Three Romanian ministers resign as PM Tudose strengthens grip on cabinet

Three Romanian ministers resign as PM Tudose strengthens grip on cabinet
By Iulian Ernst in Bucharest October 13, 2017

Deputy Prime Minister Sevil Shhaideh, Minister for European Funds Rovana Plumb and Transport Minister Razvan Cuc resigned on October 12 during a tense leadership meeting of the senior ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD). 

Prime Minister Mihai Tudose thus moved towards gaining a tighter grip over his cabinet, so far under the informal control of the ruling coalition leader, PSD head Liviu Dragnea. This still depends on the new appointments, expected during another key leadership meeting. If successful, Tudose’s tighter control over the government is expected to result in more predictable policy setting.

“There was no war, there was no winner,” Tudose said after the PSD meeting. And indeed, there is no winner until the three ministers are replaced in another meeting scheduled for October 13. As regards the war, it is notable that the PSD leadership, under the control of Dragnea, was against the resignation of the three.

Tudose urged Shhaideh and Plumb to resign after the two came under investigation by the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA). Cuc is most likely among the two ministers who Tudose earlier said should resign for their poor performance, as no key infrastructure project has been started this year.

Tudose also asked Minister for Liaison with Parliament Viorel Ilie to resign after the parliament rejected the DNA’s request to investigate him. Ilie, a member of the junior ruling party Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) has not resigned yet.

Tudose said, after Shhaideh and Plumb resigned, that he cannot blame the two for their conduct as ministers.

“There are still at least two ministers that I will ask to leave the cabinet,” said Tudose said on October 9 on a live show at Antena 3. At the same time, he admitted that there were tensions between him and Dragnea. 

The tensions between the two might be related to diverging views regarding the activity of the DNA. While Dragnea, himself the subject of a couple of DNA investigations, believes prosecutors are often politically biased, Tudose stressed that "he does not believe the DNA is opening investigations only to generate government reshuffles”.

The ongoing criminal investigations against some ministers are dragging down the government's credibility, including among European Union officials, Tudose said in a statement broadly interpreted as announcing the dismissal of Shhaideh and Plumb ahead of the October 12 meeting. Plumb is being probed in the same case as Shaideh.