Romanian parliament topples PM Citu’s minority government

This undated file photo shows Romanian Prime Minister Florin Citu. (PHOTO / BLOOMBERG)

Romanian Prime Minister Florin Citu and his government were toppled in a no-confidence vote, intensifying political tensions that have already sent the national currency to a record low.

Rivals and former allies joined forces Tuesday in parliament to sink Citu, a 49-year-old former investment banker who’s been in power for less than a year but fell out with his main coalition partner.

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He was defiant in defeat, telling lawmakers even before the vote that his ruling Liberal Party plans to stick around.

“All options are on the table, including negotiations on a project-by-project basis with everyone,” Citu said. “But we won’t leave, we won’t surrender. We won’t let the country fall into the hands of the greedy.”

His departure leaves the European Union member of 19 million people searching for a 10th premier in as many years, with COVID-19 infections surging at their fastest pace since the pandemic began and the country’s investment-grade credit rating hanging by a thread.

While investors have grown used to seeing governments come and go, they’re more jittery this time around. The Finance Ministry rejected all bids at a local-debt auctions on Monday amid low demand.

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The national currency rebounded off its lows Tuesday but that was down to a surprise increase in interest rates from the central bank to tackle soaring inflation – the first hike since 2018. 

To resolve the government crisis, President Klaus Iohannis must nominate a new prime minister. 

At this stage, several scenarios are possible:

  • Iohannis could propose another premier from the Liberals who must then seek to build a new ruling coalition in parliament

  • USR Plus, with which Citu clashed, may form another governing alliance with the Liberals, but insist it can’t be led by Citu

  • The Social Democrats support snap elections in spring 2022, with a technocratic government to take charge until then to tackle the pandemic

  • Iohannis could pause, leaving in place an interim cabinet that would probably be led by Citu

Indeed, with no clear end to the political deadlock, Iohannis may take his time determining the best course of action. Citu, who he’s backed so far, remains for now in a caretaker role.