Romanian government falls after no-confidence vote

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Romanian Prime Minister Florin Citu grimaces ahead of a no confidence vote in Romania's parliament in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

BUCHAREST – Romanian Prime Minister Florin Citu of the governing National Liberal Party was ousted Tuesday after a no-confidence motion in his government passed overwhelmingly, deepening an ongoing political crisis.

The motion censure was filed by the opposition Social Democrat Party (PSD) and supported by former coalition partner USR-Plus and the far-right AUR party. The motion passed with 281 votes; only 234 were needed.

The fall of the government caps a political crisis that began a month ago when Citu fired Justice Minister Stelian Ion of USR-Plus for not signing off on a regional development program. USR-Plus called the move an “abusive revocation” and quit the three-party cabinet.

During the debates in parliament Tuesday ahead of the vote, Citu lashed out at USR-Plus, saying he had tolerated “a team of incompetents.”

President Klaus Iohannis will now consult with lawmakers on appointing a new prime minister, while Citu may remain at the government’s helm as a caretaker for 45 days. Citu could be reappointed if lawmakers fail twice to agree on a new premier.

In a press conference after Tuesday’s vote, Iohannis said it was a crisis “generated by cynical politicians” and that he will convene Romania's political parties next week.

“We are in the midst of a pandemic, wave four has hit us hard,” he said. “We are in an energy prices crisis … but what did some politicians think? To add another crisis!”

Claudiu Tufis, an associate professor of political science at the University of Bucharest, told The Associated Press that he expects politicians to create a Liberal cabinet with support from the Social Democrats “in parliament, but not in the cabinet.”

USR-Plus have expressed a wish to restore the governing coalition with a different prime minister.

The Liberal-led government came to power following a parliamentary election last December.

The ongoing crisis could hamper Romania’s efforts to tackle an alarming surge of COVID-19 infections in the European Union nation of 19 million, which is currently putting the country’s hospitals under serious strain.

On Tuesday, Romania recorded its highest number of daily COVID-19 infections — 15,037 cases — since the pandemic started.