Romanian Premier's Fate to Be Decided in Confidence Vote

  • Premier Grindeanu lost support of Social Democrats last week
  • Political friction stems from spat with party leader Dragnea

The fate of embattled Romanian Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu will be determined on Wednesday as lawmakers, mainly from his own party, take part in a no-confidence vote.

Grindeanu, in his post less than six months, has refused to quit after losing the support of many fellow Social Democrats and falling out with party leader Liviu Dragnea last week over government performance. While Dragnea may have alienated some of his allies by courting the backing of rival parties to help remove the premier, the motion to hold the no-confidence ballot was signed by 222 ruling-coalition lawmakers.

“While it looked more certain a couple of days ago, we still expect the motion to pass,” said James Sawyer, a London-based analyst at Eurasia Group.

The latest bout of political turmoil in Romania, which has had 13 prime ministers in 27 years, has sent the leu to its weakest in five years. Before his power struggle with Dragnea, Grindeanu had been overseeing one of the European Union’s fastest-growing economies. He also survived the largest protests since Communism in the nation of 20 million people, following an attempt to ease punishment for corrupt officials.

To pass, the no-confidence motion needs the support of at least 233 of parliament’s 465 lawmakers. Some ruling-coalition legislators are getting behind Grindeanu, including Victor Ponta, an ex-premier who’s also fallen out with Dragnea. Most opposition parties have said they won’t vote because the coalition should handle its own internal issues.

Enough Votes?

Dragnea said Monday that the coalition has enough votes to oust Grindeanu and that he’s already considering several potential replacements, to be discussed within the party after the ballot. While he himself sought to become prime minister when the Social Democrats retook power in elections last year, he’s banned from office because of a criminal conviction.

Forming a new government could be tricky: President Klaus Iohannis rejected Dragnea’s first pick for premier last year. That could further delay Social Democrat election pledges, such as more tax cuts and higher salaries for public workers. A victory for Grindeanu in the no-confidence motion could jeopardize Dragnea’s position as party leader.

Speaking from Berlin on Wednesday, Iohannis said he would stick to choosing an “upright” premier if he had to make the choice after the vote.

“Regardless of the outcome, the political crisis will continue through the end of the year as Dragnea comes up against numerous constraints but refuses to back down,” Sawyer said. “This will result in governance gridlock as the Social Democratic party struggles to implement its electoral program.”

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