Romanian government survives no confidence vote

A Romanian lawmaker wave a placard as protestind during a a no-confidence vote procedure against Dancila cabinet, held at Parlament Palace in Bucharest, Romania, 20 December 2018. [Robert Ghement/EPA/EFE]

Romania’s Social Democrat-led government survived a no confidence vote on Thursday (20 December) as expected, days before taking over the European Union’s rotating presidency, but still faces concerns at home and abroad over its attempts to weaken a crackdown on corruption.

Moves to overhaul judicial legislation and oust chief prosecutors and judges have dominated the public agenda since the Social Democrats came to power in early 2017, and threats to judicial independence could intensify a creep away from democratic values in some of the EU’s eastern member states.

Changes to criminal codes and other judicial bills raised criticism from the European Commission, the US State Department, thousands of magistrates, and triggered the country’s biggest street protests in decades.

Social Democrat leader Liviu Dragnea, who has a suspended jail sentence in a vote-rigging case and has appealed a separate conviction for abuse of office, has been pushing Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă’s government for further changes, including an emergency decree that would grant prison pardons and amnesty.

Romanian ruling party leader sentenced, thousands rally against his government

The head of Romania’s ruling Social Democrat party, Liviu Dragnea, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison by the Supreme Court yesterday (21 June) for inciting others to abuse of office, prompting thousands to rally against his government.

The centrist opposition, which pushed for the no confidence vote, said the ruling party and its junior coalition partner ALDE were a threat to the rule of law and economic stability in one of the EU’s most corrupt states.

Romania in political mayhem three weeks before assuming EU presidency

In an almost surreal sequence of events, the Romanian government paid a visit to the European Commission on Wednesday (5 December) to discuss the country’s upcoming EU presidency, while the opposition in Bucharest mobilised to oust the ruling coalition.

“Every hour spent with Dragnea and Dăncilă in power is a threat for Romania,” Dan Barna, the leader of the opposition Save Romania Union said. “The motion is not about the political fight, but about the future of our children.”

Dan Barna: Save Romania Union similar to Macron’s En Marche

Dan Barna, President of Save Romania Union (USR), told EURACTIV in an exclusive interview that his force, which largely represents educated urban voters, could join the European political family of Emmanuel Macron’s La République En Marche! party.

But only 161 lawmakers from the fragmented opposition supported the motion, well short of the 233 votes – 50% of deputies plus one – required under the constitution for no confidence motions to succeed.

“I will not resign because I have the certainty that Romania is on the right path, that Romanians are appreciating the measures we are taking,” Prime Minister Dăncilă told lawmakers.

On Tuesday, the government announced plans to enforce a tax on bank assets from January, cap gas prices, introduce turnover taxes for energy and telecoms firms as well as enable Romanians to withdraw from a mandatory private pension scheme.

The planned emergency decree, which was presented without impact assessments and without notifying unions and business associations, caused losses across Central European markets and the Bucharest blue chip index had its second-worst day on record on Wednesday.

Subscribe to our newsletters