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News 16 Jun 17

Crisis Over Govt Splits Romania’s Ruling Party

Romania’s ruling Social Democrat Party is at a crossroads, with party leader Liviu Dragnea and Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu at loggerheads with one another. 

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

Romania’s government crisis shows no sign of ending, with the ruling Social Democrat Party leader Liviu Dragnea and Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu and their respective supporters struggling for control.

The PSD was working on an impeachment case against Grindeanu on Friday, a day after the Prime Minister was voted out of the party, after the PSD decided to push for a non-confidence vote against its own six-month-old government.

The crisis follows a row in the PSD after the Prime Minister refused to resign at the request of the party leadership, despite its warning that it had withdrawn support for the government.

Grindeanu on Thursday night said he would only resign when Dragnea resigned. He also gave Dragnea an ultimatum, asking him to make a decision by Monday.  

“No matter how hard Dragnea tries to get rid of me, because I am uncomfortable, I have been and I will always be a PSD member,” Grindeanu said.

“Dragnea is trying to take over a whole party because he is afraid of the large mass of party members,” he added, saying that he intended to fight back and talk to PSD members over the weekend.

The Prime Minister also trolled Dragnea on his Facebook page on Friday, when he posted a black banner reading #DragneaResign. The post was shared by former PM Victor Ponta, who is also one of Dragnea’s political adversaries inside the PSD, and who also supports the current Prime Minister.

“The party is under siege by an unlawful group that has taken over the government building,” Dragnea had said on Thursday.

Minister of Interior Carmen Dan, one of the favorites to replace Grindeanu and one of Dragnea’s closest aides, on Friday claimed the Prime Minister was alone in the government building, despite the fact that ministers are continuing to do their jobs until their resignations are accepted by the President within the next two weeks.

But some PSD members have vocally supported Grindeanu. Telecom Minister Augustin Jianu, 31, the only cabinet member who has refused to resign, also accused Dragnea of fostering corruption in the party and of going behind Grindeanu’s back in order to take the government down.

“I have received many calls from people outside the government. From chiefs of staff to secretaries, from senators to simple party members and they all told me, with nervous voices and messages, that Dragnea wants me to resign. All but Dragnea himself,” he said.

Jianu also said that one of Dragnea’s aides had asked him for an "illicit favour” and that despite warning Dragnea about it, this PSD member was still holding a senior position. He refused to reveal his identity, however.

The Mayor of Iasi, Mihai Chirica, who was kicked out of the PSD after criticizing Dragnea during February’s protests against a government decree designed to pardon corruption-related offences, has also voiced support for Grindeanu, together with MEP Catalin Ivan.

Dragnea became PSD leader in October 2015 after taking over from then Prime Minister Victor Ponta, who resigned after being indicted for graft by the National Anti-Corruption Directorate, DNA.

He entered politics in 1994 by joining the Democrat Party, PD. He joined the PSD in 2000 and became vice-president of the party in 2005. Dragnea headed Teleorman County Council three times before becoming an MP in 2012.

The controversial PSD leader is now speaker of the Chamber of Deputies. In January 2017 his bid to become Prime Minister was rejected by President Klaus Iohannis because of a two-year suspended jail sentence, for trying to rig an impeachment referendum against the then president, Traian Basescu.

Grindeanu has a 21-year-long career in the PSD, which he joined in 1996. He was the head of Timis County Council before being appointed Prime Minister in January 2017. On Thursday night he said he would not agree to be excluded from the PSD by a group of people who do not share his history and loyalty for the party.

Political commentator Cristian Tudor Popescu on Thursday said Grindeanu’s opposition to Dragnea had put the PSD leader in a difficult position.

“When a professional assassin, instead of liquidating his target, shoots I don’t know how many bullets and makes a mess of his target, he simply fails in his mission, and has great chances of being executed himself. That’s Dragnea today,” Popescu said.

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