News / Europe

Romania's Ruling Coalition Ruptures as Elections Loom

Romania's Liberal party pulled the plug on the coalition government on Tuesday, in a break-up that might disrupt five years of economic reform backed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the European Union's second poorest state.
The second-largest member of Prime Minister Victor Ponta's ruling alliance, the Liberals announced the split after crisis talks late into the evening in Bucharest. Its ministers will submit their resignations to the prime minister on Wednesday.
The move will force Ponta's Social Democrats to seek a vote of confidence from parliament within days which analysts expect them to win, while the Liberals will return to the opposition benches after being in power since May 2012.
The exit was the culmination of a series of rows between Romania's two biggest parties, mainly over ministerial appointments, as they jockey for position before European elections in May and a presidential election in November.
“We decided to put an end to this crisis, prolonged artificially by Prime Minister Ponta for two weeks,” Liberal Party head Crin Antonescu told reporters.
“This decision wasn't an easy one, we've been trying to avoid it through negotiations ... it was fair not to extend this festival of hypocrisy.”
Ponta did not immediately comment on the Liberals' exit, but previously said he would not resign if they left.
The infighting comes at a time when Romania should be capitalizing on an economic rebound that has seen growth jump to 5.2 percent in the last quarter, buoyed by a bumper harvest in 2013 and a rise in exports to a recovering Europe.
A weakened or unstable government could hamper reforms. High on the agenda for Romania is to speed up a process of selling off or restructuring inefficient state companies, as part of a 4 billion-euro ($5.49 billion) aid deal with the IMF.
“I see the danger of populism in this particular election year is enormous and the risk to the IMF deal seems big,” said Cristian Patrasconiu, a Bucharest-based political analyst.
“The government committed to the restructuring of inefficient state firms including in the railway sector this year, with layoffs on the cards,” Patrasconiu said. “I don't see the new government enforcing any pay cuts or pursuing any redundancies ahead of European and presidential elections.”

Going it alone
Political squabbles have often hampered Romania's progress in the 25 years since it threw off Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, and its economy trails other emerging EU countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic.
Ponta's own alliance had been formed after it brought down a center-right coalition government in a confidence vote in May 2012. That government had imposed unpopular austerity measures to help Romania recover from a deep recession.
While Ponta's alliance with the Liberals had commanded a more than two-thirds majority in parliament, in recent weeks its rule has been overshadowed by a series of bust-ups.
Most recently, Ponta has blocked the appointment of a charismatic Transylvanian mayor as a new deputy prime minister. Earlier this month, a disagreement over a policy proposal to reschedule the bank debts of low-income borrowers prompted the Liberal party to sack its own finance minister.
The increased risk of a split in the government helped push Central European assets down on Tuesday, although movements were slight compared with last week's swings on the crisis in Ukraine.
Mihai Tantaru, an economist at ING bank, says a formal coalition breakup could push the Romanian leu towards year lows of around 4.55 to the euro.
Ponta still has the numbers to form another alliance with a functioning majority in parliament, albeit with fewer seats.
Splitting from the Liberals could strengthen his hand in some ways, as it would unshackle him from an agreement under which the Liberals put forward their nominee as the coalition's presidential candidate.
Ponta, who has seen his own policies repeatedly pushed back by his arch-rival, the outgoing president Traian Basescu, will now be free to put forward his own choice for president.
But going it alone could ultimately put the brakes on the Romanian government's push to liberalize its economy - a drive seen as vital if it is to catch up with its European peers.
Romania has pledged to stick to an IMF-agreed June 30 deadline to list a 15 percent stake in hydropower producer Hidroelectrica and also in coal-fired Oltenia, which operates lignite-fired power plants, in October.
It is also due to sell a 51 percent stake in state-controlled power distributor Electrica in an initial public offering in June.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs