Romania Swears In Third Govt Since 2016 Election

Romania’s parliament on Monday passed a confidence vote in the third Social Democrat-led cabinet in one year – amid concerns over the country's political and economic stability.
Romania’s new PM Viorica Dancila. Photo: Partidul Social Democrat/Flikr.

Romania’s new Social Democrat government, led by the country’s first woman Prime Minister, Viorica Dancila, was sworn in on Monday.

However, there was criticism from the opposition about the alleged lack of expertise among some ministers and about a governance plan that has raised fears of further economic uncertainty.

“We shall govern with pride and respect for all Romanians,” Dancila said on Monday in parliament. She said the new government would increase wages and would not raise new taxes. 

The specialist committees in the legislature, on which the Social Democrats and their junior ally, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, have a majority, vetted all the 27 ministers in an expedited procedure on Monday – with only opposition MPs asking questions.

Dancila was a Social Democrat MEP who in Brussels vocally defended Social Democrat attempts to reverse anti-graft justice reforms – which have brought many Romanians on to the streets. She was appointed Romania’s first woman Prime Minister on January 17.  

The ruling party dismissed her predecessor, Mihai Tudose, following a conflict with the party leadership two days before.

Several members of Tudose’s cabinet kept their portfolios in the new government. Among them is Interior Minister Carmen Dan, one of Social Democrat leader Liviu Dragnea’s closest allies, whose conflict with Tudose over police reform made headlines before his downfall.

The ruling party also brought back some of the ministers who were fired from the previous two cabinets.

They include the former European Affairs Minister Anna Birchall who now is a Deputy Prime Minister handling strategic affairs and strategic partnerships with the US and the EU.

Former European Funds minister Rovana Plumb was fired by Tudose in October 2017, after anti-graft prosecutors asked parliament to lift her immunity so that she could be investigated for abuse of office.

Defence Minister Mihai Fifor is also set to keep his portfolio. During the hearing, he announced that Romania had not spent all the funds it was allocated to equip the army and said Romania plans to purchase a submarine to strengthen its Black Sea fleet.

Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu and European Affairs minister Victor Negrescu are also keeping their positions.

Opposition politicians and some allies of the government coalition have voiced concerns over the government’s new strategy, which the party came up with last week.

The leader of the Democrat Union of Hungarians in Romania, UDMR, grilled Prime Minister and Social Democrat leader Dragnea in a meeting last week.

“I liked the fact that she [Dancila] answered all questions without looking at Dragnea,” UDMR leader Kelemen Hunor said after Thursday’s meeting – but adding that the governance plan had big gaps.

However, on Monday, Kelemen Hunor announced that his party would give the government coalition “another chance.”