Romania’s ruling coalition splits as junior party ALDE backs out; PM Dancila to seek Parliament’s approval for minority government

Anca Alexe 26/08/2019 | 18:46

The Liberal Democrats’ party (ALDE) led by Senate president Calin Popescu Tariceanu, which has been a part of Romania’s ruling coalition together with the Social Democratic Party (PSD) since the general election in 2016, has announced it would depart from the government after several days of tense negotiations with prime minister Viorica Dancila.

ALDE leaders met on Monday and decided that the party’s ministers (Energy, Environment and Parliamentary Liaison) would resign from the Dancila government. However, Foreign Affairs minister Ramona Manescu, who had been an ALDE representative in the coalition, said she would remain in the government.

In a press conference after ALDE’s leadership meeting, Tariceanu cited issues with the national budget as envisioned by the PSD, saying that his party couldn’t support certain measures and that ALDE would turn into an opposition party. He also said he would resign as president of the Senate at the beginning of the parliamentary session in September, a position he has held since March 2014.

The PSD Executive Committee (CEx) also held an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the party’s next steps, as ALDE’s exit means Viorica Dancila will have to manage a minority government. After the meeting, Dancila said that the CEx had voted to continue to govern.

Future uncertain for Dancila government

According to Romania’s constitution, a change in the political structure of the government – including the departure of a coalition party – requires the approval of Parliament, and the PSD may have a hard time securing the support of smaller parties, given the political games being played in the background.

In recent days, ALDE has been negotiating with former PM Victor Ponta’s party PRO Romania, and the two groups said they would begin a formal collaboration following ALDE’s departure from the coalition.

PRO Romania also announced on Monday that it would support independent candidate Mircea Diaconu in the upcoming presidential election. Diaconu is a former actor who was also elected as a member of the European Parliament in 2014, but has not otherwise been very active on the political scene in Romania. At the same time, Tariceanu announced that he would not run for president, and will also back Diaconu’s run.

Also on Monday, opposition party PNL announced that it would submit a new no-confidence motion against the Dancila government, in an attempt to force an early general election.

Calin Popescu Tariceanu said his party would vote in favour of PNL’s no-confidence motion as it has joined the opposition.

PSD lost its majority in the Senate today as senator Nicolae Marin transferred to PRO Romania, and so did three PSD MPs in the Chamber of Deputies, where PSD had lost its majority a few months prior. This means that Viorica Dancila would have to rely on smaller political groups to gain enough support to remain in power.

But even if it could secure the votes of all the MPs representing ethnic minorities (17) and those with no affiliation (2), the minority PSD government wouldn’t pass in the Parliament, as it needs a total of 29 extra votes to stay in power. All the other parties (PNL, USR, UDMR, PMP, PRO Romania) currently oppose the government, so the PSD will have to negotiate with their MPs to gain their support.

If the Dancila government resigns or fails to obtain the Parliament’s support, a major political crisis would begin in Romania, since no party really wants to take the power until the next parliamentary election in December 2020, a busy electoral period that includes both presidential and local elections, since this move would erode any party’s popularity due to the many issues it would inherit from the PSD, which has lost a large part of its political support in recent months, a fact reflected by its weak score in the European Parliament election.

Despite the strong words coming from opposition leaders against Dancila and her cabinet, it would be in their interest to keep her in power in order to avoid wasting their political capital in the time left until the 2020 general election, given that it is very difficult to trigger early elections in Romania based on current legislation.

Photo: Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea

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