politics

Romania Targets Longer-Lasting Government With Premier Pick

Updated on
  • President backs ruling coaltion’s candidate for prime minister
  • Dancila will take over one of EU’s fastest-growing economies

Viorica Dancila

Photographer: George Calin/AFP/Getty Images

Romania’s political leaders quickly agreed on a new prime minister after this week’s shock government collapse, picking one who may last longer than her predecessors as the Black Sea nation gears up for the rotating European Union presidency and navigates a slowdown in its booming economy.

Viorica Dancila is set to become the Black Sea nation’s third premier in a year, and the first woman to take the job, after winning the president’s backing Wednesday. The 54-year-old European Parliament lawmaker, an ally of ruling-party boss Liviu Dragnea, must now select a cabinet and win a confidence vote scheduled for Jan. 29, though that should be a formality. The leu, which had been under pressure, gained after the announcement.

Viorica Dancila

Photographer: George Calin/AFP via Getty Images

The ex-communist country of 20 million people is seeking stability after squabbles with Social Democrat leader Dragnea sealed the fate of two prime ministers in less than a year. The latest feud saw Mihai Tudose resign suddenly after crisis talks late Monday over his plans to reshuffle the cabinet. The turmoil has jeopardized one of the continent’s fastest-growing economies. Romania takes over the EU presidency, which carries prestige and focuses the bloc’s attention on the host, in January 2019.

“The fact that Dancila doesn’t seem to have any political ambitions will mean that this will be a more stable government -- she’s no threat to Dragnea,” Andrei Taranu, deputy dean at the Bucharest Political Science University, said by phone. “Unfortunately, a stable government doesn’t necessarily mean a good government.”

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

Most Romanian prime ministers haven't lasted long in past five years

Source: Government data

Wednesday’s news gave a small boost to the leu, which was eastern Europe’s star performer until Tudose’s surprise departure. The currency has gained 0.4 percent this year against the euro.

Romania is no stranger to political upheaval: Dancila will be its 15th prime minister since 1990, with only two completing their full term. She’ll take over an economy that surged an annual 8.8 percent in the third quarter, though the European Commission has questioned the sustainability of growth and the budgetary dangers of tax cuts and public-sector wage hikes. The Commission sees gross domestic product rising 4.4 percent in 2018.

“The economy seems to be on a very strong path and we continue to believe it has a very good outlook,” Matjaz Schroll, head of private equity for central and eastern Europe at Franklin Templeton Investments, said in an interview at the Euromoney conference in Vienna.

President Klaus Iohannis’s decision to support Dancila represents a concession after he earlier criticized the Social Democrats for the political turbulence that’s dogged national politics since their 2016 election victory. Still, he’s been criticized by the opposition parties and supporters on his Facebook page who wanted him to push for early elections.

The appointment leaves Dragnea as Romania’s dominant politician, despite being prevented from taking the premier’s job himself because of a criminal conviction and other pending trials. He praised Dancila’s “peaceful attitude” when asked about her suitability for office.

“It’s very important that we move ahead with implementing the governing program and prepare for Romania taking over” the EU presidency, Dancila said.

— With assistance by James M Gomez

(Updates with analyst comment in seventh paragraph.)
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