Leader of Romania’s ruling PSD reportedly asks PM to resign

Leader of Romania’s ruling PSD reportedly asks PM to resign
By Carmen Simion in Bucharest June 13, 2017

The leader of Romania’s ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD), Liviu Dragnea, has reportedly asked Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu to resign, unnamed sources told Hotnews.ro on June 13. The prime minister has reportedly declined to submit his resignation.

PSD was a landslide victory in the December general elections, but the party leader, who had been given a two-year suspended sentence for vote manipulation, could not take the PM seat, as Romanian legislation bars people with criminal convictions from being part of the government.

Rumours about a worsening relationship between the PSD leader and Grindeanu have been circulating in the media since winter, when Grindeanu repealed the controversial government emergency ordinance that would have partly decriminalised abuse of office. Dragnea, who is being tried for instigating abuse of office, would have been one of the beneficiaries of the governmental decree, had it been adopted.

The relationship has deteriorated even worse in the past days and Dragnea did not rule out a government reshuffle if the party decides it is needed.

“I don’t know yet. I do not want to come to this solution […] If we reach the conclusion that we have no other choice, we will propose this one, but I don’t want to get there,” Dragnea said during a TV show on June 11.

Local media claims that Dragnea will force Grindeanu to resign on June 14, when a party meeting is scheduled. According to unnamed sources quoted by the news portal, only three ministers of the current government have scored well enough to be kept in a new government: agriculture minister Petre Daea, interior minister Carmen Dan and labour minister Lia Olguta Vasilescu. PSD is reportedly planning to ask the other ministers to resign.

By withdrawing political support for most of the ministers, Dragnea will put pressure on Grindeanu, forcing him to resign. Another option to dismiss Grindeanu would be to file a no-confidence motion against its own government,

The resignation of the government or a no confidence vote for it is likely to have a negative impact on the party’s image which has already been affected by the anti governmental protests organised in winter. However, PSD’s popularity has started to improve lately, a recent poll showing that Romania’s largest party would still win parliamentary elections, with 44% backing.

However, Dragnea’s alleged plan to change Grindeanu is not shared by all PSD members. The Social Democrats from the Timis county branch signed on June 12 a resolution to support Grindeanu, a document they planned to send to the party leaders, Hotnews.ro reported.

Former Prime Minister Victor Ponta, one of Dragnea’s critics, has also shown support for Grindeanu.

“I hope Prime Minister Grindeanu continues his activity and we won’t make a fool of ourselves,” Ponta said on June 13, according to news agency Agerpres.

“They should get used to the idea that it is Romania’s government, it is not the government of Teleorman [the county where Dragnea comes from], it does not belong to a person, and that the government should work for Romania. So far, if there are any problems, they should change the bad ministers,” Ponta said adding that the party will lose credibility if it changes its own government.

Recently, PSD leaders have criticized Grindeanu. Bucharest mayor Gabriela Firea and PSD executive president Niculae Badalau have openly showed their dissatisfaction with the Prime Minister.

“I was worried by the fact that Liviu Dragnea has said that he does not have meetings with the PM, that the PM does not feel the need to talk to him, that the relationship with him, without using the same word, has cooled,” Firea has said, according to digi24.ro.

Badalau has also complained about Grindeanu. “We have a considerable number of ministers who complain about the bad relationship they have with Sorin Gindeanu. There are five or six colleagues who claim this, and I consider this is a strong singnal,” he has told stiripesurse.ro.

Romania’s new government led by prime minister designate Sorin Grindeanu was endorsed by parliament by 295 votes, with 133 against, on January 14. The government needed 232 votes to be endorsed. PSD thus returned to power after slightly more than one year. In November 2015, the government led by Ponta resigned in response to mass demonstrations in Bucharest and other cities, when tens of thousands of Romanians took to the streets demanding thorough political reform.