The Romanian parliament endorsed the no-confidence motion filed by the Social Democratic Party (PSD) against the government of prime minister Florin Citu on October 5.
The motion passed with 281 votes in favour, well above the 231 required. It was openly supported by the opposition PSD, as well as by the radical Alliance for the Union of Romanians (AUR) and the reformist Save Romania Union (USR), the former ally of Citu’s National Liberal Party (PNL) that pulled out of the centre-right ruling coalition in early September, complaining about Citu’s autocratic leadership.
Citu’s cabinet will keep working as an interim executive in a reduced capacity, but it is unclear how a new government could be formed by the current parliament, and early elections cannot be ruled out.
The current crisis was precipitated by a conflict within the ruling coalition led by the PNL alongside USR (formerly USR-PLUS) and the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR).
USR-PLUS announced on September 1 that it had withdrawn its support for Citu, accusing him of planning to “rob public money” through the RON50bn (€10bn) public investments plan. The party claimed Citu sought to buy political support from mayors in his battle with former prime minister Ludivuc Orban for the leading position in the PNL ahead of the September 25 party leadership election.
As the ruling coalition fell apart, the PSD filed a no-confidence motion against Citu.
Paul Stanescu, a senior party member, said ahead of the vote that it is “the first time in the history of Romanian politics when a prime minister has come to be so hated”.
“Without any formal political alliance between PSD, USR and AUR, parties with incompatible ideologies and visions, today there is a common sense consensus that Florin Citu must be dismissed. And no matter how hard they try to keep him alive, through various tricks, he is politically dead,” Stanescu said ahead of the vote.
“The puppet has fallen!” AUR wrote on its Facebook page following the vote. “On the International Day of Education, Florin Citu and puppeteer [President Klaus] Iohannis [a strong backer of Citu] received a lesson from the Romanians: you cannot lead the country against the people, without considering them and contrary to their interests.”
Following the vote, the parliamentary parties are expected to meet Iohannis, whose job it will be to come up with a prime minister-designate.
The PNL favours a minority government headed by Citu but there are two major obstacles ahead of such a plan. First, past rulings of the Constitutional Court said a prime minister dismissed by no-confidence motion cannot be nominated again (this would be the second constitutional complication recently after the PNL ‘buried’ USR’s no-confidence motion).
Secondly, this would depend on behind the scenes support from the Social Democrats, as USR leaders say they won’t work with Citu again. The Social Democrats are publicly insisting on early elections or a technocratic government, but may end by reaching a private agreement with the Liberals on a minority cabinet.
"PSD will not support a minority government. At this moment, the head of state, President Iohannis, must intervene and realise, to acknowledge the nonsense done, to realise that we have a huge vulnerability, as a state … This government can no longer continue. It must fall tomorrow,” Ciolacu told Romania TV ahead of the vote.
However, there is still speculation the party could back a PNL government as Romania struggles with a new wave of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The number of new daily COVID-19 cases hit the highest number since the pandemic began (over 15,000) and the daily death toll surpassed 250 (another record). Romania closed its hospitals for non-emergency cases on October 4 and appealed for international help for COVID-19 medication.
In its turn, USR keeps arguing for a return to the USR-PNL ruling coalition, with another prime minister, as the sole way out of the crisis.
“As of today, the choice is simple: a government with USR PLUS or PSD,” the party wrote on Facebook after the result came in.
“Florin Citu has been dismissed for all the reforms that have been blocked in recent months, for the failure of the vaccination campaign, for the use of money and public functions to buy votes at the PNL congress,” the statement added.
“Romania can only move forward with a prime minister who doesn't block the reforms expected for 30 years and demanded by the millions of Romanians who just one year ago were voting USR PLUS and PNL. This prime minister is not Florin Citu.”