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News 15 Jun 17

Romania Faces Crisis as PM Refuses to Quit

Romania's Social Democrat Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu has refused to resign, despite his own party withdrawing support for the government he leads.

Ana Maria Touma
BIRN
Bucharest
PM Sorin Grindeanu. Photo: Facebook. 

Romania faced a mounting political crisis on Thursday after the ruling Social Democrat Party, PSD, moved to sack its own six-month-old government - only for Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu to refuse to give way.

The Prime Minister instead accused his party leader, Liviu Dragnea, of trying to keep a tight grip over the party and the government.

The PSD sought the resignation of the entire cabinet after a heated meeting on Wednesday when the party leadership evaluated the current government as unsatisfactory.

All the ministers in the cabinet then submitted their resignations and the PSD leadership voted to withdraw backing for Grindeanu.

But, after a heated argument over the performance of the cabinet, Grindeanu stormed out of the PSD National Executive Committee meeting, vowing to stay in office.

PSD leader Dragnea on Wednesday night denied having demanded the PM’s resignation, however, and said the intention was to just assess the activity of the government.

However, at a late-night press conference, Grindeanu insisted that Dragnea had tried to convince him to resign, and had offered him several other posts in exchange for his sacrifice.

He also criticized the evaluation presented by the party leadership, implying that it was a political farce designed to falsely show that his cabinet was incompetent.

“Although we have a good economy and some ministers really worked on it, maybe most of them, I told Dragnea that we should both take responsibility for this alleged failure. Let’s both resign. I didn’t see that happening,” Grindeanu said.

He added that it was Dragnea who had chosen the members of the cabinet, instead of the Prime Minister and said that, given the opportunity once more, Grindeanu would choose his own people for it.

He also said he would only resign when President Klaus Iohannis named another Prime Minister from the PSD and added that the ministers still have to carry out their duties until he sends their resignations to the Presidency. The Prime Minister has up to 15 days to do so.

On Thursday, he also posted a message on Facebook, thanking his supporters and telling his fellow party members “not to be afraid to be on the good side.”  

“Romania needs stability and a responsible government!” he wrote. He then continued his official schedule, attending a meeting with the British Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon.

On Thursday, the President’s spokesperson, Madalina Dobrolvoschi, said Iohannis would not get involved in the crisis, adding that solving it was the responsibility of the government coalition.

The President would only name a new Prime Minister once the post was vacant, either by resignation or impeachment, she added.

The PSD has not announced whether it has another plan to solve the deadlock or whether the leadership has a new cabinet in mind.

Political analysts, however, say that the PSD crisis concerns more than a simple deadlock with the PM - and it might not be able to come up with a better government than the one it just sacked.

Political commentator Stefan Vlaston writes in the Adevarul daily that none of the candidates to replace Gridneanu are more qualified than he is, while the government's program is “fictional” in any case.

“The program could not be implemented by Angela Merkel, Helmut Kohl or Margaret Thatcher, even if they wanted to,” he wrote on Thursday.

“We see ourselves put in the same situation where politicians’ incompetence and stupidity lead us to the abyss, losing us the little trust and respect we have earned during the past few years [internationally],” he added.

Grindeanu has won some support from Dragnea’s opponents. Civic activists believe the current crisis has a lot to do with Grindeanu’s reluctance to comply with pressure from the party to pass legislation to absolve politicians of corruption accusations.

Both politicians have meanwhile been targeted by satirical and bitter jokes on social media. The satirical publication Times New Romanian published “13 things about the PSD Executive Committee.”

“Because Grindeanu refuses to resign, Dragnea will simply apply the classic PSD solution: he will steal Grindeanu’s government access cars,” it wrote.

A popular meme on social media portrays Grindeanu with the hashtag #rezist - the slogan used by protesters who took to the streets in February against a government decree that aimed to relax anti-graft legislation.

The Prime Minister then withdrew the decree and transferred the responsibility for new justice legislation to parliament. 

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