Romanian government crisis – Where to now?

In the wake of Wednesday’s vote when the second cabinet in four months was ousted in a motion of no-confidence, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis announced the timetable of his consultations with the parliamentary parties. But can Romania overcome its current constitutional, and larger political, crisis that has now seen nine governments in eight years?

Theoretically, the President should designate the head of the party that stands the best chance of forming a government that can be approved by Parliament. The two biggest parties are the Social Democratic Party, or PSD, and the National Liberal Party, or PNL, both of which could conceivably hammer out a majority. Both have also been removed from power by votes of no confidence last October and just yesterday, respectively.

Iohannis (himself a liberal), however, made it clear yesterday that he refuses to designate the social-democrats, saying that “the red barons again want (access to) the public money.”

He also declared that he wants some form of logic surrounding early elections. “If the parties don’t want this or don’t understand this, I will insist on a government built by and around the PNL.”

Even if he didn’t know at the time of making this statement, Iohannis must by now be aware of what the PNL will do if given the mandate to form a government: The president of PNL, Prime Minister Ludovic Orban, who was voted down yesterday, stated that same day that his party will vote against the approval of its own cabinet.

The Constitution says that if two consecutive attempts to form a new government fail, the President has the power to dismiss Parliament and call for early elections. Orban’s plan is clear: If appointed by Iohannis twice in a row (and by all appearances, Iohannis intends to do so), he will be sure to fail, thus forcing early elections.

This sleight of hand – while abiding the letter of the Constitution – goes against the spirit of it, namely, that the entire process is meant to lead to a feasible government. That also implies that if a first attempt fails, the President should appoint a different party for the second one. This, however, is not what Iohannis has in mind.

Should the President go along with the liberals’ plan and force early elections in this way, instead of solving a constitutional crisis, he could in fact be creating an even bigger one.


Title image: Romanian President Klaus Iohannis (source: presidency.ro)

Author: Dénes Albert