Liberals propose Finance Minister Florin Cîțu as PM

The chairman of the National Liberal Party (PNL), Ludovic Orban, announced on Wednesday evening that the Liberals’ National Political Bureau decided, with one abstention, to nominate Florin Cîțu for the position of Prime Minister. Cîțu is the current Minister of Finance, and, after the announcement, he said that his priority is to get working on a new government as soon as possible.

The chairman of the National Liberal Party, former PM Ludovic Orban, proposed three people for the position on Wednesday and also announced two “backup” names, one of them being Florin Cîțu. The National Political Bureau, which started its meeting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, then decided, with one abstention, that Florin Cîțu should be the head of the new government.

According to Hotnews and G4Media, President Klaus Iohannis initially would have asked Defense Minister and acting Prime Minister Nicolae Ciucă to form a government. However, both civil society organizations and the Social Democratic Party – which won the parliamentary elections with almost one-third of the votes but which has no coalition partners – protested against this decision, saying that a professional soldier, who fought in Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia-Herzegovina and who is also a former Chief of the Romanian General Staff should not be entrusted to lead a government.

Nicolae Ciuca
Former General and former Chief of the Romanian General Staff Nicolae Ciuca was appointed by President Klaus Iohannis as acting PM after Ludovic Orban resigned from the position because his party, the PNL, lost the election. Photo: Nicolae Ciuca Facebook page

In the last couple of days, PSD Chairman Marcel Ciolacu has repeatedly – but unjustifiably – called it unconstitutional that Iohannis wants to entrust the PNL with the formation of a government, as the PSD won Sunday’s parliamentary elections, gaining nearly 30 percent of the votes, while PNL received only about 25 percent. However, the president announced on Monday that he is envisioning a central-right government coalition, making it clear that he will appoint the PNL to form it.

MEP Rareș Bogdan, the first vice president of the PNL, said on Wednesday that President Iohannis will have the last word on the appointment of the new PM, as it is the party’s priority that the Prime Minister and the President have a good cooperation. According to several sources, Ludovic Orban said at the meeting of the National Political Bureau of PNL that it was not hard to convince Iohannis that Cîțu would be a preferable decision. As he said, they agreed to write each a name on a piece of paper, and both of them wrote the name of the current finance minister.

Following the decision, the Liberals will be able to begin negotiations with the USR-PLUS Alliance and the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (known by its Hungarian acronym of RMDSZ) to form the center-right parliamentary majority and the governing coalition desired by the President.

It is Cîțu’s second chance to form a government

Florin Cîțu is 48 years old and studied in the United States, receiving his BA and MA at the University of Iowa in economics and mathematics.

Cîțu has already received a government-formation mandate in February-March this year, when he was nominated as Prime Minister by President Iohannis after the forced overthrow of the first Orban cabinet; however, he returned the mandate a few hours before the vote of confidence. With the overthrow of the government at the beginning of 2020, President Iohannis and Ludovic Orban wanted to trigger early elections, but the coronavirus epidemic intervened, and a full-fledged government, not a phantom cabinet, was needed at that time.

Ludovic Orban
Former PM and PNL chairman Ludovic Orban (left) and PM appointee, Florin Cîțu. Photo: Alexandru Dobre/Mediafax/Hepta.ro

But it seems, this time, Florin Cîțu might actually form a government, as both the PNL and Klaus Iohannis are serious about his nomination.

After his appointment, Cîţu thanked his party colleagues for their trust and called the nomination an “honor.” He said his goal is to create a majority in parliament that would quickly get to work on a new government.

Hunor Kelemen: RMDSZ would vote for the Cîţu-government

The appointment of Florin Cîțu as PM was a “pleasant surprise” for the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania, Hunor Kelemen, the chairman of RMDSZ, said on Wednesday evening on România TV, adding that Cîțu is suitable for the post.

“We would have voted for the Cîţu government in March also, but back then he withdrew his nomination. We saw how he managed finances; he was one of the few pleasant surprises in the current government,” Kelemen said.

Hunor Kelemen
Hunor Kelemen, chairman of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ)

The chairman of the Hungarian party also stressed that the RMDSZ has been calling for the formation of a center-right government since last year. “We need a stable coalition,” Kelemen said, excluding the possibility of cooperating with the PSD to form a majority.

Kelemen welcomed the PNL’s decision to nominate a politician for the position of Prime Minister, saying that retired General Nicolae Ciucă, the current acting prime minister, is a “great soldier” but may be not the best person to lead a government.

Civil society organizations protested against the appointment of Ciucă

ActiveWatch, a human rights organization, and another six NGOs asked President Klaus Iohannis in a letter to not appoint a soldier or people with a military background for the position of PM. The NGOs stated that at this time, the trust between the public administration and the citizens needs to be strengthened, and such a decision would not help this issue.

“The resignation of PM Ludovic Orban created a new political crisis, which has added to the health and economic crises. Fortunately, the recent election will lead to the formation of a new parliament and a new government – ending the political crisis. It is an unpleasant surprise to note that in this case, you have a strong preference to appoint people from the field of national security to lead the government,” the statement reads.

The NGOs also mention that President Klaus Iohannis appointed Nicolae Ciuca as acting PM “without any reason,” adding that Ciuca was an active general until last year, and he only retired to comply with a NATO regulation, which requires the Minister of Defense to be a civilian.

Title image: Florin Cîțu is 48 years old and studied in the United States. Photo: Florin Cîțu Facebook page

Author: Orsi Sarány