Nicolae Ciucă secures backing by parliament to become Romania’s PM

Nicolae Ciucă became Romania’s prime minister on Thursday following a coalition agreement with former rivals in the center-left Social Democratic Party (PSD).

Ciucă will lead a cabinet with eight ministers from his own center-right National Liberal Party (PNL), plus nine PSD members and three from the ethnic Hungarian UDMR group. UDMR leader Hunor Kelemen will be deputy prime minister.

The final tally of Thursday’s vote was 318 MPs in favor and 126 against.

The alliance between the former rivals — who clashed in the 2019 general election amid accusations of corruption — sits uneasily with many liberal MPs.

But Ciucă, in a bid to reassure the parliament ahead of the vote, said that “above any ego and any political adversity, there is the interest of Romanians.”

The new government, which will be sworn in later Thursday and aims to start work this week, will have to tackle the pandemic’s disastrous course in the country and rising inflation. It’ll also seek to implement the reforms demanded by the European Commission under the coronavirus recovery fund. Romania is set to receive the first tranche from roughly €30 billion in grants and loans from the EU in the coming weeks.

ROMANIA NATIONAL PARLIAMENT ELECTION POLL OF POLLS

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Ciucă’s position has an expiry date, as he is due to switch places with a PSD nominee in 2023 through an agreed “rotation” system.

However, the potential longevity of the alliance has been questioned by many, including PSD leader Marcel Ciolacu, who told media that it is expected to last “at least a year.”

Ciucă’s parliamentary approval was expected thanks to the PNL switching sides over to the PSD after the collapse of a center-right coalition in September with the Union to Save Romania (USR), now in the opposition. Ciucă abandoned an earlier attempt this month to form a minority PNL government due to lack of support from MPs.

The new coalition represents a U-turn for the center-left PSD as well, which had called for early elections before agreeing to join the administration. As the biggest party in parliament, it will control the most powerful departments, including finance, labor, defense, agriculture and transport.

“PSD had to make a choice: Will we continue to criticize an inefficient government? Or will we use our skill and expertise to immediately stop the collapse, to be on the side of Romanians and the country?” Ciolacu asked MPs ahead of the vote. “We accepted this challenge now because the PSD never runs away from responsibility.”

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