Junior ruling partner in Romania withdraws support for prime minister

Junior ruling partner in Romania withdraws support for prime minister
The coalition between the PNL, USR-PLUS and UDMR was sworn in in December 2020.
By bne IntelliNews April 15, 2021

The USR-PLUS alliance, the second-biggest partner in the ruling centre-right coalition in Romania, on April 14 announced that it no longer supports Liberal Prime Minister Florin Citu after he dismissed USR-PLUS health minister Vlad Voiculescu.

USR-PLUS co-president Dan Barna refused to serve as acting minister of health and Citu decided to temporarily replace minister Voiculescu with himself.

The reformist party USR-PLUS asked for consultations mediated by President Klaus Iohannis.

The head of the senior ruling coalition party PNL, Ludovic Orban, said that his party continues to support Citu for the prime minister seat.

The conflict between the two major partners in Romania’s ruling coalition reached a climax when  Citu dismissed minister Voiculescu in the morning of April 14, without any consultations with USR-PLUS, “to restore public confidence in state’s institutions”.

The gesture followed a chain of scandals involving the Ministry of Health, the last of which was an order setting tighter quarantine criteria – published in the Official Journal on the day before by a ministry state secretary without Citu’s (mandatory) approval. The legal status of the order is unclear, but this is of minor importance compared to the political crisis triggered.

The tighter criteria would have imposed a tighter quarantine on Bucharest and its surroundings in the region.

The order was interpreted by some as reflecting the conflict between politicians such as Citu – who oppose strict restrictions in order to keep the economy functioning – and health professionals, who feel the pressure of the health crisis.

Although the political crisis seems deep, the ruling coalition is likely to remain in place under the baseline scenario.

The alternative is – and the opposition Social Democratic Party named it – snap elections, which would further complicate the situation by overlapping with the health crisis.

Romania’s Social Democrats ready to form minority government

The leader of the biggest Romanian parliamentary party, the Social Democratic Party (PSD), Marcel Ciolacu, announced that his party is ready to form a minority government that would organise early elections, arguing that his party has the necessary experts to take over the executive.

Ciolacu reminded President Iohannis that the Liberals and the president asked themselves for snap elections in early 2019 - invoking “the will of the people”.

The Social Democrats’ offer seems at this time unrealistic, but might turn into a relevant proposition under the [unlikely] scenario of Liberals and reformist USR-PLUS failing to reach a compromise over what seems to be a major conflict involving the prime minister's position.

For the moment, the ethnic Hungarians’ party UDMR – the only potential partner of Social Democrats in a minority cabinet – argued for maintaining the ruling coalition as it is.