Victor Ponta, Romania's embattled Social Democrat (PSD) premier, has finally agreed to resign after street protests over a Bucharest nightclub fire triggered yet another government crisis.
“I hope handing in my and my government’s mandate will satisfy the demands of protesters,” Ponta said.
President Klaus Iohannis, former leader of the opposition National Liberal Party, will now have a chance to take the initiative in the formation of a new ruling coalition, though the breakdown of parties in parliament will make forming a majority government a difficult task.
The resignation of the government and in particular deputy premier Gabriel Oprea was demanded by some 25,000 demonstrators on November 3 over a nightclub fire last week which killed 32 people and seriously injured 35. Further anti-government protests are expected in the evening of November 4.
Ponta said he would resign because Oprea had refused to. Oprea, leader of the UNPR, serves as minister of interior, the ministry that supervises the firefighting department that is supposed to check whether nightclubs have the right safety permits. Oprea has also been criticised over the death of a police officer serving in his security team a couple of weeks ago.
Forming a new majority government will be almost impossible if the UNPR is excluded, leaving President Iohannis with the likely option of appointing a minority administration headed by a technocratic premier until elections next year.
Iohannis has long called for the government to resign, with the intention of replacing it with one led by his own party. His NLD party repeated its call for early elections on November 4.
The PSD will attempt to keep the current government afloat in order to benefit from Romania's ongoing economic recovery. However, it is short of potential successors to replace Ponta, as several of them are also entangled in scandals.
Ponta has nominated Defence Minister Mircea Dusa to replace him as interim prime minister. Ponta announced that the government will hold a meeting at 4pm “for preparing the new team”.
At a meeting at lunchtime on November 4 leaders of the ruling coalition’s parties implied that they would stick together. However, there was no nomination for a successor to Ponta.
President Klaus Iohannis will discuss possible nominations with all political parties later in the night. All options, including early elections, remain open.