Protests continue in Romania, despite government’s fall

Street protests have continued overnight, for the third consecutive evening, in Bucharest and some of the major Romanian cities, in spite of the resignation, on Wednesday 04 November, of prime minister Victor Ponta, who left following popular discontent over a deadly nightclub fire in Bucharest and a long string of allegations of corruption.

On Thursday, 05 November, Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis appointed Education Minister Sorin Cimpeanu as interim prime minister to replace Victor Ponta who resigned the previous day after mass street protests.

On Friday, Iohannis started consultations over the new premier with political parties and the civil society.

Further peaceful protests involving up to 20,000 mostly young people, some carrying the country’s national red, yellow and blue flags, took place in downtown Bucharest in the University square in the evening.

Ponta is facing trial for corruption and he was already under pressure to quit from the opposition and President Klaus Iohannis, who defeated him in last November’s presidential election. Ponta had ignored prior calls to step down after being indicted in September for forgery, money laundering and being an accessory to tax evasion during his time as a lawyer. He is likely to face his first court hearings later in November.

The fall of the leftist government led by the The Social-Democrat Party might lead to a political realignment, although the coalition of three mainly leftist parties that form a majority in parliament showed no signs of a split. A national election is due in December 2016.

After an emergency coalition meeting, their leader, Liviu Dragnea, said the priority was “to preserve stability” of the country. The next prime minister may not come from the party’s ranks, Dragnea said.

“It would be very hard to propose and support a political person as prime minister anymore,” he said.

Iohannis, the former leader of the opposition Liberals, has said his aim is to bring his party to power. The constitution allows him to nominate a new premier, who then needs to win a vote of confidence in parliament.

Early elections appear unlikely, but still possible. They can only be triggered if parliament rejected two prime ministerial nominations in confidence votes within 60 days of the first one. No such snap poll has been held since the 1989 fall of communism.

The Social-Democrat Party is ready to agree either to a cabinet led by a technocrat with “expert ministers” or to a broad-backed “national unity government,” he said. It would even back early elections if that was the consensus among political leaders.

Holding a snap election would be a first for Romania. It would need either volunteer resignations by all of parliament’s political groupings or two consecutive votes of no-confidence against two prime minister nominees within 60 days of the first nomination, a difficult requirement to meet.

Among the names advanced by some politicians are Dacian Cioloş, a former European agriculture Commissioner, a technocrat with no party affiliation; Vasile Dancu, a leftist sociologist; and Florin Georgescu, first deputy governor of the central bank.

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