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article imageRomania's political crisis explained

By Mihaela RODINA (AFP)     Jun 21, 2017 in Politics

Romania's governing left-wing Social Democrats (PSD) are expected to try to torpedo their own government on Wednesday after just five months in office.

The extraordinary turn of events will see the PSD present to parliament a motion of no confidence in Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu.

Whether it is approved is another matter, however.

- Who are the main players? -

The PSD installed Grindeanu, 43, after its crushing election victory in December. Party leader Liviu Dragnea, 54, cannot hold office because of an electoral fraud conviction.

Once Grindeanu became premier, Dragnea continued to pull the strings behind the scenes. At first Grindeanu complied but recently began asserting his independence.

On June 14, the PSD withdrew its support for Grindeanu's government, accusing it of "delays" in implementing reforms in the European Union's second-poorest country.

- What's the dispute? -

Grindeanu though is refusing to go, accusing Dragnea of wanting his "execution" and of seeking to "concentrate all the power in his hands".

EU flag made out of lights by around 6000 people in front of the Romanian government headquarters in...
EU flag made out of lights by around 6000 people in front of the Romanian government headquarters in Bucharest. The governing left-wing Social Democrats are expected to try to torpedo their own government on Wednesday after just five months in office
Daniel MIHAILESCU, AFP/File

"Romania needs stability and responsibility," Grindeanu said on Thursday last week while continuing with official business as usual.

He said he would not step down until President Klaus Iohannis has appointed a successor from the PSD.

This presents a conundrum for the centre-right Iohannis, who under constitutional rules can nominate a new candidate only once the post has been vacated.

"I had hoped that it wouldn't come to this and that Mr Grindeanu would respect democratic rules," complained Dragnea.

- Will the motion pass? -

It is not clear. A no-confidence motion needs 233 votes in the combined session of 464 lawmakers from the upper and lower houses. The PSD and its partners ALDE have 244 between them.

Grindeanu has backers, however, from within the PSD including MPs from his fiefdom of Timisoara and from ex-premier Victor Ponta.

The three centre-right opposition parties -- normally no fans on Grindeanu -- have said that their 167 lawmakers will either vote against or abstain.

After fruitless talks with the PSD, the 30 lawmakers from the UDMR party representing Romania's Magyar minority also decided not to vote.

- What happens next? -

Romanian Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu could face a no-confidence vote in parliament presented by h...
Romanian Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu could face a no-confidence vote in parliament presented by his own Social Democrat party
DANIEL MIHAILESCU, AFP/File

If the motion fails, Grindeanu will remain prime minister, but in a shaky position. If it passes, the PSD will propose a new premier to Iohannis.

The president's approval is not a formality, however. In December he rejected the PSD's original choice for premier.

The new prime minister will then have 10 days to secure a vote of confidence in parliament for his cabinet and policy plans.

- What's at stake? -

Romania's economy has been doing well, enjoying the fastest growth rate -- 5.6 percent -- in the EU in the first quarter, while efforts to tackle corruption have borne fruit.

But for further progress Romania can ill afford more instability, with the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission saying reforms are sorely needed.

In addition, the people are watching closely to see if Dragnea's real aim -- as sociologist and former party member Alin Teodorescu suspects -- is to ease up on graft.

In early February the biggest wave of protests since the end of communism in 1989 forced the government, led by Grindeanu, to abandon legislation seen as doing just that.

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