Romania's ruling PSD announces reshuffle after anti-government protests

Romania's ruling PSD announces reshuffle after anti-government protests
By Carmen Simion in Bucharest February 22, 2017

Romania’s ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) decided on February 22 to nominate an independent justice minister as part of a cabinet reshuffle following anti-government protests lasting for more than three weeks.

The cabinet led by Sorin Grindeanu was endorsed in January, but in the past three weeks it has been under intense pressure after mass protests erupted in the country following the adoption of an emergency decree partly decriminalising abuse of office. The decree was later repealed and its author Justice Minister Florin Iordache resigned. 

Grindeanu announced after a meeting of the PSD national executive committee that the party has nominated former Constitutional Court judge Tudorel Toader to take over the justice ministry. 

Picking a candidate who is not politically affiliated for justice minister might have a positive impact on the image of the ruling PSD, whose reputation has been tarnished by the political scandal surrounding the decree. 

PSD leader Liviu Dragnea said following the meeting that Toader has not been asked and will not be asked to join the party.

The reshuffle is modest in scale, affecting just four ministries, and seems mainly intended to fill positions left vacant after Iordache and another minister resigned during the recent political turmoil. 

Even after the government backed down and said it would revoke the decree, protesters had been calling for the government to resign on the grounds it had lost the confidence of the population by trying to legalise stealing from the state. 

Specifically, protesters have demanded the resignations of Dragnea and Calin Popescu Tariceanu, leader of the PSD’s coalition partner the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (Alde), neither of whom are affected by the reshuffle. 

However, protester numbers have dwindled after peaking at around 500,000 across the country on February 5, the day Grindeanu announced he would revoke the ordinance.

In addition to Toader, the prime minister made nominations for three other ministries.

Grindeanu nominated current Economy Minister Alexandru Petrescu to take over the trade and business environment ministry. Former minister Florin Jianu announced on February 2 he would resign from the government following the scandal around the decree, choosing “to leave a story which is not his with his head held high”.

Mihai Tudose will replace Petrescu at the economy ministry, while Rovana Plumb will take over the European funds ministry, replacing Mihaela Toader. Grindeanu explained the change at the European funds ministry by "what we consider a priority for our governing, namely attracting European funds," adding that the current minister "will remain part of the team."

"We wanted to strengthen our team [...] so that we can meet our ambitious objectives, i.e. €5.2mn in 2017," the prime minister said.

The proposals need the approval of President Klaus Iohannis.