A partner in Prime Minister Viorica Dancila’s government has pulled out of the coalition
A partner in Prime Minister Viorica Dancila’s government has pulled out of the coalition © AFP

Romania’s centre-left government is close to collapse after its main coalition partner pulled out and another potential ally said it would not support it in parliament.

Viorica Dancila, Romania’s first female prime minister, is facing a no-confidence motion within six weeks following a decision by the liberal party ALDE to quit the coalition in a dispute over a joint candidate for presidential elections due in November.

UDMR, an ethnic Hungarian party, said on Tuesday that it would not lend its support to Ms Dancila’s Social Democratic party (PSD), which is now heading for a probable defeat in a confidence vote in a joint session of parliament that must be held within 45 days.

“Our position is clear, we won’t back this PSD minority government. We don’t have and won’t have any deal with PSD to help them stay afloat . . . There’s no logical reason to do that,” Attila Korodi, a UDMR deputy, told Reuters.

Romania, the second poorest country in the EU and one of the most corrupt, is set for an extended period of political uncertainty. The next general election is due to be held in November 2020 and a snap poll cannot be called in the last six months of the presidential term.

If Ms Dancila is unable to peel off supporters from the opposition parties or run a minority government, President Klaus Iohannis could try to form a caretaker administration of technocrats. Mr Korodi told Reuters his party would back a government made up of opposition parties but this could prove hard to assemble.

Ms Dancila earlier this summer emerged from under the shadow of her former patron and PSD strongman Liviu Dragnea who was jailed on corruption charges. She asserted her authority over the party, purging key Dragnea allies.

After the PSD took a hammering in the European Parliament elections in May, she sought to repair Romania’s strained relations with Brussels. She said Bucharest would ditch judicial reforms that would have weakened anti-corruption legislation and introduced a statute of limitations for graft cases. The reforms sparked mass protests last year and a threat of legal action by the European Commission. Support for the PSD has dropped from nearly 35 per cent in September last year to 22 per cent earlier this summer.

In any case, Romania’s constitutional court last month struck down the criminal code changes as unlawful.

The coalition between PSD and ALDE, formed in December 2016, fell apart after the two parties clashed over the budget and a joint candidate to fight the centre-right Mr Iohannis for the presidency.

The PSD over the weekend selected Ms Dancila as its candidate. ALDE, which had been pushing its co-leader Calin Popescu-Tariceanu for the nomination, is now supporting the independent candidate Mircea Diaconu, who is also backed by Pro Romania, a party formed by breakaway PSD politicians. Polls suggest Mr Iohannis has a clear lead over other candidates.

Otilia Dhand, an analyst at consultancy Teneo, said it was “possible that snap polls would be called in June 2020 — concomitant with the local elections — if Dancila fails to break into the second round of the presidential election in November, signalling the continued decline of the party’s popularity”.

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