Romania’s ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) and its ally, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (Alde), withdrew its support for Sorin Grindeanu’s government on June 14.
All of Grindeanu’s ministers have already said they will resign, according to PSD leader Liviu Dragnea, but despite being left without a cabinet, Grindeanu said he will not stand down until President Klaus Iohannis, after consultations with political parties, nominates another prime minister from the PSD. Grindeanu has asked his ministers to show responsibility and stressed that their resignations will come into force only after the prime minister submits them to the president.
Political sources told Hotnews,ro that Grindeanu is now considering getting rid of the ministers who are close to Dragnea and trying to convince others to remain part of the government.
It is now all out war between Grindeanu and Dragnea, who has announced that any PSD members who agree to be part of Grindeanu’s new government will be expelled from the party.
The manufactured political crisis, apart from leaving the country without a government, is likely to affect the PSD’s image and raise questions about Dragnea’s authority. Grindeanu, on the other hand, will find it virtually impossible to form a new government without PSD support.
Grindeanu claimed on June 14 that Dragnea take responsibility for the failure of the government and submit his own resignation from the post of PSD leader. Previously the PSD leader accused the government of not accomplishing the measures envisaged in the governing programme.
“Before the meeting [of the executive committee], I tried to understand where this anger to change their own government comes from after only six month, a government which performed and had good results […] It is very difficult for me to understand. Why should you put pressure on your own ministers, whom you put in those posts? I have not found an answer, maybe just one: the desire of a single man to have all power,” Grindeanu said in a press statement late on June 14.
Grindeanu also said he has been offered different leading positions in state institutions and even to be part of a future government as deputy prime minister or minister in return for his resignation. According to Hotnews.ro, Dragnea offered Grindeanu the post of head of market regulator ASF, head of the foreign intelligence service or head of the Court of Accounts, as well as the post of deputy prime minister in a government led by Interior Minister Carmen Dan.
Prior to Grindeanu’s statement, Dragnea, in a joint press conference with Alde leader Calin Popescu Tariceanu, said the PSD executive committee would nominate a new prime minister on June 15.
Rumours about the possible removal of Grindeanu have been circulating in the media in recent days as relations between the prime minister and Dragnea worsened. The PSD won the December 2016 general election, but Dragnea, who has a two-year suspended sentence for vote manipulation, could not take the prime minister seat, as Romanian legislation bars people with criminal convictions from being part of the government. Grindeanu was his second choice for prime minister after his first nomination was rejected by Iohannis.
The relationship between Dragnea and Grindeanu is rumoured to have worsened earlier this year when Grindeanu repealed a controversial government emergency decree 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 decree, had it been adopted.
The topic is understood to have come up at the PSD meeting on June 14, with Grindeanu reportedly pointing out that PSD leaders did not take action against the government at the time, when the decree sparked the biggest anti-government protests in Romania’s post-communist history.
“We had the Ordinance 13 [the decree that triggered the protests] and you did nothing, you were the same in the executive committee. We woke up Klaus Iohannis with the emergency ordinance. Now you are giving him the government. Why?” Grindeanu said during the PSD meeting, according to unnamed sources quoted by Hotnews.ro.
Meanwhile, Dragnea was angered by the failure of the Grindeanu government to deliver on the promises made by the PSD ahead of the election. Prior to June 14 party meeting, Dragnea denied he had asked the prime minister to resign, but accused the government of failing to carry out 60% of the measures envisaged in the governing programme. In addition, Dragnea said, many others were just partly implemented.
“It is not only about 60% of the measures having not being met, but there is a significant percentage of measures which have been only partly met and which we cannot check as met. This is the situation, at least for me, it was not easy to make the decision to discuss these things publicly, but it is not our government, it is Romania’s government,” Dragnea said, according to News.ro.
Lately, the PSD has been criticised by trade unions for failing to meet its commitments and delaying some of the expected salary hikes.
According to the PSD assessment report published by Romania TV, the government managed to implement only 13% of the promised measures. 236 measures, or 60% of the total, were not implemented, while 27% were only partly implemented. However, the document showed that some of the measures had 2018 as deadline for their implementation.
In addition to the rift between Dragnea and Grindeanu, the PSD chief has also openly criticised another member of his government, Justice Minister Tudorel Toader. The minister provoked Dragnea’s ire when he decided back in March not to start procedures to remove National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) head Laura Codruta Kovesi and general prosecutor Augustin Lazar.
Recently, other PSD leaders have criticised Grindeanu. Bucharest mayor Gabriela Firea and PSD executive president Niculae Badalau have openly showed their dissatisfaction with the prime minister, saying that he had stopped communicating with Dragnea.
However, other PSD members have spoken out in defence of Grindeanu. On June 12, the Social Democrats from the Timis county branch signed 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.