Romanian President Says Political Turmoil May End Next Week

  • Iohannis says parties want technocrat cabinet or snap ballot
  • Protesters presented demands to president in two-hour meeting

President Klaus Iohannis said he may be able to broker an end to Romania’s political turmoil next week, with the major parties backing early elections or a technocratic government in the face of the largest protests since the 1989 anti-communist revolution.

Iohannis, who met Friday with party leaders and representatives of the demonstrators who drove out Prime Minister Victor Ponta this week, said a governing program must be decided before a new premier is picked. He’ll start a new round of talks next week. The protests continued Friday, with about 10,000 people rallying in the nation’s capital, the Hotnews.ro website reported.

“The first sign that politicians understand the protesters’ demands is that none of them came in with a premier’s name in mind and that they’re willing to discuss more profound solutions,” Iohannis said in a speech in Bucharest. “It’s clear we don’t need only a change of government, but also a concrete plan agreed by the parties.”

The protests, which sprouted up as Romanians blamed corrupt officials for a deadly nightclub fire at the weekend, are shaping how the European Union’s second-poorest nation fills the power vacuum resulting from Ponta’s exit. With thousands protesting across the country in the past four days, the ruling Social Democrats have already opted not to suggest a replacement for Ponta themselves.

Interest Rates

The unrest is also affecting Romania’s economy. The central bank said Thursday that political uncertainty influenced its decision to leave borrowing costs unchanged and complicates monetary-policy making. Next year’s budget hasn’t been decided yet, creating uncertainty around Ponta’s plans to raise state wages before elections planned for end-2016.

The leu lost 0.1 percent to 4.4595 against the euro Friday, extending its losing streak since Monday to 0.6 percent and trimming this year’s gain to 0.4 percent.

“Early talks are opening the way for a technocratic government hand-picked by President Iohannis, which could reduce the chance of fiscal slippage and step up structural reforms,” Ciprian Dascalu, an economist at ING Bank Romania, said in an e-mailed research note.

Immunity Demand

The protests, which are demanding lawmakers’ immunity be lifted and health care and education funding boosted, may be benefiting the Social Democrats’ chances if a snap election is called. The ruling party took the lead in a Nov. 2-4 opinion poll, with 39 percent to the Liberals’ 35 percent as a smaller anti-corruption party drained support from the main opposition force.

Iohannis, who beat Ponta to the presidency in a ballot last year, bought some time Thursday by appointing outgoing Education Minister Sorin Cimpeanu as interim premier for as long as 45 days. After he nominates a successor, the candidate has 10 days to form a cabinet and survive a confidence vote in parliament. If two nominees fail to clear that hurdle, early elections are triggered automatically. The only other path to an early ballot is if all of the nation’s more than 500 lawmakers agree to step down.

In the meantime, local media speculated on potential candidates for premier, with names including former European Union Commissioner Dacian Ciolos and ex-minister Vasile Dancu from the Social Democrats.

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