Romanian government crisis: where to now?

The Romanian parliament passed on Thursday with a five-vote margin the motion of no confidence against the Social-Democrat (PSD) government led by the country’s first female prime minister, Viorica Dăncilă (55), throwing the already unstable Romanian political life into an outright crisis.

In a joint session of parliament’s two chambers, 238 of the 465 deputies and senators voted against the Dăncilă cabinet, including representatives of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Transylvania (RMDSZ). 233 votes were needed for the motion to pass.

Romania is no stranger to government crises: In the 30 years of its post-Communist democracy, this was the third government that lost power in a motion of no confidence.

The Social-Democrats came to power 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. Dăncilă assumed office in January 2018, and her tenure was marked by a lackluster EU presidency, wage increases the Romanian budget can hardly support, and a permanent – and often acrimonious – conflict with the country’s liberal (PNL) president, Klaus Iohannis.

With no love lost between the two, following the parliamentary vote Iohannis immediately proceeded to congratulate the opposition for ousting the government. The ball is now in his court: In line with the Romanian constitution, Iohannis must now begin consultations with the parliamentary parties and designate a politician to form a new government within 60 days. If a new government cannot be approved by parliament within that time frame, the president must then dissolve parliament and call new elections.

With consultations scheduled to begin this morning (Friday) in theory, PSD could team up again with former coalition partner ALDE, which abandoned the government a few months ago. But Dăncilă is certain that Iohannis will not ask her again to form a government. She even declared that PSD will not attend today’s consultations.

RMDSZ president Hunor Kelemen said that the most urgent task now is to adopt next year’s budget and amend this year’s one, as without an amendment municipalities cannot make ends meet. But for that to happen, a new government must be formed, with analysts seeing only slim chances of one materializing. The other option – one that Iohannis did not rule out in his reaction to the motion of no confidence – are early elections.

But if recent history is any indication, that is the least likely outcome, as it would require the consensus of all parliamentary parties, which has never happened in the past 30 years.

To complicate matters further, Romania will also hold presidential elections November 10, with a second round November 24, if none of the candidates get an absolute majority in the first round.

Title image: Prime minister Viorica Dăncilă surrounded by media after the vote of no confidence (MTI/Ildikó Baranyi)

Author: Dénes Albert