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news 04 Nov 15

Romania PM Resigns Over Deadly Club Fire

Prime Minister Victor Ponta has resigned following protests over the nightclub fire that killed 32 young people, saying he has to take account of people's 'legitimate grief'.

Marian Chiriac
BIRN
Bucharest
Victor Ponta.

Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta on Wednesday said he was stepping down after widespread discontent over corruption in the country was intensified by last week’s deadly nightclub blaze in Bucharest.

“I'm handing in my mandate, I'm resigning, and implicitly my government is, too," Ponta said in a statement.

The announcement came after more than 20,000 people marched on government headquarters in Bucharest on Tuesday, demanding resignations of senior officials including Ponta because of the nightclub fire.

Ponta is already facing trial on corruption charges.

"I have the obligation to see the legitimate grief in society. People feel the need for more and it would be a mistake from my part to ignore this,” Ponta said, referring to the thousands of people who asked for his resignation after the tragedy on Friday.

Ponta added that he and his ministers would continue to perform their duties until a new government is formed.

In a related development, Cristian Popescu Piedone, the mayor of the district where the nightclub was located, has also resigned following criticism that he allowed the club to function despite not respecting the safety regulations.

The government’s resignation came as a surprise, as it is for the first time in 26 years that such a political change has been determined in Romania by peaceful protests.

"I see Ponta’s decision to resign, whether voluntary or determined by the pressure from his own party, as a gesture that empowers the people who protested following the tragedy at Colectiv nightclub. This is something new for Romania and should mark a change in how politics is made here,” political analyst Cristian Tudor Popescu said.

President Klaus Iohannis is to name a prime minister to form a new government, which needs to be approved by parliament. If this fails twice, snap elections will be called. Regular parliamentary elections are due in December 2016.

The fire in the nightclub claimed 32 lives and 130 people are still in hospital.

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