Romania's government falls after Parliament vote

Outgoing Prime Minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu, left, and members of his government in Parliament on Wednesday.

Story highlights

  • Social Democrat opposition leader Victor Ponta is appointed the new prime minister
  • Prime Minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu's government falls after less than three months
  • Opponents accuse the Cabinet of a lack of transparency in fiscal matters

Romania's government collapsed Friday and a new prime minister was appointed after a censure motion filed by the opposition won approval in Parliament.

It is the second time this year a Romanian government has crashed. This time it fell less than three months after Prime Minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu took office.

The censure motion passed with 235 votes, four more than the minimum required by the Romanian Constitution. There are 460 legislators.

The motion was filed by the opposition Social Democrats and Liberals, who accused the Cabinet of lack of transparency in the selling of natural resources and in approving money transfers to local authorities belonging to the ruling parties.

Friday evening, President Traian Basescu appointed Social Democrat leader Victor Ponta as the new prime minister with the task of forming a new government.

Ponta's was the only name suggested after Basescu invited all political parties to submit their nominations. Ponta was backed by all members of the opposition coalition, and other parties made no nominations.

Earlier, Ponta had said he was ready to step in, saying the opposition coalition members "already have a government proposal."

Some voices inside the coalition didn't agree, however. Social Democrat Ion Iliescu, a former Romanian president, said the country should have an independent government for the next six months until parliamentary elections are held.

Ponta said he will soon announce the members of the new government, which will have to pass a confidence vote in Parliament to be installed.

The outgoing coalition failed to back the government in the confidence vote after several Liberal Democrat members, including its vice president, resigned and joined the opposition alliance.

Democrat Liberal leader Emil Boc expressed disappointment. "The minorities group betrayed us and voted for the motion," he said. "It is very hard to still trust the actual coalition."

Ungureanu said he respects democracy but he offered no excuses: "I was honored to run such a government. I am glad we managed to do what we had to do for this country and the results are obvious."

On Friday morning, before the vote, the opposition coalition was a few votes short. It negotiated with several ruling members of Parliament and independents until the moment of the vote, and managed to gain the support of a few.

The wave of defections has led to tension inside the coalition government, represented by the Democrat Liberal Party, the ethnic Hungarians and the minorities group. It is expected to have a significant impact in the Romanian political landscape, as the country is holding local elections in June and parliamentary election in November.

The change of power comes at a time when Romania, the European Union's second poorest nation, is struggling to keep its economic stability. Ungureanu delivered a speech in Parliament before the vote, arguing that the motion was a threat to Romania's stability.

"I consider the opposition's action as an expression of the democratic process, but I find this inconvenient at a time when the IMF, the World Bank and the European Commission are currently holding a visit in Romania," he said. "It's not just about the country's image, but also about the power of negotiation that we might lose in such moments."

The International Monetary Fund started an official visit to Romania at the beginning of the week to review the country's efforts to stick to the 2011 deal under which Romania secured a €5 billion loan from the IMF and the European Union as a precautionary measure to avoid fiscal instability.

President Basescu said the country has no reason for concern. "The IMF mission in Romania will continue the discussions they have started earlier this week after the new government takes the power," he said.

Earlier, in 2009, the country had received a loan of €20 billion from the IMF and the EU. However, the government had to cut salaries in the public sector by 25% a year later to enforce recommended austerity measures.

Thousands of people took the streets at the beginning of the year to protest against the government and Basescu. As a result, in February the former prime minister resigned and Ungureanu's government was installed.

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