Liberal leaders, president throw Romania to the brink of deep political crisis fueled by the coronavirus epidemic and an imminent economic crisis
Romania’s designated PM Florin Citu withdrew from the position to lead a new Liberal government on Thursday, just hours before a final vote of approval in the Parliament. All information suggests he was pressed into stepping back by Liberal party (PNL) leader Ludovic Orban, who has been serving as interim PM after losing a censure motion earlier this year and who has become obsessed with the idea of losing the government and eventually the leadership of the party. The situation comes as Romania faces an escalating crisis caused by the new coronavirus and expects a frontal hit from an upcoming economic crisis.
As Citu dropped out, it was not clear what was the role of President Klaus Iohannis, who along Ludovic Orban has played a political gamble of pushing for early elections before the black swan named Covid-19 hit hard with a climbing number of cases in the country.
CONTEXT: Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, supported by a minority Liberal government after winning a second term in office last fall, has been pushing for early elections to strengthen the Liberal hold and weaken opposing Social Democrats in the Parliament. General elections are due to take place this year anyway, but Iohannis and the Liberals led by Ludovic Orban wanted them faster. A political power play saw Orban’s government lose parliamentary support early this year, which allowed for procedures to move towards early elections. The idea was that Liberals lose several renewed nominations to form a government, which would prompt the president to lose an early poll. For the past week, Orban has been leading on an interim basis, with Finance minister Florin Citu being nominated for PM, considering he would surely lose the parliament vote. But as the coronavirus crisis deepened in the country, with dozens of new cases announced over the past weeks, latest maneuvers suggested Citu would have to stay and be voted as new prime minister, despite nobody expected it. Until the last minute, when, just before the final vote, Citu announced he was stepping back.
The move came in a day where politics were again the dominant subject, with no new case of coronavirus announced – after a wave had just been confirmed across the country on Wednesday.
All information obtained by G4Media.ro showed the Citu government was expected to easily get the parliament vote today, with votes from all political parties which understood the country needed a stable, fully powered government.
But then the Liberals of Ludovic Orban started to mumble of „responsibility” to explain the inexplicable, while journalists were taxing Liberal officials over the total lack of responsibility the PNL was showing.
What Ludovic Orban, Florin Citu, President Iohannis and the PNL did on Thursday was one of the most irresponsible political acts in recent history. With a country facing the biggest public health crisis of the past half a century, with an imminent economic crisis, the party allows itself to maintain the instability and the political crisis which paralyzes many of the quick reactions the people need.
For a week, citizens and companies affected by the coronavirus crisis ask for real measures of support as most European countries have offered. The interim government of Ludovic Orban, whose term continues now, cannot take quick action because it cannot issue ordinancies, emergency ordinances or adopt bills.
Transport, tourism, the hospitality industry are moving towards collapse. Layoffs have started and it’s a measure of time before they become statistics. The budget is stretched to the maximum and pressure will continue and rise as the coronavirus epidemic hits harder.
With an interim government, one cannot even talk of budget corrections.
Orban’s political blackmail, coming from such a power hungry politician who was even considering not closing schools to keep coronavirus rates down, has worked. It worked with Citu, who owes him his political career. It may even worked with the Parliament, where he would be voted as a prime minister again in the coming weeks. But Orban has just showed his party to the grave, and with it the idea that the Liberals were any different from the Social Democrats (PSD), whom they replaced last fall. No. Today, PNL shows up as a collection of politicians who are just as irresponsible as the PSD.
Edited in English by Costin Ionescu
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