| 3 February 2023, Friday |

Romania’s ruling Liberals to negotiate new cabinet with rival leftists

Romania’s ruling Liberals decided late Monday to negotiate a new parliamentary majority with their former opponents, the opposition leftist Social Democrats (PSD), rather than rebuilding a centrist coalition government that splintered two months ago.

Political infighting has prolonged a policy stalemate at a time when the European Union state is grappling with rising energy costs and the pandemic’s deadliest COVID-19 wave since its inception, as vaccine uptake is the second-lowest in the bloc.

The Liberals “decided with an absolute majority of votes to begin negotiations with PSD to coagulate a majority that ensures Romania has the stability required to overcome political and sanitary crises,” according to the party’s statement.

The Liberals’ current junior ally, the ethnic Hungarian party UDMR, will be part of the resulting coalition.

However, PSD leaders predicted that talks would last several weeks, adding that their demands included increases in pensions, child subsidies, and the minimum wage. Romania is struggling to keep its large budget and current account deficits under control.

Negotiations will almost certainly be difficult because not all Liberals support an alliance with the Social Democrats. The party won a general election in late 2020 after strongly campaigning against the PSD’s efforts to weaken the fight against corruption and the rule of law.

The PSD, the largest party in parliament with 157 seats to the Liberals’ 134, is also expected to request key ministries.

President Klaus Iohannis, who still controls the Liberal Party and has the final say in naming a prime minister, will also complicate negotiations.

The Liberals chose not to rebuild a centrist coalition with former ally USR Plus, which withdrew from the cabinet in early September in a dispute over a controversial regional development fund, depriving Prime Minister Florin Citu of a parliamentary majority.

Nearly a third of all COVID-19 deaths in Romania have occurred in the last few weeks, as daily infection numbers have reached all-time highs and hospitals have run out of intensive care beds.

  • Reuters