Romanian Crisis Deepens as Ruling Party Turns On Premier

  • Premier Grindeanu refuses to resign after losing party support
  • Ruling coalition plans no-confidence motion against Grindeanu

Sorin Grindeanu

Photographer: Thierry Charlier/AFP via Getty Images

Romania is facing a new round of political turmoil after a feud between Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu and the leader of his ruling party thrust the government into deadlock.

Less than six months into his term, Grindeanu lost the backing of his party on Wednesday and faces a no-confidence motion in parliament next week. The premier defied calls for his resignation, saying he’d step down only after President Klaus Iohannis agrees on a replacement from within the ruling party. He repeated those demands on Thursday, calling for the ouster of the Social Democrat leader Liviu Dragnea.

“I’m not tied to this job, and if I will come to the conclusion that I can’t deliver a functioning government in the next days, then I will resign,” Grindeanu said, adding he’ll try to secure the support of as many lawmakers as possible in the coming days. “If the government didn’t perform, I’m not the only one responsible, so I challenge Mr. Dragnea to resign. Once he does that, I will do the same immediately.”

Iohannis said he’ll start the process of appointing a new cabinet only after the premier quits or loses a no-confidence vote. Through a spokeswoman, he urged the coalition to find a solution. Dragnea said he was disappointed with the government’s results, and said his party was “under attack” without giving more details.

“We’re now facing an unprecedented situation of a ghost government,” Dragnea said on Thursday, adding that several ministers had complained in the past week because of Grindeanu’s lack of managerial skills. “The ruling coalition is stable and we have enough votes to topple” the prime minister, “who refuses to give up the job.”

Sorin Grindeanu

Photographer Abir Sultan/AFP via Getty Images

Grindeanu has overseen one of the fastest-growing economies in the European Union and in January survived Romania’s largest protests since the fall of Communism, prompted by proposals to ease punishment for corrupt officials. Still, he wasn’t the first choice for the job. Dragnea, sought to become premier himself when the Social Democrats took back power last year, but he’s banned because of a criminal conviction. Grindeanu was the second pick from his party boss after Iohannis rejected the first.

“Grindeanu’s days are numbered, but the process of putting the government back on track won’t be straightforward,” said James Sawyer, a London-based researcher at Eurasia Group, said by phone. “I think the main loser from this turmoil is the Social Democratic party and it seems that for the leadership, pushing through the controversial judiciary reforms is more important than anything.”

Dragnea, who is seen as the main decision maker behind the Social Democrat-led administration, said his party and its junior partner, ALDE, remain in power and are ready to form a new government. While all the ministers have submitted their resignations, they can operate in an interim capacity for as long as 45 days.

In the face of Grindeanu’s resistance, the leaders of the ruling party decided to expel him and will file a no-confidence motion against him next week.

Dragnea said the cabinet had only completed a third of the projects envisaged in the first six months of the governing program. Grindeanu said the party was unhappy that he’d failed to improve commercial ties with Russia, among other things.

“We could have swept the government’s under-performance under the carpet and moved on,” Dragnea said. “But we can’t do that because our governing program is at risk. The country’s future is at risk.”

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