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News 09 Jun 17

Ruling Party Power Struggle Threatens Romanian Cabinet

Romanian Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu’s cabinet is being officially assessed by the ruling Social Democratic Party - a move which could see ministers sacked or the entire cabinet replaced.

Ana Maria Touma
BIRN
Bucharest
Social Democrat leader Liviu Dragnea. Photo: PSD.ro

Romania’s government faces a turning point this weekend after the ruling Social Democratic Party, PSD leader announced he is working on an evaluation report on the activity of the current cabinet, raising concerns that there could be a reshuffle or a whole new team of ministers.

PSD leader Liviu Dragnea said on Friday that all ministers, including the head of the cabinet, Sorin Grindeanu, handed in their resignations immediately when they were handed their mandates, without specifying the exact date on which this happened.

But the Dragnea also said that no decision has been made yet whether to get rid of the entire government or to retain some of its members.

“I hope we have the report ready on Sunday night. It is not an evaluation of the ministers, but of the governance programme,” he told reporters of Friday afternoon.

“We don’t know if we will ask for changes in the government, no matter who we’re talking about; the most important thing is the governance programme, we need to see if we have delays in implementing it,” he added.

He also said that all ministers and the prime minister will be called in for talks on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and the PSD National Executive Committee will make a decision about who will remain in the cabinet.

“I don’t know when the decision will be made,” he added.

Several high-ranking PSD members, including vice-president Gabriela Firea, have criticised Grindeanu for what they claimed was his lack of communication with the party leadership, raising concerns over the cold relationship between the premier and Dragnea.

The cabinet’s efficiency was questioned after Labour Minister Olguta Vasilescu was forced to postpone the public sector wage hikes promised by the PSD during the electoral campaign.

Although the party had promised the wage hike on July 1, 2017, wages will increase for some categories of public employees on January 1, 2018 and for others on March 1, 2018. 

The raises will also be much lower than promised, only a 25 per cent increase.

The reason was that the government couldn’t find the funds in time: the amount needed for the hikes surpassed 32 billion lei (seven billion euros), the sum that the Labour Minister had calculated.

Grindeanu said on Thursday that his authority as PM was not affected by the recent criticism and that he wasn’t bothered by the evaluations.

“The evaluations are normal,” he told reporters.

“It’s a political government based on a majority in parliament. We’re evaluating the cabinet’s work at the level of the PM’s office too. Is it a perfect government? No. There is always room for better, for improving your work,” he added.

However, analysts said that Grindeanu’s days appear to be numbered as premier and that there is a very obvious power struggle between him and Dragnea.

“It becomes clearer and clearer to anybody that Grindeanu is not welcome in Kiseleff Boulevard [where the PSD headquarters is located],” analyst Mircea Moraru wrote on Friday in a commentary for the Adevarul daily.  

“Daddy Dragnea completely approved of Gabriela Firea’s outburst. He also approved of her criticism of other members of Grindeanu’s cabinet, invoking freedom of expression for PSD members. However he scolded Grindeanu for his reply to Firea,” he added. 

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