Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis on January 17 nominated Viorica Dancila, the candidate proposed by the centre-left senior ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD), for the prime minister seat.
The PSD and its allies will thus appoint their third prime minister in only 13 months since they won the parliamentary elections in December 2016.
“I decided to give one more chance to the PSD and nominate the candidate proposed by the party,” Iohannis announced at a press conference after consultations with all parliamentary parties.
Lawmakers will be summoned to an extraordinary session in order to appoint Dancila as prime minister by January 29, PSD leader Liviu Dragnea announced. Dragnea also commented that Iohannis had avoided a political crisis by accepting the nomination of the PSD candidate despite the fierce pressures from the opposition parties and what he mysteriously termed “other forces”.
With the nomination, centre-right Iohannis avoids a direct confrontation with the PSD. The move might be explained by Iohannis preparing a longer-term strategy of using institutional mechanisms (the Constitutional Court) but also street protests in an attempt to fight what he has repeatedly stressed as the PSD's attempts to bend the rule of law.
Such a longer-term strategy might be instrumental to Iohannis' candidacy for a second term in office. It would be, though, a risky strategy considering activists' protests sparked immediately after the president's nomination on January 17. And yet, given the lack of another opposition leader, Iohannis is likely to remain activists' main informal leader against the ruling coalition.
Controversial PSD leader Dragnea is set to gain a firm grip on the executive, given Dancila’s lack of authority within the senior ruling party, her past subordination to Dragnea and her career developed within the local party organisation supervised by Dragnea in Teleorman. The nomination was broadly seen as a step towards the PSD bending anti-corruption regulations and is likely to generate street protests as controversial amendments to the judicial system were already endorsed under accelerated procedures by lawmakers in late December.
In contrast to Dragnea praising Dancila for her prestige among European Union officials likely to benefit the country’s EU presidency next year, the prime minister designate was mentioned in the media rather for her rhetoric against the anti-corruption fight. Dancila was one of the advocates of the controversial government decree 13 (seen as impairing the fight against corruption) which was later abrogated by the PSD cabinet amid pressure from the country’s foreign partners, and street protests.
Dancila’s nomination actually sparked in the evening of January 17 ad hoc protests against Iohannis, who was seen by activists for democracy as accepting the PSD’s candidate too quickly.
Iohannis explained his decision as being in line with constitutional provisions and the Constitutional Court’s decisions, given that the PSD enjoys a robust parliamentary majority.
Iohannis also stressed that the PSD had promised robust economic development in the electoral campaign before the 2016 elections, but delivered so far only two failed cabinets.
The opposition Save Romania Union (USR) has fiercely criticised Iohannis, claiming that Dancila fails to meet the professional criteria for the prime minister position.
“It is unfortunate that President Iohannis missed the chance of curtailing the disaster generated by PSD, missed the chance of making use of its constitutional power that allows him to nominate a decent candidate,” USR said in a press release quoted by hotnews.ro.
Previously, USR revealed that the advisor of prime minister designate Dancila, Botorogean Adriana, had been indicted by anticorruption prosecutors for being formally employed by Dragnea in the local administration while she was actually working for the party. The case involving Dragnea paying PSD employees from public money has been submitted by prosecutors to court and the final decision is likely to have a major impact on the political career of the PSD leader. Botorogean currently works as an assistant in Dancila’s European parliament office.