Romania’s Three-Month Old Cabinet Faces No-Confidence Vote

Romanian lawmakers will hold the first no-confidence vote since Premier Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu’s Cabinet took office less than three months ago.

The opposition Social Democrats and Liberals, who formed an alliance before this year’s elections, filed the motion for today’s vote, accusing Ungureanu’s government of a lack of transparency in the sale of state-owned assets and in approving money transfers to local authorities. Coalition lawmakers said they will boycott the vote.

The vote takes place as the International Monetary Fund reviews progress under a precautionary accord. Ungureanu, who is backed by the same parties that helped former Prime Minister Emil Boc survive 10 motions, is counting on the backing of 231 lawmakers in the 460-member Parliament after defections from the coalition during the past week narrowed the majority.

“The recent defections have boosted the ranks of the opposition alliance to 224 lawmakers, according to one of its high officials,” Vlad Muscalu, an economist at the ING Bank Romania SA, wrote in a note to clients yesterday. “This leaves the alliance seven votes short of ousting the executive, suggesting the chances of this initiative look much brighter than about a week ago, when it was filed.”

Opposition Strength

The opposition needs four more votes to topple the government, Social Democrat Leader Victor Ponta said today before the vote. News service Mediafax quoted unidentified people as saying today that the opposition parties are two votes short of the 231 needed to oust Ungureanu.

The opposition holds 219 seats in the two parliament houses, according to Parliament’s website. The government is backed by the Democrat-Liberal Party, the ethnic Hungarians, known as UDMR, the independents’ party and the minorities.

Voter support for the current coalition was cut by more than half in the past two years to about 18 percent after Boc’s government slashed public wages 25 percent and increased taxes to meet international pledges. Boc resigned on Feb. 6 after protests over austerity turned violent.

Six Democrat-Liberal lawmakers switched sides to join the opposition in the past week. The country plans to hold local elections on June 10 and general elections later this year.

Public Wage Restoration

President Traian Basescu reiterated on April 25 that the government must restore public wages beginning in the middle of the year, while Ungureanu said the Cabinet will discuss the issue with the IMF and the European Union during a review that started on April 24 and will end on May 7.

“I am not nervous about the no-confidence vote, but I am nervous about finding the budgetary resources to restore public wages,” Ungureanu told reporters in Bucharest on April 25.

The motion also criticizes a law establishing a Hungarian teaching faculty at the University of Medicine and Pharmacy in the city of Targu-Mures, citing political pressures from the junior coalition member UDMR.

“I am convinced that the motion won’t pass if the coalition remains united and all its members respect the discipline and there are no more betrayals,” Hunor Kelemen, the head of UDMR, said in a speech in Bucharest yesterday.

Romania, which secured a 5 billion-euro ($6.61 billion) precautionary loan from the IMF and the EU in 2011 to protect it from Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, is trying to reassure investors it will keep fiscal discipline and cut the budget deficit to 1.9 percent of gross domestic product this year after 4.4 percent in 2011. It hasn’t drawn any funds so far.

(Updates with comments from opposition leader, news service in fifth paragraph.)
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