Romania’s three-person government led by Sorin Grindeanu today lost a no-confidence vote put forward by the country’s ruling PSD-ALDE coalition. For background on why the ruling parties wanted to bring down their own government, see this post from last week. In short, it is about passing legislation which will keep the leaders of the PSD and ALDE, Liviu Dragnea and Calin Popescu Tariceanu, out of prison. Both are currently on trial for corruption.
Needing 233 votes to topple Grindeanu, PSD-ALDE got 241. They were helped by the representatives of Romania’s non-Hungarian ethnic minorities: as many as 13 (of 17) minority MPs are thought to have voted in favour of removing the government (some of these MPs are elected with just a few hundred votes). Despite having been courted to within an inch of its life on Monday evening (sparking a backlash from Romania’s easily offended nationalists), the Hungarian minority party (the UDMR) did not take part in the debate, neither did the USR. Some PNL and PMP parliamentarians were present in the chamber but did not vote.
So, with Grindeanu gone, what happens now?
Officially, consultations at Cotroceni Palace between the parliamentary parties and Romania’s president Klaus Iohannis, at which Dragnea will propose a new prime minister. Iohannis (currently on a state visit to Germany) restated on Tuesday his commitment to appointing only a prime minister of upstanding character. In practice, he may have little choice. While he may refuse Dragnea’s first nomination (as he did back in September) it may not be possible to refuse a second: doing so would invite suspension.
Following his highly successful recent visit to the US (and now another in Germany) however, Iohannis has his tail up. He is as popular with the public at large as at any time since his election in 2014. He would have a great deal of popular support should he refuse to do Dragnea’s bidding.
What we can say for certain is that should Dragnea and Tariceanu get the prime minister they want, then we can expect another bill along the lines of the now infamous OUG 13 to be passed swiftly. Time is running out for both men.