcome of that election could be the decisive factor in what shape Romania’s new government takes.
Title image: Caretaker Romanian prime minister Viorica Dăncilă during her last parliamentary debate as full office holder.